Thursday, 5 February 2015

Glasgow's Four Types of Cycling Infrastructure

At the start of the year I joined a group of interested people to see Glasgow's Commonwealth legacy in terms of cycle infrastructure, in a ride organised by Go Bike. There was infrastructure I'd seen and used before, and plenty I hadn't. It was especially interesting to see how the infrastructure coped with a large (30+ I'd guess) group of cyclists. It was an interesting day, and good to meet some other people with similar thoughts on the council, government and attitudes towards cycling generally.

I managed to hold a camera for most of the journey, and was fairly snap-happy. The full set is on Flickr.

In this post, I'm going to try to categorise what I saw. For me, there are four categories of infrastructure.

Get out of the Way 1: Into The Gutter

There are lots of cycle lanes which serve only one purpose: getting cyclists out of the way of motor traffic. They count towards the council's number of miles of cycle lanes, but in fact provide no benefit to cyclists. They are fatally flawed in a few ways:

  • They encourage close overtakes from motorists, who see that as long as they are not encroaching on the cycle lane that they are doing nothing wrong. This is not simple anecdotal, but is backed up by evidence.
  • They can generally be parked on
  • They seem to lead to hostility from motorists when people on bikes (legally and sensibly) choose not use them
  • Absolutely useless. And look at how much space there is.
    Who benefits from this cycle lane? Box tickers.

Unusable cycle lane
Not a terrible overtake, but not pleasant either

Get out of the Way 2: Onto The Pavement

Sometimes when the council can't be bothered to even put a bit of paint on the ground, they simple put a blue sign on some lampposts. This indicates that the use is shared between pedestrians and cyclists. In reality, this works OK when there are very few pedestrians and/or a very wide path, but doesn't work at all in other situations. Unfortunately, these are used completely inappropriately in a number of places

A fairly narrow pavement in a residential area. Completely unsuitable for shared use.

A 'stacking lane' seems to be more important than the segregated lane, so it's back to shared use

Wholly unsuited to mass cycling

Segregation 1: Gives Up When You Need it Most

In the East End, the council have made some truly awful cycling lanes which give up exactly when you need them most: at junctions. Between junctions, there is a painted lane on the pavement, which is generally OK - smooth and just about wide enough. 

However, at junctions instead of separating cyclists in space and time from motor vehicles, cyclists are dumped onto the main carriageway between lanes of motor vehicles and left to fend for themselves. It's a truly disgraceful design, and the fact that I'm not aware of anyone being killed or seriously injured using it is almost certainly because few people use it.

Photo by Joel Cooney -

Joel Cooney covered this in some detail on this blog post, which is well worth a read.

Segregation 2: Nearly there

The final type of Glasgow cycling infrastructure is by far the best, even if it has its own fair share of flaws (covered by CarSickGlasgow in these blogs). A bi-directional lane is physically segregated from the road. This allows for anyone to cycle comfortably, there is priority over minor roads and separate traffic light phases to ensure cyclists and other traffic don't come into conflict. 

The Connect2 route could certainly do with some improvements, but it's the only route you're going to have a chance to see normal people (including children) riding. In Glasgow terms, it's a revelation.

Here are some photos of the good and bad of the Connect2 route.

Not perfect, but fairly clear that the cycle route has priority (not actually Connect2, but a similar design elsewhere in Glasgow)

Maintenance needs some attention

Detectors can be a bit hit-and-miss, but they've got the principal right

Segregations replaced by shared use for a short section. Neither ideal nor necessary.


The first three types of infrastructure range between useless and worse than useless. They are completely unsuitable for mass cycling, and will not help bring about the 10% modal shift that is being aimed for. It's high time the council stopped spending money on rubbish like it.

The fourth shows potential. Being physically separated from motor vehicles leads to a much better feeling of safety. But for now, it's little more than one route - we need this kind of infrastructure, and better, all over the city (and indeed all over the country). Let's stop having cycling for the brave, and have cycling for all.

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