Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Community Links Plus in Renfrewshire

Community Links Plus

A bit of background to start us off for a post about more disappointment regarding cycling in Renfrewshire. Sustrans Scotland run a program called Community Links, which asks local authorities to bid to get funding to do things to benefit walking and cycling in their area. Although administered by Sustrans (a charity) the money comes from the Scottish Government, with local authorities matching the funds provided.

This year, Sustrans and the Scottish Government have upped the ante with 'Community Links Plus'. It's looking for projects on a bigger scale, with the website mentioning stating that they asked for proposals that would be 'game-changers for active travel in Scotland', 'big, bold and innovative ideas'. There is, inevitably, a much more limited pot of funding than one would like and of the ten shortlisted projects, only one or two will be given funding.

On learning that Renfrewshire had been shortlisted to get funding for such a scheme I was rather pleased. Seeing that it was to connect my hometown with neighbouring areas, I was delighted. "Developing a strategic cycle route to link Bishopton, Inchinnan, Erskine, Renfrew, Paisley and Glasgow airport," as the summary says, sounds fantastic. These are towns and villages not far from each other with very poor links at present - only Paisley and Bishopton have a train station, the road from Bishopton to Erskine is national speed limit with no cycle provision, the road from Inchinnan to Renfrew a 50mph busy road with no cycle provision. Renfrew and Inchinnan Business Park are (separately) linked to Glasgow Airport by very poor cycling provision involving things like shared use paths, off-road dirt tracks and on road lanes.

Unfortunately, the plan being presented is so limited in scope that I can't imagine it would achieve very much at all, were it to be implemented.

Renfrewshire's Proposal

As you can see from the proposal, the links being proposed only enable a very few trips to be made by bike. Despite the summary mentioning Renfrew and Paisley, these don't feature at all. The council may argue that Glasgow Airport is already linked to Renfrew and Paisley, so they're included by proxy, but that would be absolute nonsense since those links are so substandard.

There are three phases being proposed. Firstly, linking the edge of Bishopton to the Red Smiddy Roundabout. This is a 60mph road that barely has a usable pavement at present. It could certainly do with cycling facilities

A8 Greenock Road between Bishopton and the Red Smiddy Roundabout
The second phase takes us from the Red Smiddy eastwards, towards Inchinnan. Curiously, it gives up before reaching Inchinnan itself, stopping at the junction with Inchinnan Drive. By continuing another 1.3 miles, the segregated route would have passed Inchinnan and reached the edge of Renfrew. This is perhaps the most bizarre omission of the proposals. As it stands, the only beneficiary here would be people going to Inchinnan Business Park from Bishopton. That's a massive missed opportunity. It's also worth noting that the part that isn't in the proposal is on two frequent bus routes and, anecdotally, I'm quite sure there are currently more people cycling (mostly on the pavement) and walking on this part.

Cycle facilities are being proposed here

But further up the same road, there'll be nothing

Finally, the third phase goes south from the Red Smiddy towards Glasgow Airport and the St James' Interchange (a massive roundabout above the M8). Much of this already has a shared use path, which is quite inadequate and segregated cycling here would certainly be an upgrade.

However, dumping cyclists onto the St James Interchange would be some sort of a sick joke and the current path to the airport is little more than a dirt track - a dirt track that these plans don't appear to address.

The existing 'shared use path' to Glasgow Airport, doesn't appear set to be upgraded

The St James' Interchange. The proposed cycle infra finishes just north of this.

Linking Communities?

An inevitable retort to this blogpost is that we have to start somewhere, to which I absolutely agree. Rome wasn't built in a day, and a network of segregated cycle infrastructure accompanied by minor roads of low traffic and low speeds won't come overnight either. However, these plans would enable very few journeys to be made by bike compared to other possibilities within Renfrewshire. These proposals seem like a very odd place to start. The project is called 'Community Links', yet I don't see how any two communities will in fact be linked!

It's fair to say that journeys between Bishopton and Inchinnan Business Park would be enabled, and it's quite possible that some commuters that travel by car could be tempted onto their bikes and any current bike users made safer. It's also possible that some people living to the west of Inchinnan will be able to cycle to Bishopton train station, giving them a useful link onto the rail network (although there's already a bus link from Inchinnan to Paisley and Glasgow). People in Inchinnan wanting to cycle the few miles into Renfrew - out of luck. People in Erskine, Paisley and Renfrew wanting to go anywhere - out of luck.

Something? Yes. Game-changing? I'm sorry, but I really don't see it. Compared to some of the other plans proposed by other councils, it seems Renfrewshire has come up short.

Find an overview of the 10 proposed projects at

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  1. I have used the path nr the St James Interchange many times travelling to Paisley from Dumbarton.I believe this piece of ground is a nature reserve so there may be planning restrictions on what changes can be made however i do believe cutting the vegeation back and widening the path would be good here but at the end of the day i usually follow the line of the Duckboarding path coming round that way. I also totally agree with you that the section of path at/after/before The Red Smiddy roundabout needs attention with the pavement widened for use as a shared path and that stupid white line from the road removed.Its maybe less of an evil having an on-road path where you have a wide road but that section of road is not wide enough for that type of path....

  2. And Addendum, I would also say going through the Airport on a Bicyle is a bit of a nightmare or a bit of a jigsaw puzzle itself....