Saturday, 22 March 2014

Clyde Gateway: Part One

Believe it or not, the green smudge is a cycle path


Take a look at the image on the left - that treatment was done about ten years ago. On the left of the picture is a fire-path - a static piece of infrastructure that blocks normal motor traffic whilst allowing access to Fire & Rescue appliances. On the right is a cycle path connecting Dixon Road to the Toucan crossing on Aitkenhead Road. As you can probably infer, one of these features has survived a lot better than the other. There are multiple examples down the road of similar treatments, each rotting away at a similar rate.

I went to a local resident's association meeting last summer, where representatives from the council's Land & Environmental Services came out to talk with us about what they were doing to improve the roads in the area. I spoke to the spokesperson for the team that does the painting. Ludicrously enough, painting the road appears to be the responsibility of a separate department from the teams that resurface the roads - if you ever wondered why roads sometimes get re-painted one week then tarmacked over the following week, this is probably why. I asked him about sections of cycle path like the one above; I wanted to know why this wasn't being maintained. He advised me that the original piece of work came from a special, one-off fund. There was no budget for re-painting the cycle paths around this part of the city. Therefore, short of a miracle, or an extra injection of "special" funding, the above path will continue to deteriorate until there's nothing but the dropped kerb and the sign. The fire-path - made out of actual bricks and mortar - will remain though for much longer.

The bottom line is: paint alone doesn't work. This fact will become more pertinent as I look at the state of the new infrastructure work that's been carried out in and around the main Commonwealth Games site in Dalmarnock and Parkhead - a project that's been labelled "The Clyde Gateway". It featured in a rather scathing article in the Guardian about the mooted "Commonwealth Legacy"; a piece which has inspired me to write this blogpost. As its quite a large area, I'm going to break down the analysis into a few posts.


In November 2007, Glasgow was announced as the Host for 2014 Commonwealth Games. That has set in motion a series of major building and infrastructural projects to create an "East End Cluster" of sporting venues, an athlete's village and transport routes to facilitate access. This included a major refurbishment to Dalmarnock Railway Station, and the construction of a new road (or at least a major re-routing and refurbishment of existing roads) called the "East End Regeneration Route", the naming of which suggests a beneficial purpose. This coincides with the completion of the highly controversial M74 extension between Tradeston and Tollcross, which has lead to the creation of a new junction - J1A Polmadie - linking up to the new road. Thus when I refer to the "Clyde Gateway", I'm referring to the route between the new motorway junction, the Velodrome and the Forge Retail Park at Parkhead.

View Larger Map

Historically speaking, this route is - in a sense - a partial completion of the inner city ring road, proposed in the notorious Bruce Report (the apogee of Glasgow's post-war modernist planning mindset). I referred to this previously in discussion of High Street, which would have formed the eastern flank. This revised edition pushes the flank further eastwards, but ultimately forms a (nearly) continuous route between the M74 and the M8/M80 at Provan, albeit in the form of an urban road, rather than a motorway. With that said, some sections of the route are 4 or even 6 lanes wide - if it looks like a duck... etc

Presumably as part of the approvals process for getting the bid and to justify building new roads, provision for cycling has been factored into the design. The new cycle infrastructure has been pridefully referred to by Glasgow City Council officials as prime examples of how to implement "quality" facilities. without wanting to jump the gun, I think it will come as no surprise to suggest that they are somewhat deluded in that regard.

Anyway, let us begin.


Here's an oblique satellite view of M74 J1A:

View Larger Map

As you can see, it's a bit of a mess - with multiple stacking lanes, signal-controlled junctions and potential for conflict between local users and people exiting and entering the motorway. It isn't nice for motor vehicles, people on bikes or those brave few pedestrians who venture this way occasionally. For the cars, there are three sets of lights to pass through if heading northbound. Cycles and pedestrians have to brave numerous crossings on shared use paths, all while surrounded by heavy traffic - this is not somewhere one wants to spend a lot of time.

I'll start off at the southern side of the junction. If you've read my last post, you'll have seen this image below already, as it forms part of the cycle route between Cathkin Braes, Hampden Park and the Velodrome. As you can see, it's a shared use pavement, with a two-stage toucan crossing - so far, so inconvenient.

Toucan Crossing, replete with the much-derided tactile paving

 Things get worse on the northside of the junction, where we encounter not just another two-stage toucan, but (gasp) a building!
Nnngh! More crossings to wait at
 The planners seem to have been taken by surprise by the existence of this static object. Remember that this is still shared use, but rather than widen the footpath and take some of the lane away from the roadway, they've simply given up and stuck a "Cyclists Dismount" sign before the problematic blind corner - abject capitulation:

If I were responsible for this, I don't think I'd be advertising it, Transport Scotland
 Thereafter, we join the Clyde Gateway proper (or New Rutherglen Road, as it is more correctly called). Here you see a prime example of the divisive and counter-productive Dual Network philosophy in action - on the left, an inconvenient shared use pavement for "novice" cycle users, and a dodgy, hated ASL on the right for "experienced" users.
At least it isn't painted green
At this point, the shared use path on the left pretty much stops dead - if you want to carry on further, you have to cross over the junction at the toucan, then wait at another two-stage crossing to get to the rest of the path. The alternative is to roll into the ASL (note the dropped kerb) and mix with the cars and lorries.

Oh, did I mention that this path just... kind of ... stops mid-way?

Yes, this is supposedly segregated shared use - where does the bike go, on the grass verge?
After this point the signs just give up, with no path back onto the road, nor any indication where the shared use ends and illegal, anti-social pavement cycling starts. Again, I sincerely dislike shared use, but at least commit to it properly*.

The aggravating elements about the junction are three-fold:
  1. It's new - they've virtually had a blank slate to work from and this is what they came up with
  2. It's big - there's quite a lot of space to work with here. Aside from the railyard to the south-east, there's ample space to build around
  3. It's unavoidable - between the motorway and the railway line, there are few crossing points for north-south traffic; unless you want to divert two miles or so west or east, this is the route you must take
Thus, inevitably the choice is made between convenience (i.e. getting through the junction in reasonable time), versus safety (staying on the pavement away from motor traffic) - even with that, there is a problem with consistency. 


Here's the next major junction - a (relatively) complex 3-way convergence:

View Larger Map

Unless further plans have been submitted which I have yet to see, there is no provision here for cycling - you either have to dismount and walk the bike along the pavement, or brave the road. Despite re-routing, there doesn't appear to have been any attempt to integrate cycling here explicitly, although the wide, two lane bend allows motor vehicles to take the corner onto Shaw-field Drive at speed (assuming a green light).

Moving further on, we reach another signal-controlled junction, and then the Rutherglen Bridge over the Clyde.

On the left of the picture and just beyond the lights is the entrance to Richmond Park, which forms part of National Cycle Network route 756 (East Kilbride to Kelvinside). This will become relevant in due course.

At the bridge, we see yet again how designers seem to consistently capitulate when it comes to the more complex parts of the route - once again, there is no provision for cycling over the bridge whatsoever - not even a shared use path. Once we cross the bridge, things start to get interesting (but not in a good way). It's here that we see the beginnings of what presumably gets the council officials excited:

You have what amounts to a slightly-fancy dropped kerb and more shared use paths, this time with explicit segregation applied by - you guessed it - painted lines. As I outlined in the foreword, painted lines have a limited lifespan when compared to actual physical infrastructure. It's quite clear that this work has been implemented with the Games in mind, thus without further funding to maintain it, eventually this path will just revert to pavement again.

Things take a turn for the worse though when we reach the next junction:
The path runs out and we're suddenly directed ...
... straight into an ASL!
As is no doubt blatantly clear, there are several problems with this approach. If the person on the bike cycles along the path then rejoins the road the junction at a green light whilst left-turning traffic is driving alongside, there's an almost guaranteed left-hook opportunity. Bike and car will be travelling parallel to each other - making observations unituitive. Note where the grey car is turning left in the 2nd picture - this is where the person on a bike will be if they are heading straight on. There is no give-way when the path rejoins the road, thus who has priority here isn't made explicit. It relies on the car spotting the person on a bike coming off the pavement and then giving way appropriately - a recipe for conflict which we'll see repeated several times on this route.

For safety, the design relies on the ASL, but ASLs only (just about) work if you approach them during the red light phase. Now, no doubt Glasgow City Council officials will advise you that the previous junction's signals are timed to ensure that people on bikes never reach this junction at green... that is if you don't come from Route 756, which bypasses those lights entirely. You simply cannot guarantee that bikes will always reach the junction on red.

Our hypothetical GCC official might point out the blue sign in the first picture indicating the possible presence of bikes. But it isn't clear that this actually means "cycle path rejoining the carriageway". Given how often drivers are observed infringing on the ASL, is it likely that they will notice this unusual traffic sign? It is more likely that the driver will expect the person on the bike to give way to them.

The route to the left takes you back towards the city centre via Glasgow Green - traffic use this route to travel to the eastern half of the city centre, avoiding the main Clyde crossings - thus there is almost always someone turning here. It's probably just luck (and a lack of cycle traffic going straight on) that a collision hasn't occurred here.


This is probably a good place to stop for the time being - the next post will look at the sections between here, Dalmarnock Station and the Velodrome.

What the...?

I've been doing some photography for my upcoming blog series about the Clyde Gateway. As I was out and about I've noticed that they're in the process of implementing the plans for extending* the cycle route between the Velodrome, Hampden Park and the Cathkin Braes Cycle centre. As has been noted previously, the majority of this "new" infrastructure takes the form of slightly increasing the width of the pavement on some sections and putting up Shared Use signs. What I don't understand though, is what this is for:

Not the streetlamp! The border
On some of the shared routes (not all, I should stress), they've added this oddity - an area of beige hardcore-like material bordered by a solid white line. I can't work out what the purpose of it is. Is it to discourage people on bikes from crossing over and dropping off the pavement? Perhaps it's there to to substitute the "need" for fencing - but if so, there are still sections of fencing on the same routes, particularly around the junctions:
Shared Use path leading to M74 J1A
A little further on the same route - note the fencing

On the plans, it is referred to as:
Buff coloured screed 500mm thick with solid white line 500mm set back from kerb edge
Can anyone suggest a valid reason for it, momentarily side-lining the issue of it being Shared Use and therefore useless?

Monday, 17 March 2014

Cycle Parking: Supermarkets - Lidl & Aldi

Last time, I looked at the cycle parking provision at Morrison's Gallowgate and Asda Toryglen. This time, it's German discount chains Aldi and Lidl that get the treatment.


Compared to long established chains like Tesco and Sainsburys, Aldi and Lidl are relatively recent editions to Glasgow's supermarket retail scene, despite being fixtures of continental European high streets for decades. Although subtly different in service and products, they both share similar traits. They are both a product of German supermarket philosophy, which favours smaller shops in urban settings - as opposed to the UK's love of US-style out-of-town big box hypermarkets - with a focus on providing a (relatively narrow) range of good quality, own-brand products with steady (budget-orientated) pricing; you don't find the profligacy of multi-buy deals common with the so-called "big four" retailers. Efficiency is key, with items being displayed in floor to ceiling packing crates (hence they are in a sense, self-stacking and self-clearing), tills which only open up when required and where customers pack their shopping at tables away from the tills (thus improving the flow rate).

As is probably quite obvious from the above text  I unequivocally declare myself a fan of both brands (although I have no relationship with them) - I like the smaller scale, the low prices and that I can find pretty much all I need shopping-wise; there's also the coup of including the "mystery middle aisle" (more on that later). As they are so evenly matched, choosing one or the other depends a lot on small details - a specific product, where I am at a given moment, the direction I'm travelling in etc. One of the factors that can have an influence if I'm shopping on my bike are the facilities for me to park.

There are four Aldi stores in Glasgow proper, with several in the periphery of Greater Glasgow, including Rutherglen, Clydebank, Paisley, Erskine, Bellshill, Motherwell, Airdrie and Hamilton. Lidl has a similar spread, although is more firmly established - there are about double the number of stores in roughly the same radius, with at least 12 within the city boundary. I'll look at the closest examples of each. Aldi Rutherglen, approximately 1.7 miles away and Lidl Victoria Road, a mere 0.8 miles distance. It goes without saying that both are easily commutable by bike distance-wise; the road conditions differ significantly though.

Aldi Rutherglen

Note that I'm cheating again by including Rutherglen, which isn't technically Glasgow. Indeed, it's actually part of the South Lanarkshire Council area. However in reality, the town integrates pretty seamlessly with Glasgow, forming a de-facto local business district for this part of the South-side. Aldi is (in my opinion) the slightly "posher" of the two, with better products (for example, the hommous is just that bit tastier :) ). It is also on my commute, hence I'll often pop in for some dinner after work.  The shop sits just slightly away from Rutherglen Cross, near the (slightly intimidating) pedestrian subway under Glasgow Road and Rutherglen Main Street. As befits a small urban supermarket, there's a modest car-park, with the majority of customers coming on foot.

As indicated above, Aldi has a the mystery middle aisle, in which can be found a series of seasonal or limited offer stock - a veritable Aladdin's cave of bric-a-brac and pot-luck ephemera, from kitchenware and tools to clothing and electronics. Aldi is notable amongst cycling enthusiasts for its "Crane" range of cycling apparel, which (like much of Aldi's product range) is of decent quality - I have a number of items which I use on a daily basis that have originated here.

Regrettably and counter-intuitively, Aldi Rutherglen lets itself down with bike provision - there is no "official" parking at all.

Trollies and ... erm ... plants are well served

"But there are Sheffield Stands there", you might say. Yes, there are metal barriers, but these are intended to wrangle trolleys. When full, there is no room - not to mention the danger of the bike being damaged by errant shoppers in a rush to get a trolley. This despite a recent refurbishment of the car-park to add additional spaces (FOR CARS) at the back of the shop. 

Brand New Parking and Trolley shelter

Other than the railings for trolleys, there are fences near the car-park entrance - exposed and relatively far away from the shops front door. The implication is very clear here - dry trolleys and cars are more important than bikes. It's such a shame that the management (either local or regional) fail to understand this, particularly given that they provide reams of specific "Parent & Child" parking too:

Couldn't just one of these spaces be allocated for bikes?
There was a clear opportunity to improve facilities here with the renovation work which has been squandered. This would suggest that someone believes that the way to get more customers into the shop is to provide extra parking, which I believe is a false paradigm. The size of the shop precludes the sort of bi-monthly bulk buying that fits with car dependency. Supermarkets like this and in this area are suited better to more frequent/smaller quantity shops - the kind more suited to pedestrian or customers arriving by bike.

Lidl Victoria Road

Yay Lidl!
By contrast to Aldi Rutherglen, the bike provision here is streets ahead. Unfortunately the photograph was taken at a time when some work was being done on the roof, hence the cherry-picker parked beside it - but imagine this same scene without it or the (slightly) encroaching Heras fence. There are 8 good quality Sheffield stands - room enough for 16 bikes, which compares well to the limited number of parking spaces for cars. The stands are sheltered from the elements by a purpose-built roof, in other words they aren't sheltered by accident of design - someone has actually gone and designed this facility specifically with bikes in mind. 

The two bikes at the back are posh stainless steel custom affairs

The shelter is also prominently and conspicuously placed in the small car-park close to the entrance - the trolleys get top billing again (of course!). But its clear that Lidl recognise that their setting - an urban high street on a bus route - is going to get the bulk of its trade from pedestrians and people on bikes, and they've prepared for them. Bravo to Lidl Victoria Road! If only they started selling bike apparel, the choice would be a lot easier.


Thought I would note this little enjoinder. Across from Lidl, there's a small example of where filtered permeability techniques can be misapplied if not designed properly. The road here has been blocked off to through motor traffic with large, flat bollards, but there's supposed to be a little cycle by-pass. I say it like that because in reality, it isn't really usable, because of the close proximity of the bus-stop - people (naturally) use the bollards for sitting and tend to congregate on the pavement.

As you can see, the painted bike lane has long since worn away - the dropped kerb and the faded blue bike sign being the only real evidence of its previous existence - this is a pattern we see quite a lot throughout the south-side. A more useful approach would have been to direct the path away from the vicinity of the bus-stop - 5 metres or so to the right perhaps - and to mark out the path physically with either a drop in height, or a different surface type.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cycle Parking: Supermarkets

As a slight diversion from the subject of the last four postings, I'm going to take a quick look at (tangentially) related issue: cycle parking. Compared to the safety issues related to cycling - junction design, protected lanes etc -  parking at your destination might seem like a bit of a side issue; a "nice to have". Whilst I agree with that in principle, I think it's still worth looking at the quality of facility provided for bikes at sites such as retail destinations, public buildings and transport hubs - something I'm going to call "End-point Infrastructure". After all, there's little purpose in having a good quality cycle network if there's nowhere to park the bike once you arrive. In addition, providing parking facilities, like other so-called "cinderella services" such as shower/changing rooms/lockers in workplaces is something that can be fairly easily and cheaply remedied right now, as well as being well within the competence of employers/site owners; something they don't have have to rely on local/central government for.

I'll start by looking at some local supermarkets, as these are destinations pretty much everyone has to visit one way or another at some point in their week (unless you live in some sort of local shop nirvana or are a freegan). I'll add more entries as I come across them, but I'll start with some I've visited recently (and had the presence of mind to take some pictures).

Evalution Criteria

In terms of evaluation criteria...Hmmm... this is going to be difficult but I'll try to apply some consistent guidelines. Do we compare like with like? Is it fair to compare e.g. an out-of-town big-box hypermarket versus a high street mini-market? I suspect this will change I look at more facilities.

I think by its nature - and without access to statistics like area, customer volumes and number of car parking spaces (I'm NOT going to go around counting them!) - this is going to be quite a subjective evaluation, but I'll try to consider the following dimensions:
  • Availability - by this I mean "are there any official facilities at all". Big demerits for "unofficial" parking (e.g. perimeter fencing, light poles, trees etc.)
  • Convenience - is the cycle parking close to the door of the shop. This includes "indoors" incidentally
  • Number of spaces - are there plenty of bike spaces available, relative to the size of the store
  • Security/conspicuousness - I've put these two measures together as they are (to my mind) inter-related, although it could also be applied to the sturdiness/quality of the facility. The more obvious/visible the facility, the less likely someone will be to have a go at nicking your bike
  • Quality - related to above. I'd expect a Sheffield stand as a minimum but more kudos for more elaborate solutions. Also includes whether or not the facility is sheltered or open to the elements
  • Other - is there something unique about this facility that isn't covered above?
I'm probably not going to explicitly look at how accessible the facility is from the street, unless there's a specific reason to highlight it but I will look at how other modes are treated in contrast.

* This is my assumption incidentally. Would be interested to hear if anyone has a different perspective

Morrison's Gallowgate  

Location - Open StreetMap
Morrison's Gallowgate's rear cycle facilities
This supermarket is quite a recent edition to Glasgow's supermarket corps (ahem... what's the collective noun for supermarkets? A Rip-off? A Robbery?) - it is also what you might call an "urban supermarket", in that it's located on an old brownfield site in the inner city, rather than being a big box greenfield in the suburbs or out-of-town. I'd estimate that it's probably what you'd call "Medium-sized" - it has a large groceries section but doesn't have the extended section for clothes, electronics or home goods.

It is located on Barrack Street, just off the Gallowgate, about a mile east of Glasgow Cross. The shop sits right across from the famous/notorious Barras Market - a development which will no doubt have depressed the remaining (demoralized) stallholders there. At the same time, it covers an area not well served by food retailers - fresh fruit&veg being particularly hard to find - as well as potentially attracting savvy students in the nearby halls of residence not wanting to be stung by the prices of mini-markets and the Co-op on George Street. The area - known as the Calton - is also one of the most deprived in Glasgow (the UK, even) and has a male life expectancy lower than Bogotá and Baghdad*. Thus, very few local residents have access to a car and I would expect a big proportion of customers will come on foot or public transport. In other words: a location ripe for bikes.

* citation needed

To be fair to Morrison's, they've done a decent job here - a benchmark if you will. There are two entrances to the shop - a main one on Barrack Street and a secondary door by the car park at the back. Each has a row of standard steel Sheffield stands right by the door, with six at the front and a further four at the back - I estimate space for approximately 20 bikes, which seems reasonable compared to the size of the relatively modest car park.The stands are conspicuously located under the well-lit and sheltered frontage, although I suspect given the right combination of wind direction and rainfall intensity they might be a little exposed in some circumstances.

At the very least, it looks as if they've at least considered that some of their customers will arrive on a bike and have prepared accordingly. This is in marked contrast to the next facility I'll look at.

Asda Toryglen

Location - Open Streetmap

Asda Toryglen - at least the trolleys are dry
This is my local supermarket, being about two streets away. It is also just across the road from Holyrood Secondary School (one of the largest in Europe) Hampden Park and the Toryglen Regional Football Centre and will be close to one of the proposed bike share stations. Like before, this supermarket could be called "urban" but it shares more in common with out-of-town big boxes - namely, proximity to a motorway junction (M74 J1A) and a huge car park. It's also pretty large inside and includes non-grocery stock - clothes, electronics and homeware on a mezzanine floor. At least it is also pretty convenient for bus routes (the 75 and 7) and Crosshill railway station.

Cycling provision is, to be blunt, fairly poor. You wouldn't know it from the picture but off to the right, there are some sheffield stands - round the corner, near the staff entrance, away from the main doors, out of sight.

Note the night-safe has preferential positioning
 There are four* stands here, thus potentially accommodating up to eight bikes, but as you can see, the stands are positioned too close to the wall, making it awkward to access and lock bikes conveniently. The area is reasonably lit, but again its position round the corner makes it feel less secure. You will often find bikes locked to lighting poles round the front, presumably because people don't realise there are stands or would rather keep them in a more public spot. Other than perhaps the wall, there is no shelter from the elements at all - you can see one of the bikes in the picture has a plastic bag on the saddle and for good reason.

What is abundantly clear here is that bikes are - at best - an afterthought. The management here clearly don't expect more than handful of people to come here by bike, despite it being close to an overwhelmingly residential area (including the nearby borough of Rutherglen).

* you can see another three metal stands that look like Sheffields, but these are there to prevent the doors from opening fully - you'd be pretty daft or desperate to lock your bike to them!

That'll probably do for this instalment - in the next post, I'll be comparing and contrasting the local instances of two German discounters Lidl and Aldi, which have surprisingly different approaches to the same issue.