|Believe it or not, the green smudge is a cycle path|
ForewordTake 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.
OverviewIn 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.
PolmadieHere'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|
|Nnngh! More crossings to wait at|
|If I were responsible for this, I don't think I'd be advertising it, Transport Scotland|
|At least it isn't painted green|
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?|
The aggravating elements about the junction are three-fold:
- It's new - they've virtually had a blank slate to work from and this is what they came up with
- 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
- 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
ShawfieldHere'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:
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!|
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.