Regular followers of the Glasgow Space4Cycling campaign will know we like to get out and about on our bikes, checking out the recommended cycle routes around the city.
On Thursday 8th October, we struck out westwards to test the cycling experience of the “Colleges Cycle Route“, which aims to connect several of Glasgow’s education campuses – stretching from Strathclyde University’s main Townhead location, via Glasgow Caledonian University and through the West End visiting Glasgow University before reaching out to Strathclyde’s Jordanhill annex. It also conveniently links to some national cycle network routes and parks with opportunities for safe family cycling.
The intrepid riding group gathered at the foot of the famous concert hall steps at the top of Buchanan St, before heading off to join the Colleges Route just the other side of Cowcaddens Road.
We were assured by our guide, who uses the route to get to work, that the first section between GCU and Kelvingrove Park was pretty good. There was some scepticism from the riders!
But in fact the majority of this section feels pretty safe and convenient. Although it’s not the most direct route, it uses quiet back streets and off-road paths, meaning the number of times you have to stop (or foot down index) is low, so it feels convenient.
The first fly in the ointment was encountered as we approached St. George’s Cross. The shared cycle and pedestrian bridge over the M8 was covered in broken glass! Regular users report that this is pretty standard and that the footbridge never seems to get the maintenance it needs, if it’s going to feel safe and inviting to users of all ages and abilities.
Some participants decided to chance the hectic roads around the cross, whereas others were forced to dismount to avoid the worst of the shards – and this is considered to be the “best” part of the route!
After passing along the pleasantly quiet West Princes Street, where through traffic is discouraged by bollards and one way restrictions, we reached the edge of Kelvingrove Park.
At this point the route joins Gibson Street heading West towards the University: not that you’d know, because the road has no help for cyclists at all. Turning left to join University Avenue, we found that temporary traffic lights had been installed for roadworks, and presumably because people cycling uphill were holding up the traffic, “cyclists dismount” signs were in place. In fact, they were also in place in the opposite – downhill – direction too!
As we continued westwards, most of the route merely consisted of narrow on-street cycle lanes; the green and white paint having significantly faded since it was last maintained. And the majority of these lanes placed us in the notorious “door zone”. For an idea of how much distance there should be between a parked car and the cycle lane, check out this video.
Of course, paint is open to abuse:
At one point the cycle lane appears to have been turned into a parking bay. We all stopped and had a good look at this one:
And of course there are junctions where the provision for cycling is simply incompatible with the idea of all ages and abilities being able to use a bike to get around.
So the verdict on the Colleges Route: the first section from the city centre to Kelvingrove park is actually not bad. After that, it’s generally poor, outdated design that Glasgow is thankfully moving well beyond.
Hopefully an upgrade to this much needed route will be on the cards before long.