The cycle path that almost embarrassed a Scottish minister – Alastair Dalton

Transport Scotland has agreed to build a cycle path after being challenged by the Cairngorms National Park, but Glasgow is doing equally badly in not looking after the ones it has got.

Potholed cycle lane on resurfaced road in Alderman Road, Knightswood, Glasgow. Picture: Jpimedia
Potholed cycle lane on resurfaced road in Alderman Road, Knightswood, Glasgow. Picture: Jpimedia

This is a tale of two cycle paths. One involves national park guardians and community councils in the Cairngorms taking on multi-billion-pound state roadbuilder Transport Scotland – and winning.

The other is in Scotland’s largest city, which loves to highlight its cycling initiatives and new routes, but is shamefully neglecting parts of the network built to improve riders’ safety.

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In the former, the Scottish Government agency this week backed down and agreed to an off-road cycle and footpath between Aviemore and Carrbridge which had been missing from its £3 billion A9 dualling scheme. Riders currently have to use a busy and narrow B road.

Lincoln Avenue cycle path in Knightswood close to Glasgow's new BMX Centre. Picture: Jpimedia
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This led to the Cairngorms National Park Authority withdrawing its objection to the A9 project.

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If that hadn’t happened, Transport Scotland officials would have faced having to defend the cycle path’s omission at a public inquiry, on the same day Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham told a climate change conference in Aviemore that “significant action” was already happening on walking and cycling.

She also praised the event for “establishing the net zero route map to 2045 within the national park”.

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Well, now it is, but no thanks to the Scottish Government on cycling. Transport Scotland also went out of its way to make the new path sound alluring by describing it, in best bureaucratic terms, as a “shared-use non-motorised user facility”. Now let’s build it.

Over in Glasgow, the city council can be rightly proud of its progress in building off-road and segregated cycle lanes, which are critical to making people feel safe on bikes.

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These now operate both into and within the city centre, with the positive benefits including transforming Sauchiehall Street from a racetrack to a continental-style boulevard.

Last week, Anna Richardson, the council’s convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, underlined the importance of such schemes as she helped launch the latest one, in the Woodside area north of the city centre.

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She said the climate emergency had “renewed our focus on efforts to promote a greater uptake of sustainable transport”, and that more people cycling – and walking – would help Glasgow hit its carbon-neutral target by 2030.

However, this rhetoric makes it all the more shocking to discover that away from these shiny new schemes, parts of Glasgow’s cycle network are in a shocking state.

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Last year, I described some of the city’s bike lanes as being in such bad condition “they look like archeological evidence of a past civilisation that once encouraged cycling”.

But the more routes I cover on a bike, the more appalling examples of poor maintenance I encounter. The latest examples, in the north west of the city, include evidence of the road having been resurfaced but the cycle lane beside it left potholed and rutted.

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Nearby, cyclists would be unable to pass each other on a newish two-way segregated lane because it is blocked by leaves, mud and litter. Ironically, that section is a stone’s throw from the city’s BMX Centre in Knightswood, built for the 2018 European Championships. Hardly an encouragement to get there by bike.

If councils like Glasgow really mean what they say, cycle lanes must be well signposted, properly marked and well maintained. They should be first in line for road spending and be a stand-out, gold-standard feature on roads to reassure regular cyclists and encourage novices alike.

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