State of our cycling lanes tells different story to SNP rhetoric – Alastair Dalton

Bike lanes in some Scottish cities are now in such bad condition they look like archeological evidence of a past civilisation that once encouraged cycling.
Vehicles blocking cycle lanes are among hazards confronting riders. Picture: Stewart BremnerVehicles blocking cycle lanes are among hazards confronting riders. Picture: Stewart Bremner
Vehicles blocking cycle lanes are among hazards confronting riders. Picture: Stewart Bremner

Fading paint and semi-obscured markings shout utter disdain at those choosing to ride rather than add to congestion and pollution by driving.

It is a symptom of the woeful state of Scotland’s roads, which is affecting drivers, pedestrians and riders alike. Things are becoming so bad that it is a wonder anyone still ventures onto the highway on a bike.

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This is laughable when both ministers and the leaders of our biggest councils insist cycling is a priority, and with the Scottish Government still – at least publicly – wedded to its clearly unachievable “vision” of 10 per cent of journeys being by bike by next year.

The Scottish Government has doubled its spending on cycling and walking, but this is still tiny compared to the overall roads budget.

However, it’s not just evidence of cycle lanes which are fading from our roads. Vital safety markings, such as stop lines, have become obscured, along with yellow box junctions – vital in keeping junctions clear and preventing logjams. On rainy nights, some are virtually invisible.

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There are, of course, also potholes. They have been a problem since roads were first built, as James Miller relates in The Finest Road in the World. His history of travel in the Highlands chronicles how the perennial irritant saw authorities in the 1700s make local people turn out with picks and shovels several days a year to fix their roads. The thorny issue of who was to pay for their upkeep even led to a forerunner of the council tax.

Nowadays, the danger posed by potholes is chiefly faced by cyclists and pedestrians because of the greater consequences of failing to spot them than motorists. The latter are more likely to suffer vehicle damage than bodily harm. The icing on the cake to this sorry tale is where there are potholes on cycle lanes but the road is otherwise rut-free.

My three-mile commute in Glasgow illustrates the challenges cyclists face – problems which are alas common.

The route features a potholed cycle lane, part of which is blocked by parked vehicles because there are no yellow lines to enforce it.

Advanced stop lines at traffic lights, vital for providing a safe haven and visibility for cyclists, have much of their paint rubbed off and bike symbols eroded. It’s little surprise motorists don’t respect them, despite the risk of a £100 fine and three penalty points. It is high time the police made some examples of drivers to get the message across.

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I have the luxury of off-road paths for much of my route, but here the problem is lack of signs – and at the right height and large enough – to alert walkers they are shared with cyclists.

There have also been some ridiculous decisions made over the designation of such paths, such as on a narrow stretch past a bus stop that must make waiting passengers wonder what on earth cyclists are doing on the pavement, trying to squeeze past them.

An alternative route is a side road, but dodging cars parked all over the pavement – legal until the long-awaited ban is passed at Holyrood.

Ministers and council leaders are welcome to join me to see at first hand where vital improvements should be made.