A revolutionary new cycle route into Glasgow city centre to encourage timid cyclists has today won a design contest and £6.5 million funding.
The news came hours after Glaswegian cyclist Callum Skinner won gold in Rio, which is hoped will further boost cycling’s popularity in Scotland’s largest city.
The two-mile South City Way will provide Copenhagen-style segregated bike lanes between Queen’s Park and the Merchant City.
Plans show continuous green-coloured lanes, stepped up from the side of the road, which are due to be completed in summer 2018.
The scheme will be Scotland’s “most ambitious street improvement project”, according to cycle path developers Sustrans.
It was chosen from 24 other entries to win the Community Links PLUS contest, unlocking £3.25m from Sustrans and the Scottish Government, which will be matched by the same amount from Glasgow City Council.
Sustrans Scotland said it would be an “exemplar” for similar projects elsewhere in providing safe and attractive routes for cyclists.
The body pledged to become far more closely involved in the design of the scheme than other segregated routes, which have had a mixed reaction from cycling groups.
GoBike!, the Strathclyde Cycle Campaign, has criticised poor signs and maintenance on the two other such routes into Glasgow city centre.
Attracting more people to cycle is crucial for ministers to get anywhere near their “vision” of 10 per cent of journeys by bike by 2020, especially as the focus is expected to shift to urban areas.
Current rates are under 2 per cent across Scotland.
Sustrans Scotland wants the project to be so good it attracts international attention, despite the country lagging behind many in cycle development.
Deputy director Daisy Narayanan said: “We want people to come from Europe and see there is lots to learn from Glasgow.”
The South City Way will link Victoria Road with Stockwell Street in the city centre - a route which has deterred some cyclists in the past because of its busy traffic.
Transport minister Humza Yousaf, announcing the award, said: “Glasgow City Council has shown real ambition and vision towards improving conditions for people who choose to walk or cycle along a major commuter belt.”
He lives five minutes from the route and pledged to use it, saying it would be “absolutely ideal” for picking up takeaways and ice creams en route to the city centre.
Matthew MacDonald, Community Links PLUS manager at Sustrans Scotland, said: “The South City Way will improve travel choices and accessibility for residents and visitors.
“Simultaneously, it will reduce congestion, improve air quality, enable easier use of public transport, and create places where people want to socialise, shop, and linger in.”
Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland director Sara Thiam, one of the judging panel, said she had been impressed by the “truly segregated nature of the route” which had been “very well thought through”.
She said the project had had to be a route “people would really want to use, including those who are not confident cyclists”.
However, GoBike! said improvements were needed on Glasgow’s existing segregated routes.
Convenor Tricia Fort said: “The West City Way cycle route from Central Station west to Kelvingrove has some very useful bits, but is not overall to a high standard and connections into it are poor, with inadequate signing.
“It was the first attempt in Glasgow and the city council needs to learn from this.
“The South-West City Way between the city centre and Pollokshields is much better.
“There is one short bit of shared footway and a poorly-signed junction at Carnoustie Street, but the route is well used and it takes people from where they live to where they want to go.”