Astroturfing

I had an hour to kill at Carlisle station as I changed trains. After the madding crowds of Euston (and today the melting heat), Carlisle always comes as a bit of a relief, and while normally I’d chafe at the thought of a whole hour hanging around for a train, today I was happy just to pick up a coffee and a Snickers bar and chill out reading the paper and generally watching the world go by both in reality and on Twitter.

This process was made strangely more pleasant by the mysterious appearance of a square of astroturf and a bench which, combined with a bit of summer warmth, magically transformed a stretch of platform into something resembling a park. I don’t know why, it’s really only plastic, but it turned a wait into a pleasant interlude. We humans are strange and rather gullible creatures, I suppose. Certainly by the time I had finished my coffee and my train was ready, I had been joined by a few others who were enjoying hanging out on the ‘grass’.

Astroturf patch at Carlisle Station

Jolly nice and everything, but not actually a real park

Previously this little patch had a table footy table on it and appeared to be something to do with the World Cup. But now it’s sprouted a banner suggesting it’s celebrating the imminent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (or at least helping Virgin flog train tickets). And why not? We’re all excited about a bit of sporting action coming to a city that could probably do with the boost, and it means that Glasgow has got itself a shiny new velodrome and a mountain biking park – and that for one day at least, when they close the roads for the racing, a mass of cyclists will be able to ride Glasgow’s streets without fearing for their lives. But after the games have gone, what legacy will there be for cycling? Well, apart from a few new cycle stands dotted around Scotland, not a whole lot. Some shared use pavement down to the new mountain biking course. Half a path to the Velodrome that is great until it runs out and then it isn’t. A reminder that the speed limit for cycling in Glasgow’s parks is 5mph. Oh, and they’ve closed the main traffic-free route along the Clyde for the duration of the Games because obviously, er, no I’m not entirely sure why they’ve done that either.

There’s a parallel, I’m sure, between a small patch of pretend park in Carlisle station, and a great big patch of pretend cycling legacy in Scotland’s largest city, which I’ll leave it up to you to draw for yourselves. But if anyone reading this wants to see an actual real legacy from the games then it’s not too late to sign this. And if you really want to make an impact, you could join myself, Magnatom and others when we go to hand it in next Friday. If only so the next time I go up to Glasgow with my bike, I don’t end up in fear for my life

Which would make my mum happy, if no-one else.

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5 Responses to Astroturfing

  1. Jim Moore says:

    Oh dear. I thought and hoped, because of my long ago Scottish heritage (I’m 5th generation Australian), that the Scots were the smart part of Britain. It seems not.

    And to paraphrase JK Rowling, just because something’s happening on Twitter, doesn’t mean it’s not real.

    All the best in your endeavours.

  2. oftpaster says:

    My church in Leith is going to have some of those heritage bike racks. I am a part-time Leither, and lucky to live within walking distance, but quite a few of the church members cycle – one that I know of crossing over from Fife! As you probably know, there are quite a few off-road bike routes in Edinburgh, and friends who cycle tell me they are pretty good. I’m just writing this as a small example of a smart thing in Scotland.

  3. disgruntled says:

    What makes Glasgow so frustrating is the way that Edinburgh shows that it *can* be done – okay it’s not perfect by a long way, but it’s actually committing real resources to cycling and providing safe routes for families as well as roadies. So yes, small pockets of smartness…

  4. Adnerb says:

    Legacy Shmegacy!

    Delicious irony – the reopening of the ‘Glasgow Tower’ (the needle-like job next to the Science Centre, across the river from the SECC) made the main Radio 4 news bulletins this morning. It’s sad that the gazillions of visitors will just have to admire it from afar, as both the pedestrian/bike bridges will be closed from Monday, as well as the cycle route / walkway on the north side.

    Joined-up thinking? We’ll get back to you…

  5. […] could get used to this weather) but a trip up to Glasgow to hand in a petition suggesting that the Commonwealth Games legacy would be a whole lot more legatastic if it involved some decent cycle infrastructure, if only so visiting cycling teams would have […]

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