I’m on the Road to … Aieeeeee!

November 16, 2013

Being part two of my cycling adventures in Glasgow

Having got to outer Glasgow on Thursday night in the dark along who knows what roads while following Magnatom, yesterday’s cycling challenge seemed a lot easier: get myself to Bishopbriggs and from there back to Glasgow Central station, all in daylight in time to catch my train. It’s generally easier to find a route to a city centre because that’s generally where all the roads go, and so it was in this case as once I’d got to Bishopbriggs, all I had to do was follow the big yellow road on the map and it would take me more or less straight there. Easy peasy. Even I could do that. Even when the big yellow road got bigger and faster and turned into a dual carriageway and stopped having pavements and started having slip roads instead of junctions with traffic lights. After all (as someone was reminding me at the Cycling Scotland Conference last week) I had a perfect right to be there on my bike in among the big buses and cars, and had some spoiler put a wussy cycle track alongside it the traffic would all be beeping at me to get onto it, instead of, as they were now, beeping at me in joyful recognition of my rightful presence amongst them in the brotherhood of the open road.* So I persisted, having anyway little option as there was nowhere else but the road to go, until I looked up and saw the sign that was helpfully informing me that now would be a good time to pull out across two lanes of traffic into the third lane if I wasn’t planning on joining the M8. At that point, spotting a bus stop and (glory be) a shared-use pavement sign miraculously appeared alongside me, I bailed out and decided to find an option that was less likely to kill me.

Once on the pavement, I even saw a tiny blue sign directing me to the city centre. Praising the far-sighted Glasgow city fathers for providing me with just such a piece of cycling provision when I needed it most, I followed it up and over a bridge, tempering my praise a teeny bit as I passed through not one but four chicanes, tempering it further as the ‘bike route’ suddenly developed steps, and settling for roundly cursing them as I found myself entering an underpass so choked with leaves and mud that someone (I’m guessing not the city fathers) had built a neat set of stepping stones out of broken paving slabs to cross it. After that, I discovered, I was on my own, surrounded on all sides (not to mention above and below) by slip roads and motorways and A-roads and who knows what other classes of road, all roaring busily with traffic. At points I could see a network of footpaths that seemed to wind through this tangled mess of motorway knitting but I was pretty sure that even if I could find my way onto them, the chance of actually following them where I wanted to go as opposed to, say, back at the muddy underpass for the seventeenth time, was effectively nil. So I wheeled my bike across pedestrian crossing after pedestrian crossing until I had left the motorway junction behind and I was back on a road that had gone from utterly terrifying to just averagely scary and got back on and went on my way. I even made it to the station on time, which as I’d allowed myself two hours to ride about 3 miles wasn’t all that surprising.

Suddenly, the reason why otherwise sane Glasgow cyclists seem so keen to use roads that most people on bikes would consider actively hostile was a lot clearer – when you’ve a choice between being killed, and spending the rest of eternity roaming a shared use path on a moebius strip encircling a motorway junction, merely being crushed to death begins to look the kinder option. Now I realise that there is undoubtedly a perfectly pleasant route between Bishopbriggs and Glasgow city centre which you’re all going to tell me about in the comments, but the fact is, unless it’s properly signposted and obvious from the main road and doesn’t lead you into an underpass and leave you there to die, then it might as well not exist. And while not everyone is as spatially challenged as I am, that means more than one tiny blue sign, people.

There’s lots of expensive things that Glasgow could – and should – do to sort out its city scape (and getting rid of its urban motorways and turning them into linear parks would be a fantastic start in my opinion). There are also some slightly less expensive things it could do now, like signpost the routes it does have, for instance, and properly drain its underpasses for another instance. And until it does either of those things, I shall stick to my tried and tested system of appealing on the internet for native guides for all bike-borne travel that doesn’t involve going from one bit of the Clyde to another in daylight…