Let’s make Glasgow a bit more Amsterdam

The week before my Amsterdam holiday I saw a video on social media of a bicycle-priority roundabout: bikes zooming freely around, while cars gave way, clusters of cyclists gliding in formation around the curves, individuals peeling off to different destinations like the lead cyclist in the velodrome when they’ve had enough of leading the pack. It seemed like a special sort of utopia to someone who, on her daily commute, lays down the gauntlet to the buses, lorries and kamakazi taxi-drivers of Glasgow’s Dumbarton road. Or along Churchill Drive in Hyndland where a narrow strip of road painted green and purportedly a bike lane, has nose to tail cars parked in it and you are constantly on the look out for a car door opening road-side.


When I arrived in Amsterdam I was not disappointed by the sheer volume of bike traffic. In two minutes we counted ninety-five cyclists at 7pm in a not particularly busy part of town. That is 2850 cyclists per hour. Everywhere, thousands of bikes on segregated cycle lanes shot past in all directions with not a helmet, nor any lycra, in sight. A woman on a hefty cargo bike, with two kids in the box on the front and one perched on a makeshift seat on the panier rack, chatted animatedly to a friend on the bike next to her, their skirts billowing as they cycled.  Men in suits, teenagers in a chatty slow-moving peloton, women in summer dresses, a girl in a hijab giving her friend a backie. It was all too wonderful for words. And then I got out of the tram and reality struck, or rather I was nearly struck by an extremely fast-moving bike.

Bikes have priority over all other road-users, and the roads are set out to facilitate this, to the mortal danger of tourists who haven’t worked out the system yet. The buttons to operate the pelican crossings are located the other side of the cycle track, which is not subject to the traffic lights, so I have some sympathy for the cyclist who shouted a few choice expletives at me as I stepped right in front of him to press the button.   This priority for bikes and segregated cycke lanes physically separated from the car /tram carriageways on almost eery street meant that bikes are mass transport – virtually no one was in a private car.

After a couple of days of gingerly walking around Amsterdam in constant fear, expecting, at any moment, a bike to shoot out of nowhere to mow down my entire family, I decided ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and we went off to rent some bikes. I would see what it felt like to cycle, wind in my hair, as cars, trucks, tourists and trams shuddered to a halt before me.

I dived into the melee: it was terrifying. Bikes were all around me and coming at me from all directions. Sometimes bike-lanes were one way, and sometimes two way. I hugged the kerb muttering ‘drive on the right, drive on the right’ as bikes came whistling past my left shoulder overtaking in the narrow space between me and the oncoming bike from the opposite direction. I was concentrating so hard on not hitting any of the other cyclists in my swarm that I didn’t notice the enormous intersection coming up ahead – I didn’t know what to do, cars were coming from left and right, and ahead and there was at least one tram. But the cyclists beside me and ahead of me didn’t even turn their heads – they kept chatting, or checking their phones or just plain cycling. I couldn’t stop anyway, there were 50 bikes on my tail so I put my head down and carried on against all my instincts. And the cars stopped. Like the parting of the red sea, a path opened up and we flowed right on through that intersection. I was ecstatic. Flanked by my herd we took junction after junction. As we came out of the busiest part of town and the cyclists thinned out I attached myself to a pair of teenagers who took it all at a leisurely pace which suited my slightly cautious approach, but when they turned up a different street I was alone and approaching another junction. I saw the cars coming towards me and I felt sick – I slowed and looked frantically around hoping another cyclist would appear to guide me through, but they didn’t. I cycled on with my fingers crossed and my jaw clenched, but as I passed the point of no return, the whole junction came to a stand sill and I cycled majestically through.

I tried to imagine what Glasgow would be like if they instigated a similar scheme of bike priority.  I pictured myself at the junction of Dumbarton Road and Byres Road sailing past on my bike as taxi, bus and LGV drivers waited patiently for me to pass (that took a bit of serious imagining). It seems as likely as a snowball in hell, but the Victorians certainly made Glasgow’s streets wide enough to accommodate the Amsterdam model, with segregated, priority bike lanes on all streets.  It’s the car parking on both sides of every road that precludes it, not to mention lack of political will.  And almost as if to make my point, when got back on my bike in Glasgow I discovered that Glasgow City Council had reconfigured the bike lane along Churchill Drive. Instead of a bike lane along the kerb and a wide carriageway, it now had painted parking bays all along the roadside (soon to become charged-for presumably) and a narrow bike lane painted between the parking bays and the, much reduced, carriageway. This seemed more of a pretendy bike lane, as it would be completely impossible for a bike and a car coming one way to safely pass a bike and a car coming the other, therefore making the whole system far more dangerous for cyclists.

If we seriously want to make our cities more livable, reduce climate emissions, and pollution we need to take this seriously. Amsterdam has shown what is possible, we need a sea-change of numbers of people cycling and that won’t happen unless we stop futtering about the edges of cycle policy and start thinking about how to make Glasgow more Amsterdam.

Community land in Broomhill

Seeking people in Broomhill, Glasgow to join a group to investigate possibilities for community use of the old Broomhill School Annex site. 


See email below if you are interested 


ReplyTo: Alex Cross <a.l.cross@btinternet.com>Subject: Use of Broomhill Primary School Annex land post school rebuild

I have recently been talking to the Broomhill Community Council about the potential for the land that will be released by the rebuild of Broomhill Primary School (currently annex buildings). This presents an opportunity to take control of the land either by ownership or renting in order to develop a community facility that would be of benefit to Broomhill area.
I am looking to see if there is enough interest to get together a team of around six to eight people who are willing to give some time in order to come up with a number of options for the land with a view to putting together realistic plans for the use of the land. We would then start to investigate what lies within the realm of the feasible and how we could put together a coherent and potentially successful argument for the case to gain control of the land for the benefit the community.
A good example to draw on is the recent community effort to run Portpatrick Harbour – link for info, hopefully this wouldn’t be as complicated!

This is just an e-mail to try to garner interest, I am in the difficult position of not having many e-mail addresses or contact details for Broomhill residents so I am going to rely on electronic word of mouth. I have sent this to you as someone who’s contact details I do have, I would ask you to pass it on to anyone you know in the broomhill area and if they are interested could they e-mail me at a.l.cross@btinternet.com; the intention would be to get together anyone interested at the end of February for an initial meeting to chat over the possibilities.
Thanks in advance for your help

A Cross


What our councillors think

I wrote to three of our four councillors (two are SNP and share casework so so only write to one of them) to ask their opinion on the use of the blaes pitches and to give my view if the situation as unnecessarily polarized.
The background to this post is detailed Here.

Here is my letter
Dear …..
I am writing regarding the plans of Glasgow City Council for the former blaes pitches at Victoria Park. There is some opposition to developing the site from the Friends of Victoria Park, who are advocating an Orchard, but also a proposal from Broomhill Sports Club for a sports facility for children from the area.

I am worried that these are being portrayed as mutually exclusive and thereby splitting and confusing locals as to what to support. Most of the people I know in Jordanhill and Broomill have families and children who benefit from the massive amount of volunteer effort and sheer hard work that BSC put into helping our kids and young people get involved in sport. They are a fantastic club – absolutely non-elitist and inclusive of all abilities, while also performing at the highest levels.

BSC has received very little support in terms of finance and facilities from Glasgow City Council and thrive due to the parental and volunteer support they have. In an area like Glasgow with appalling stats on heath and activity, especially for the young, we should be doing all we can to support BSC and what they most desperately need is a facility to develop the sport of West Glasgow’s youngsters (who don’t just come from Broomhill and Jordanhill, but also Whiteinch, Partick, Hillhead and much further afield.)

I understand that FoVP are against the proposals for sports facilities and feel that this may be due to the demographic represented in the group (older people, generally without school-age kids) the vast numbers of parents in the area around Victoria Park are simply not represented by FoVP.

Having said all this, I do not see a pitch and an orchard as mutually exclusive. The space is vast that is being considered and would be far far too big for a community orchard or garden or such like alone. There is certainly room to have some community growing space, which I would support wholeheartedly, and also a facility for BSC.

And, dare I say it, there would even be space for a small cafe, in the model of the park cafe in Kelvingrove Park – An Clachan…. so some commercial development, that would be in keeping with the park and the aims of the park, and the enjoyment of the citizens that use the park.

I would be interested in hearing your opinion

Here is Councillor Feargal Dalton’s response (SNP) Many thanks for your thoughts. I agree totally with your analysis of the situation. Last year I tried to get BSC and FoVP to work together and for a time they did. However, relations have somewhat deteriorated which is really unfortunate. Also the approval by the Council’s Executive for a café is not necessarily linked to the blaes pitch, so an ‘An Clachan’ for Victoria Park can happen regardless on any plans for the blaes pitch. I have previously put this to LES and advised them that local people would probably prefer a café to be closer to the pond/play area which could, of course, be at the south eastern corner of the blaes pitch area.

Last week I and other councillors (Kenny McLean and Graeme Hendry) where scheduled to meet Brian Butler from Land and Environmental Services but the meeting was cancelled. He is now on holidays for two weeks.

He has said that local councillors will be consulted on any proposals but having now been a councillor for over two years I worry about what form the consultation will take; being told how the council has come to its decision and presented with the details of that decision.

I have made it clear to LES that whatever they decide to do, it must have the support of the local community which is most definitely must not be a private venture. More experienced councillors reckon they won’t go against a very savvy, politically aware local community.

So, we are no clearer on what is being discussed behind closed doors in City Chambers but when I hear anything I will let you know.

Please feel free to share the contents of this email with others in your local network.

Kind regards


Here is Councillor Aileen Colleran’s response (Labour)

Hi and thanks for getting in touch – I am aware of the excellent work done by BSC and whilst they’ve not had direct grant funding from the council it was the access to Hyndland Secondary pitches which got them started so its not entirely the case that they’ve had little or no support from the council and over the years I’ve been party to many a discussion with their office bearers and Glasgow Life staff about enabling them to access more facilities but am aware of the aspiration to have a venue of their own.
I agree the FOVP orchard proposal and pitch renewal doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive but that has to come from the community groups themselves and am not sure that’s on either group’s agenda.
I do favour the community orchard/garden proposal on the grounds that its low cost and therefore achievable, it’s also sustainable and environmentally sound. The space is large but the local dog walkers would probably appreciate it if part of the site could remain as an open space (and grassed over although it’s more green than red now anyway).
My main concern is if a third party proposal comes in for a commercial development – I have already indicated to Cllr Watson and officers I’m totally opposed to that. Not that I oppose the idea of leasing an existing building for a cafe or facility its the thought of a new build (with parking no doubt) on the blaes pitch that isn’t appropriate. I agree the An Clachan cafe is great (although I do remember that came in for opposition at the time !) and I would like to see better catering /toilet facilities in Victoria Park which is why the building at the tennis courts should be looked at , not the blaes pitches.
Hope that’s helpful – and we should be hearing something soon re what’s proposed – will let you know.

Here is Councillor Martin Bartos’ Response (Scottish Green)

Thanks for getting in touch looking for something for your blog, I’m sorry I’ve not been able to keep you and many others as up to date as I would like and I should be clear I have to be careful about the position I take because I sit on the Planning Committee and need to avoid bias on issues which might come before the committee. From what I have seen/heard there is a valid case in principle with both proposals – an orchard on a derelict space in a park, sports pitches on derelict football pitches – but there are also questions which both sides need to answer and it’s not quite as simple an issue as anyone might claim.

Any proposals at the blaes pitches would need to take account of the other facilities the Council runs for the public and fit within wider plans for the park eg there is a serious proposal to improve the visitor facilities at the Fossil Grove involving multi-million pound investment. I would be surprised if a major investment in a Fossil Grove visitor centre to properly showcase that exceptional Site of Special Scientific Interest would not require disabled parking and drop off arrangements. Such arrangements might impact either proposal (though I personally generally hope car parking can be minimised or avoided to discourage local congestion).

I don’t think anything is happening on this very quickly – it is awaiting the commercial manager who has just been on leave after the Commonwealth Games and it will also probably involve Cllr Alistair Watson (Labour’s executive member responsible for parks). The decision making process will also inevitably be slowed down by having the Fossil Grove in the mix and I don’t think either community proposal is particularly deadline driven to require an instant response – though the public always fear the worst when they don’t know what’s happening.

In my view, it would be sensible to allow council officers to go to public consultation about the options having rigorously reviewed them – something they’ve been promising to do for months to anyone willing to listen to them.

All the best