Dennistoun Spaces for People trial

Meadowpark St, Dennistoun

In December 2020, Glasgow City Council started a Spaces for People trial project in Dennistoun. The plans use short one-way blocks to prevent driving straight through residential streets between Alexandra Parade and Duke St. This area is known as the Drives, since most east-west street names end in Drive (see map, below).

Map of the Drives, Dennistoun, Glasgow
Custom map of the project – more user friendly than the council’s technical drawings

The council call the project ‘Dennistoun Low Traffic Neighbourhood’ but it will still allow ‘through’ traffic. So, will it really reduce traffic in the Drives or just spread it around? I’m not sure it will bring calmer streets unless it stops ‘rat runs’ completely. Most LTNs would stop people driving through the area while keeping access to all homes.

Filtering through

In 2019 I worked on a plan using filters to stop ‘through’ traffic in the Drives, along with Michael from Space for People Dennistoun (before Sustrans used the name). Filters use barriers, like bollards or planter boxes, to stop people driving through but allow through bikes or mobility scooters. This would cut out traffic using the neighbourhood as a shortcut (on the way to the M8, for example) while keeping motor access for residents and deliveries.

The council’s plans include a filter in one of the places we proposed – Ark Lane in the west of Dennistoun. It’s a fairly sharp corner at the bottom of a hill, with a corner shop opposite an off-road path. Stopping through traffic here makes the corner safer and easier for people to cross the road. The council’s original plans show some double yellow lines next to the filter, to stop parked cars blocking it.

However, the Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) they published later described longer lines along Ark Lane and Broompark Dr. I’m not sure why GCC have done that unless it’s maybe to do with giving bin lorries space to turn? I thought the wide road past the corner and parking bays on Broompark Dr would leave enough room. The longer lines will probably mean more parking further up the hill on Firpark St. The car park at nearby Glasgow Royal Infirmary has waived fees until March so that should cut down on street parking in the area.

Existing filters

Reidvale St drop kerbs
Reidvale St/Sword St – filter with drop kerbs to let people cycle through

It’s disappointing the council didn’t use the other filters Michael and I put in our plan. Dennistoun already has streets which stop through traffic, like Reidvale St at Sword St. This diagonal filter means cars can’t bypass the lights at Bellgrove St/Duke St. The filter at the eastern end of Onslow Dr does a similar thing near Whitehill Secondary School/Golfhill Primary. Finlay Dr and Roslea Dr are stopped up at Cumbernauld Rd, probably to reduce traffic near St Denis’s Primary School and the Early Years Centre. Craigpark Dr is stopped up too so it can’t be used to bypass the lights on the Parade. I’ve never heard anyone argue for these to be opened up again.

Parking plans

Michael and I designed our plan in response to the more radical changes in the city council’s Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) proposal from summer 2019. The RPZ plan would paint car parking bays throughout Dennistoun and Royston and charge for them. However, at the same time, it would change almost every street in the Drives to have one-way sections. The RPZ plan came after the Celtic Park/Emirates Event parking plan and concerns about it shifting parking into Dennistoun. Parking plans across the city are on hold during the pandemic. Most of the council’s Roads staff seem to be redeployed to Spaces for People projects.

section of Glasgow City Council's RPZ plan
A section of Glasgow City Council’s RPZ proposal (purple arrows show new 1-ways)

Cycle contraflows

The RPZ plan had no exceptions for cycling so it would have made it more difficult to cycle in the Drives. The Spaces for People plans introduce cycle contraflows on the one-way streets. These just use signs to allow people to cycle the other way from cars. There are no barriers or even painted lanes (despite some claims on social media). That means it’s all about eye contact with drivers and hoping they give you space.

Whitehill St at Roslea Dr
Whitehill St – cycle contraflow signs near Duke St

I’ve only tried cycling against the flow a few times and found it a bit hit-and-miss. You need to be quite assertive but cautious at the same time so it won’t suit everyone who cycles. Where it will help is when cycling from Duke St onto Whitehill St (to avoid the steeper Hillfoot St and the busier Armadale St). The contraflow lane at the top of Armadale St should make it a wee bit safer to cycle from the Co-op on Alexandra Parade to the Drives. However, protected cycle lanes on the Parade would help more.

Alexandra Parade Primary School

Alexandra Parade Primary School is on the corner of the Parade and Armadale St. It doesn’t have any filtered streets nearby like the other schools. There are speed bumps on Armadale St and raised road entrances there and on Craigielea St. However, some cars drive over them without slowing down.

Armadale St planter boxes
Armadale St – planter boxes create more space for pedestrians to wait at the school gates

The point of Spaces for People is to reduce overcrowding/help distancing and protect people walking or cycling. So, the council has created an extended pavement outside the school’s main gate using planter boxes. This cordons off part of the road so there’s more room to stand when dropping off or collecting kids from school. There’s also a contraflow cycle lane painted outside them, between the boxes and northbound road lane. It would be better if the lane was protected too but it does allow people to cycle in off the Parade.

Armadale St one-ways

The council also added two short one-way stretches outside APPS on Armadale St, going in opposite directions away from the end of Golfhill Dr. It means people can no longer drive onto Armadale St from the Parade (they’ll have to use Craigielea St or Marne St then Craigpark Dr). Also, people won’t be able to drive up Armadale St to the Parade, they’ll have to use Craigpark Dr and Meadowpark St.

I’ve already seen more cars on Craigpark Dr than before. However, I’ve also seen some drivers ignoring the one-way to go north on Armadale St past the school. I’m not sure if there’s been any enforcement of the one-ways at all. Some LTNs in London use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. These automatically issue fines to drivers who break traffic rules. Glasgow City Council use ANPR cameras on ‘bus gates’ like West George St but I haven’t heard anything about them being used in Dennistoun.

To council have also painted double yellow lines on both sides of Armadale St past the school and Gingerbread nursery. Part of this street already had zigzag lines which shouldn’t have cars parked on them. I think the road could fit about 20 parked cars but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it all full at once. However, my flat is nearer Duke St so I don’t see the morning rush at APPS (like I do with St Denis’s). I guess most schools see similar road safety issues from cars pulling in and out around small children (and pollution from engine idling). So, the area at the school gate should be safer but I’m not sure about the rest of it.

Both Armadale St and Craigpark would probably benefit from ‘New road layout ahead’ signs on the corners at each end.

St Denis’s Primary School

Meadowpark St outside St Denis’s Primary School is also due to get a wider pavement. That block will be 1-way south (the way most people drive it already). Parking will be removed on the eastern side but kept on the western side. I think this bit of road could hold about half a dozen parked cars (again, it already has zigzag lines). I know from living nearby that people driving to the school tend to park on Finlay Dr near Meadowpark St. The new road layout won’t change most of that. However, it may depend on how many car owners are now working from home instead of leaving early for work.

St Denis's Primary School, Meadowpark St
Meadowpark St – new signage

Meadowpark St and the blocks of Finlay Dr at the school/churches are used by people on nearby streets. You often see folk parking and walking away towards Armadale St. The nearby car park on Finlay Dr belongs to the Christadelphian Church and is usually locked. They’re currently leasing it to the company building the new flats next door on the old Gospel Hall site.

Consultation (or lack of it)

A lot of the criticism of the SfP scheme (especially on Facebook) was about lack of consultation. The council consulted about the city overall during the summer (on GCC’s Commonplace map) but not about Dennistoun on its own. Spaces for People is meant to respond to things like overcrowding due to the pandemic, so can use emergency powers. Those are usually reserved for things like flooding where councils don’t have to consult in advance about closing or changing streets. Rightly or wrongly, it’s the same for SfP. That’s why no ‘stage 1’ consultees seem to have been asked to comment on these measures beforehand. However, blue light services would be notified, as they are for roadworks, etc. They’re used to adapting their routes and I think they probably have bigger concerns during a pandemic than a few one-way streets.

Parking complaints

The other main complaints were about losing space for on-street car parking. It is true that anyone who used these areas will have to park elsewhere and parking is usually at a premium in most parts of the Drives. However, I know from my own close that some people in Dennistoun have gone to stay elsewhere with family or partners during the pandemic. I think many took their cars with them so it should mean there are slightly fewer cars in the area. It remains to be seen how many return by the end of the trial in March. Also, how many commuters come back to the area (including City Park) and any knock-on effects from that.

It should be possible to adjust the plans as they go along. Whether that includes the yellow lines that have caused most reaction, I’m not sure. Spaces for People funding can only be used for walking and cycling. If residents wanted car parking added somewhere it would need to be paid from existing council budget, which seems unlikely with GCC’s budget deficit. I’ve often wondered why no-one has converted waste ground to a car park somewhere nearby like Bluevale St. I guess it might need the RPZ to come in for that to be viable.

Conclusions

Overall, the Spaces for People trial is a mixed bag. It’s aimed more at schools and walking than it is at cycling (despite some claims online). However, it is an attempt to protect vulnerable road users; like schoolchildren. The school closures in the latest COVID-19 restrictions mean there will be less time to see how the new measures really work. I think everyone needs to give it time for the works to be completed and for everything to bed in.

The scheme should be judged on whether it makes it safer and easier to walk or cycle in the Drives. If it does help road safety, especially at the schools, then we need to work out how to keep those benefits long term. Whether that means making the widened pavements permanent or looking at alternatives like School Streets.

School Streets

School Streets restrict use of the street near the school gate at certain times at the start and end of the school day. They prevent cars stopping in front of the school gates but can allow resident access if need be. Glasgow City Council recently approved School Streets elsewhere in the city (including at Hillhead Primary). Most of these are on cul-de-sacs so there would be more to think about for APPS or St Denis’s. However, if folding bollards could be used at either end of the block it would stop car access temporarily. The advantages are more space, the road is much easier to cross and less impact on car parking when street is open (as long as access is managed when it’s closed).

Filters to lower traffic

While there’s a focus on the Drives we should also look at measures like filters, to create a true Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Stopping through traffic takes away the incentive to speed through the area. It has benefits for road safety without needing to remove car parking or add loads of 1-ways.

Protected cycle lanes on main roads

The strangest story about Dennistoun in 2020 was when it was named the 8th coolest neighbourhood in the world. Attention like that will promote the area a lot more widely and is likely to attract more affluent people to live here. They’re more likely to own cars and add to car parking issues. On the other hand, if more people who only walk, cycle or use public transport moved into the area then there would be fewer cars and parking issues.

One way to appeal to people who cycle and don’t own a car is to have protected cycle lanes in and out of the area. Some are due to be built on Duke St (to Bellgrove St) but won’t even start until 2023. Some residents asked for pop-up lanes, like on London Rd, in the meantime but nothing happened.

If on-road lanes are out, could Spaces for People money be used to create lanes at the edge of the wider pavements on Alexandra Parade? Pavements between places like the Tartan Lodge and City Park are very wide so would just need a few repairs and a flat kerb to separate the lane (as used on Sauchiehall St). Last spring the first lockdown showed many people in Dennistoun want to cycle if the conditions are right. We need to start building protected cycle routes to meet that demand during the latest lockdown and beyond.

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