Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Ayr Road Resurfacing - a quick win?

I've been commuting along the A77 for about six months now. There are some pretty bad sections (the cycle lane in the door zone through Newlands; having to cross the busy road at junction 6 of the M77; having to cross again at the bridge just past junction 5) but there are some not-so-bad sections too (it doesn't get gritted or swept and is technically a shared-use path, but you so rarely see a pedestrian on the stretch from Fenwick to the East Renfrewshire Golf Club that it's practically an 8-mile long segregated cycle lane).

It might be a little controversial, but I'm going to include the Ayr Road section of the A77 through Newton Mearns in this 'not-so-bad' category.

It's important to say that this is after spending a few hours touring some of Glasgow's cycling infrastructure with Go Bike last Sunday [video/blog coming soon] and seeing what some of the alternatives, including the supposed 'Commonwealth Legacy', are like. I've come away with a new appreciation for Ayr Road, true, but it could be so very much better... and it would be so easy.

As with most of the roads around here, the combination of a lack of maintenance, heavy traffic, and patchy repairs after utilities work has left large parts of the carriageway almost unusable for cyclists. If it's not a drainage cover collapsing into an abyss it's a rut in the surface that will suck your wheels in like a tramline. As you can see, if you pick up too much pace, things are liable to shake loose and make a break for freedom...

Whilst keeping your eyes peeled for cracks in the road big enough to swallow you whole, you also need to watch out for cars parked in the cycle lane, particularly near to the various takeaways. It's supposed to be an 'urban clearway' during peak hours but that's seldom, if ever, enforced so cyclists will need to merge out into the 40mph traffic... Not pleasant when you're two miles in to a three-mile long climb.

Luckily, you won't have far to go when merging with the traffic. Although the cycle lane is, itself, reasonably wide, there is no segregation at all to protect you from the cars, lorries and busses racing past at 40mph (or faster). Mostly drivers are fine on this stretch but every once in a while somebody will cut it a little too close and you'll feel the wind from their wing mirror as it brushes past your elbow.

The bizarre part of this is that the road is more than wide enough to include segregation. In fact, it already does have it... But it's in the middle of the road, keeping drivers away from the central reservation. You can see it here, the painted cycle lane on the left, driving lane in the middle and then chevrons.

The width of this road and the marked separation of car from car really achieves only one thing: speed.

Here's the thing though. I saw a sign yesterday warning drivers of upcoming delays (won't dwell on said sign being IN the cycle lane!)... they're about to dig it all up and relay it. What an opportunity!
Straight away that should fix the problem with the road surface, so what about the parking and segregation?

Surely the common-sense answer would be to move those chevrons? You're going to have to repaint them anyway so why not just paint them between the cycle lane and the driving lane? Doesn't this look more welcoming for cyclists (excuse the crap artwork)?
I know, it's not perfect and that there's no physical barrier, but it's not going to cost more, you'd just be shifting the existing setup around a little. It could easily then be improved on in the future with some kind of physical barrier once the budget allows and in the short term it's a psychological barrier that puts some distance between bikes and cars. How could that not be worth doing?

As for the parking... No amount of resurfacing will stop people blocking the cycle lane where fish & chips are involved, but at least this might allow them to be passed without having to pull out into the driving lane.


  1. Sent this over to the East Renfrewshire Council road's department this afternoon. Since they've already put the signs up to say the work is going to happen I doubt they'll change their plans... but it doesn't hurt to ask...



    As a cyclist who regularly commutes along the A77 I was initially quite irked to see the cycle lane on Ayr Road (just north of the roundabout at Crookfur Road) completely blocked by a large, yellow sign. Then I read what it said and smiled. An end is in sight for the bone-jarring ride weaving around all the potholes and cracks on the road. Fantastic news! Thank you!

    However, I would very much like to make a suggestion/request on behalf of all cyclists using this road. As things stand the carriageway is divided into three parts: on the left is a cycle lane, in the middle the driving lane and then on the right, up against the central reservation, are some chevrons.

    Since you're digging up the road and will need to repaint anyway, do you think you could move the order around so we have cycle lane, chevrons and then driving lane? This would massively improve the safety of the cycling infrastructure at, I believe, very little (if any) additional cost.

    I've attached a (VERY amateur) sketch to demonstrate what I mean.

    The widths of each would remain the same (so not even any additional paint needed!) but this layout puts physical distance between motorised vehicles and cyclists whilst also removing the 'open road' feel of the driving lanes which, in my opinion, only currently serves to tempt drivers to go faster than conditions safely allow (certainly faster than the posted speed limit of 40mph).

    It would also help to alleviate the ongoing problem of drivers parking in the cycle lane (particularly outside the takeaways on the road). Not necessarily by dissuading them from parking in the cycle lane, but at least making it possible for cyclists to overtake parked cars without having to pull out into the main flow of traffic.

    This isn't the ideal scenario which would see a physical barrier between cyclists and motor traffic, but it's a very big improvement on what's currently there with minimal effort/cost and I believe could make this some of the best cycling infrastructure in the city.

    I'm happy to discuss this further if you'd like. In the mean time, I look forward to your comments/feedback.

    Kind regards,


  2. I've had a reply to my previous email. On the positive side, the cycle lane is going to be widened from the current 1.5m (the Scottish Executives "Absolute Minimum") to 2m ("Desirable Minimum") which is something at least, but in the main it seems that maintaining a 40mph traffic flow through an urban area is more important than improving the safety of cyclists (and, I think, pedestrians).


    Dear Joe
    Thanks for your recent email regarding the upcoming scheme to resurface a section of Ayr Road.

    Colleagues and I have given consideration to your proposal and have identified a mix of pro’s and con’s. As you say in the penultimate paragraph, the ideal scenario would be physical segregation but that isn’t a feasible option, at present, unfortunately. However, we recognise that the existing layout, which was introduced in 1998, is not ideal for today’s demands and expectations.

    Firstly, I will note our major concerns regarding your proposed layout:-

    1. It would result in a loss of the existing right-turn storage facility at each junction and those private accesses with gaps in the centre island – this storage area is well utilised by cyclists as well as vehicles and helps users to make right turns out of side streets/onto the main road as well as off the main road (NB greater width is required to assist the side street exit manoeuvre to be made safely as vehicles are typically positioned at an angle which allows the driver to view traffic approaching from the left).

    2. Loss of the hatch markings adjacent to the centre island also disadvantages pedestrians who use the centre island to cross Ayr Road in 2 movements – vehicles would be passing closer to them as they wait for a safe break in the traffic to cross the second half of the road (NB the island is only 1.2 metres wide).

    3. If, for example, a 1.0 metre wide strip of hatching were marked between the cycle lane and the traffic lane it is very likely that this would result in an increase in parking in the cycle lane. This is a practice which we certainly do not wish to encourage further.

    4. There is a recognised direct correlation between traffic lane widths and the speed drivers choose to travel at. The existing traffic lane width is 3.4 metres and if we were to insert a 1.0 metre wide strip of hatching adjacent to the cycle lane then the remaining traffic lane width would increase to approximately 4.0 metres. A resultant increase in speeds in conjunction with loss of the right-turn storage area would be highly undesirable.

    However, as stated above, we recognise that there is merit in your request for an improvement in the provision along Ayr Road for cyclists and, having considered the various relevant factors, have come to the conclusion that the optimum change to the layout would be to widen the cycle lane from the current 1.5 metres to 2.0 metres. We expect that this adjustment will provide a significant benefit to riders by providing an additional 0.5 metre clearance from passing vehicles but without incurring the disadvantages listed above.

    I hope you concur that the amendment to the cycle lane width is a reasonable compromise and thank you for contacting me with your comments and proposal.

    1. And my reply (when I get a chance I'll update the main posting to include this, making things a little more readable):
      Thanks for taking the time to consider my suggestion and for your reply. I hope you will understand though that I am a little disappointed: we’ve both mentioned physical segregation as the ideal scenario so when I suggested moving the hatched markings between the cycle lane and driving lane that already seemed like a reasonable compromise to me. Besides, increasing the cycle lane to 2m only brings it in line with the Scottish Executive’s “Desirable Minimum Width” (Transport Scotland, “Cycling by Design”, 2010) so isn’t really what I would class as an ‘optimum change'. Don’t get me wrong; a 50cm increase in width is 33% wider than it is now and that’s definitely an improvement, but there really is scope there for much more.

      I do understand the concerns that you have, particularly with regards to turning at junctions. But I have to say that each of these comes down to one thing: the 40mph speed limit. Were it not for the increased speeds there would be no need for a ‘safe haven’ for drivers turning right and zebra/pelican crossings would be a much safer alternative for pedestrians. You could do away with the central reservation entirely and, given the width of the road, that would open up a whole range of exciting options to reimagine the space. Let’s face it, it’s 3 miles of road so the difference between 40mph and 30mph (even assuming drivers have a straight run through) is only 90 seconds it really does seem unnecessary, particularly given the drive (no pun intended) to reduce traffic flow into the city.

      I appreciate that removing the central reservation and reducing the speed is a very different undertaking to a simple resurfacing (hence my suggested compromise/quick win) but I really do hope that this could be looked into and perhaps kept in mind for future improvements to this road. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to a nice, bump-free cycle in a few weeks.

      Kind regards,