By Tobias Hudson
21st March 2022
Making your way to work has always been a drag. Whether it’s sitting in traffic for half an hour, or crammed into a tiny seat on public transport, it can be enough to take the wind out of your sails for the whole day. And infuriating. Scenes from Michael Douglas’ Falling Down come to mind.
Cycling is a great way out of the mind-numbing rut. It’s a solution that seems evident on the surface, but is often shelved to the back of our minds as ease and comfort take priority. It’s raining today, so why not just take the train instead?
It’s no secret that cycling is one of the key ways to help the planet. In fact, cycling is amongst the lowest carbon-per-kilometre modes of transport, even beating out walking, as a BikeRader investigation showed. Of the emissions that are released by cycling, three quarters of them come from producing “extras” for the bike, like bottles and racks. If it’s just you and a helmet, it’s a completely pollution-free mode of transport. Bike riding has even been seen to conserve the road and residential areas, allowing for more plant life in urban areas. It also goes without saying that there’s a huge reduction in parking space needed, meaning that cycling is a fantastic way to help the planet, and surprisingly easy to get into.
In Glasgow, there seems to be a universally accepted theory that cycling is a near-impossible task, attempted only by hipster students and the criminally insane. This is especially true of the city centre, where the grid system runs through the busy streets, swinging round 90 degree angles. It’s hardly a surprise that many people find it hard to drag their rusty two-wheeler out of the garage, even on the sunniest of days. But this apprehension can be avoided with a little planning. If you take the plunge, you’ll find a hidden network of paths and leisurely trails. Glasgow is a city teeming with beautiful street art and hidden secrets, all of which can be easily accessed on our trusty two-wheeled friend. This guide is meant for those who want to get out cycling, but don’t know where to start.
National Cycle Paths
The best routes to get started with are the main cycle paths that run through the city. These make a great alternative to the throbbing vein that is Dumbarton Road, which many cyclists can have trouble navigating. Four routes created by the National Cycle Network (NCN) run through the middle of Glasgow, and they make sure the paths are away from the roads and generally quiet. The scenery is also a lot more pleasant, and can be a good place to start for those anxious to get out onto bigger roads.
This is the main route that can take you from Glasgow’s West End into the City Centre. It runs the whole length of the River Clyde and can be accessed from as far back as Dalmuir. It runs a trail that bypasses all the bustling streets and passes some of the city’s loveliest street art. If you live in the south, you can also join the 7 relatively easily by crossing over one of the Clyde bridges.
The 754 and 756
These two paths run horizontally through the middle of Glasgow, perfect for those who live Southside or further afield. The 754 is arguably the prettiest and easiest cycle route in Glasgow, running all the way up to Stirling along a multitude of lovely canal walkways and lush vegetation. For those looking to get away on the weekends that will hopefully be getting hotter, the 754 is the way to go!
(The 754 stretches out for a relaxing and flat 25 miles. Photograph: Tobias Hudson)
The 756, on the other hand, runs from the south upwards, taking you around Pollok Park and up to the bridges that pass over the Clyde. It takes a trail through the Gorbals and Oatlands, and is a great choice for those that live in the Southside. It can get a bit dodgy later at night, so consider finding another route if it’s a late night commute home.
This is perhaps the hardest of the four cycle paths to navigate. While it does come in from the East, the path runs a busy trail down to the south, and means that you have to re-join another route that can be hard to find. By first going slightly north and taking a scenic route across the sidestreets of Edinburgh Road, the path takes you through a series of parks. While the cycling here is quiet and relatively easy, it can take longer to navigate, so for those that live as far out as Easterhouse, jotting down some useful road names is a must. As you get more accustomed to cycling from this direction, you’ll find that many of the sidestreets and parks lead towards the city centre anyway, and you’ll have no trouble finding your way there.
(The routes from the East can take you through dreamy park scenes. Photograph: Tobias Hudson)
These four routes are very well sign-posted. Look out for the blue signs at junctions that indicate the bike routes, and plugging the number directly into Google Maps will show you a direct line that takes you right there.
The City Centre
The NCN will get you into the middle of town, but navigating the grid system can be hard, and one that isn’t particularly recommended. If you’re commuting at rush hour, it can take almost double the length of your journey. But luckily, there are some handy cycle lanes to keep in mind.
For students from the west, there is a cycle lane that runs the length of Sauchiehall Street without ever having to cross the grid system. It’s even complete with its own set of traffic lights that are only for those on a bike! By turning off the 7 and crossing Dumbarton Road, you’re pretty much deposited right onto it.
(Ever seen a safer cycling setup? Photograph: Tobias Hudson)
Remember that, as a cyclist, you have access to bus and taxi lanes for the majority of the day. These should be used almost exclusively, but take extra care when overtaking a bus that has pulled into a bus stop. Ensure that the bus has no immediate plans to pull out, and also be careful to make sure that the bus can see you. Wearing a reflective jacket, even during the day is a good practice to get into the habit of. You might feel a bit silly, but it could be the difference between making it to work or not.
If coming from the south, there are a multitude of pedestrian walkways that run the width of the city. These are easy to access, with the most useful being the one that starts at the tail end of the 756. It passes George Square, and has a number of breakaway paths that break off onto surrounding walkways. It can get a bit busy in the middle of the day, so make sure your bell is well oiled.
(The pedestrian walkways run all the way down to the Clyde. Photograph: Tobias Hudson)
For those in Dennistoun and further out to the east, there are a multitude of smaller paths that skirt through the side-streets that can be investigated. Richmond Street is a big road that, unlike Dumbarton road, is one that is actually recommended. The road runs up through a lot of the sidestreets that are harder to get to, and runs all the way down to the University of Strathclyde. From there, it’s a simple matter to take any left turn and find yourself at George Square.
Make sure that you’re prepared for quick changes in gradient when cycling in the city centre. For some unknown reason, Glasgow’s streets seemed to have been built atop a giant bouncy castle, so you can go from leisurely pedalling to mountainous extremes in the blink of an eye. Having an awareness of when the path will become steep is crucial to ensuring that you’re prepared for every eventuality.
If you’re worried about bike theft, anywhere near one of the three universities in the city is the safest bet. The old adage of hiding a book in a library is good to remember. A place where there are lots of bikes already locked up will protect your bike through SOCIAL CONVENTION! Isn’t that cool!
For those who live outside of Glasgow, there are a number of options to help you get used to cycling into the city. Most trains allow you to take bikes on, so instead of cycling the whole route in, begin by riding three quarters of the way in, then hop out at one of Glasgow’s many stations. There are also some areas that are quite hard to get to by bike. Anderston Station is a great alternative for areas that are slightly harder to get to, like those around the Clyde Tunnel, and it’s always worth remembering that the Glasgow Subway has many drop-off points around the city to allow you to get used to the paths.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling anxious when first cycling on the bigger roads. An unfortunate reality is that cars are not always that understanding of cyclists. But if you go in with the mindset that the road is there for both of you, then others will show you the same courtesy. A lot of resentment felt by drivers comes from the cyclist who feels they own the road, hogging the middle of the lane, not signalling and ignoring traffic lights. Don’t be that person. If you respect the rules of the road, and the other drivers, then they will respect you.
So that about wraps up our guide to cycling in Glasgow. Hopefully you’re feeling a little bit better about giving it a go. It should comfort you to know that you’re doing your part for the planet, and who knows, you might even come to enjoy it! Here’s a little video that outlines the basic equipment you need for your first cycle trips: