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Spaces for People: Kelvin Way Glasgow City Council's temporary infrastructure project in Glasgow's west end

In April 2020, Glasgow City Council (GCC) began working on the Kelvin Way Road Closure, a Spaces for People (SfP) funded project in Glasgow’s west end. The project was initiated as a response to the COVID-19 lockdown, which saw a surge in the numbers of people walking, wheeling and cycling. The project aimed to provide additional physical distancing space for local residents whilst the lockdown restrictions remained in place.

Spaces for People

Administered by Sustrans Scotland, The Scottish Government’s Spaces for People (SfP) fund is a rapid-response, temporary infrastructure programme set up to support statutory bodies implement measures to enable physical distancing for people choosing to walk, wheel or cycle for essential trips and exercise during COVID-19.

In April 2020, Glasgow City Council (GCC) submitted two successful bids to the fund, receiving a total grant allocation of £7.5m.

Glasgow City Council’s programme

The Council’s Spaces for People programme of measures has been split into three core workstreams:

  1. City Centre – focuses on pavement widening, increasing space to move around transport hubs and pinch points, and improving road crossing points, all to support a safer return to work and movement around the city centre.
  2. Neighbourhoods – focuses on pavement widening at busy shopping areas and pinch points.
  3. Pop-up active travel routes – the creation of a number of cycle routes at key locations around the city to integrate with the existing cycling network and to support those choosing to travel actively rather than use public transport or private cars.

The objectives of the Council’s programme is to inhibit the resurgence of Covid-19; encourage economic activity across the city, and; ensure active travel provides a safe option for the city’s residents, thereby reducing the potential negative impacts on air quality, traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

Kelvin Way road closure

Spearheading GCC’s ambitious programme has been the closure of Kelvin Way to vehicular traffic. Kelvin Way located in Glasgow’s west end, next to Kelvingrove Park, in a heavily populated area comprising housing of mainly tenements and flats. From the beginning of lockdown, Kelvin Way and nearby paths became very heavily used by local residents – on foot and by bike - for daily exercise, making the 2-metre physical distancing rule difficult to achieve.

Project aims

Removing traffic from the wide boulevard was designed to help with creating more space for users to move around safely as well as support and showcase sustainable and active travel for essential and leisure journeys, ultimately increasing active travel over time in the west of Glasgow.

Kelvin Way is a key link to the Yorkhill and Kelvingrove Cycling Village, a community-led project, developed and funded in partnership with GCC and Sustrans to create the most ‘accessible community in Scotland’.

As the lockdown restrictions eased and traffic levels began to resume it was hoped this traffic free route would continue to encourage the use of active travel by those returning to work and study – for example, the staff and students of the University, and for the children attending Hillhead Primary School and Kelvin Park Early Years Centre.

Additionally, the removal of through-traffic would also significantly improve the air quality adjacent to and within the park, particularly for those walking or cycling through the area at rush hour.

The measure would go some way to supporting a number of GCC’s broader strategic objectives of becoming a sustainable, low carbon city and a healthier city, also aligning with the objectives and outcomes developed during the active ‘public conversation’ regarding the City’s Local Transport Strategy: Connecting Communities.

Finally, Kelvingrove Park has enormous cultural and historic significance in Glasgow and a further positive outcome of the temporary closure of Kelvin Way to motor traffic would be the reunification of the two sides of Kelvingrove Park, bisected by Kelvin Way since its construction in 1910.

Cllr Anna Richardson, Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction said: "These revisions proposed for Kelvin Way will provide a more sustainable long-term layout and ensure that those out walking, wheeling and cycling in this popular area continue to have the safer space to do so. As the Spaces for People programme develops further, we'll be seeking to improve the appearance of temporary measures where possible, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the planters installed, further enhancing the popularity of this space." (September 2020)

Project phases

The project was a rapid-response intervention due to the COVID emergency. Because of the initial speed required to implement the closure, it was understood from the outset that further work phases would be required to ensure it evolved positively over time. The Kelvin Way project is outlined in the phases below:

Phase 1

The first phase of work leading to the closure of Kelvin Way was undertaken in two weeks during April 2020 with the closure taking effect from 2 May. The work was delivered under a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) which requires only limited consultation, but can only remain in place for a maximum period of 18 months.

Image: View of Kelvin Way from Sauchiehall St. Stage 1 of closure: simple barriers and signage. Photo: Councillor Anna Richardson (Twitter)

Phase 2

The second phase was to improve the look and style of the closure. Large planters were installed at either end of Kelvin Way to help make the scheme look more in keeping with its park and historic environment. Due to lockdown, available materials were severely restricted, which caused some challenges to progressing this stage.

Image: Kelvin Way reconfiguration of southern section, cycle lane and planters. Photo: Glasgow City Council, September 2020

Phase 3

The third phase of the project was completed in September 2020 and addressed car park access in advance of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum re-opening. This required the re-opening of a short section of Kelvin Way to vehicles to allow access to the museum – this is particularly important to those requiring disabled access. This latest revision also includes a more structured use of the space to include a bi-directional cycle lane and the use of decorative planters, constructed from rubber and reclaimed wood, to separate cycles from the museum’s car park access lane. The remainder of Kelvin Way continues to be for the exclusive use for those walking, wheeling and cycling.

Image: Kelvin Way reconfiguration of southern section - Cycle lane and planters. Photo: Glasgow City Council, September 2020

Challenges

  • Staff disruption: The Kelvin Way project was achieved while staff faced the huge disruption of working from home during COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Procurement issues: Procuring materials and appointing contractors to carry out the work was challenging as the country was in full lockdown. Available materials were severely restricted, which caused some issues progressing this stage.
  • Social media: Negative feedback on social media has been carefully managed by the dedicated PR team, which has been specifically funded through the wider SfP project.
  • Nearby facilities: Kelvin Way provides road access to Kelvingrove Art Galleries and the local bowling green. This access had to be carefully considered when lockdown restrictions were lifted. Local Emergency Services were also required to be on-board at all times.
  • Managing expectations: The most recent development phase, was carefully planned to manage the expectations of those applying pressure for Kelvin Way to remain permanently closed to traffic, while also enabling the council to meet its obligations regarding re-opening the museum.
  • Air quality monitoring: Unfortunately there is no air quality data available for the specific location of Kelvin Way. The nearest air quality monitoring station is located on nearby Byres Road at the junction with University Avenue, with another on Dumbarton Road in the Thornwood area.
  • Monitoring: Historically no active travel monitoring has taken place on Kelvin Way, however, Sustrans and GCC are currently working closely together to organise for manual counts of pedestrians and cyclists to be conducted in the near future. This information will be vital to inform any decision about Kelvin Way remaining permanently closed as well as more generally informing Sustrans on the effectiveness of the interventions the SfP fund has supported
  • Public concerns: A major consideration for the project team was that the Council would face a significant challenge from the public due to the necessary diversion vehicles need to take following the road closure. Diversion routes could add an additional 2.5km to journeys with additional traffic lights. However, it was felt that the closure was a clear demonstration of the Council’s commitment to putting walking, cycling and wheeling at the top of the transport hierarchy, particularly during the current pandemic.

Budget

The Kelvin Way closure has been funded through the Council’s successful bids to the Sustrans Spaces for People fund. Approximately £60,000 has been spent on the project to date.

Outcomes

More air time: The road closure has created a new active travel corridor in the west end of Glasgow and has helped to prompt a discussion in the media around its usage and future status. Within the council, and more widely, the project is helping inform discussions around how our road space is used in the future.

Air quality: Unfortunately there is no air quality data available for the specific location of Kelvin Way, with the nearest air quality monitoring station located on nearby Byres Road at the junction with University Avenue and another on Dumbarton Road. Monitoring has shown recent sustained improvements and it is hoped that the road closure of Kelvin Way can continue to contribute positively to this outcome through the encouragement of active travel in the area. Please follow this link for further information and additionally see the annual progress report on air quality to update Committee here.

Network of active travel routes: Further ‘pop-up’ temporary active travel routes close by linking in to Kelvin Way are currently underway. Projects halted by Covid-19 are now resuming – such as the Yorkhill and Kelvingrove Cycling Village, Active Travel North – will help to form a more comprehensive network of active travel routes in the area.

A catalyst for change: The Kelvin Way closure has sparked some residents to reconsider how they use and get about their local area with many taking to social media to share their thoughts.

Cycling rate are up across Glasgow: Although usage data specific to Kelvin Way is not yet available, Strava recently issued a press release stating that their data shows an overall increase in cycling of 162% during the last year (UK-wide) with Glasgow’s increase ranked third out of the top ten UK cities at 146% (New Civil Engineer recently reported on the Strava figures).

Councillor Anna Richardson, City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: "Once restrictions begin to ease, it is crucial that walking and cycling continue to be safe and convenient modes of transport that are good for health and air quality. We have already moved very far in a short space on temporary footpaths and cycle ways. We hope these measures will help provide the necessary protection from covid-19 but also lead to other public health benefits." (May 2020)

Partners

Sustrans Scotland has been the primary partner of the Kelvin Way project, delivering funding and support through the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People scheme. Sustrans has provided a range of support for all local authorities working on SfP funded projects, for example, gathering feedback on measures implemented through the CommonPlace mapping tool, collating and disseminating relevant design guidance and assisting where possible with locating materials.

A wide range of internal and external specialists and stakeholders have also been involved in the Kelvin Way closure, and indeed all the SfP interventions. Strong internal communication and sound working relations have been essential to enable programmes of works to be rapidly advanced.

Specialists within the Council include (but are not limited to): the legal team; finance; health and safety; equalities; transport; parks; road safety; public health; outdoors access officer, PR team. Approval within the Council was required to be sought from the City Administration Committee before proceeding with the closure. External stakeholders include: elected members; Transport Scotland; SPT; Police Scotland; Fire & Rescue.

Learnings

Due to the challenging nature of the pandemic and the necessity to produce a fast response to people’s requirements to move around safely, the closure was implemented very quickly under a TTRO and with the minimum of consultation. This method has been echoed in projects across Glasgow and Scotland. In ‘normal’ circumstances, however, GCC would undertake full consultation with the public.

Future Plans

Whilst currently this is a temporary intervention, the scheme has already proved to be very successful, drawing a largely positive response from the public, and with Local Members and residents calling for the closure and temporary measures to be made permanent.

The Council will work in partnership with Sustrans to monitor and evaluate the success of the scheme.

The project will be reported back to Committee to see if they wish this temporary measure to remain in place and the road permanently closed to through traffic. Should this be the case the Council will undertake a full and comprehensive consultation with the public.

Useful links:

To get in touch with us or for more information, please contact info@sustainablescotlandnetwork.org.

Credits:

Kelvingrove Art Galleries, Photo by Colin D on Unsplash