ITS congested streets have made it Scotland’s most polluted city and left drivers increasingly unable to make straightforward journeys due to traffic.

But the number of people using a bike to travel into the centre of Glasgow has soared by more than 80 per cent over the past two years as efforts continue to drive down car use, according to new figures. 

Glasgow is rolling out the biggest cycling infrastructure project of its kind in the UK at a cost of around £115 million, funded by the Scottish and UK government's City Deal project.

The first phase is complete, which has seen segregated cycle lanes and visual improvements on Sauchiehall Street. A further 17 streets in and around the city centre will now see similar changes.

READ MORE: Ten of Scotland's best cycling routes 

The council say the latest figures show the project is already achieving its aim.

According to its own data, there has been an 80.8% increase in the number of cyclists using the route to get into the city centre over the past two years, up from 310 in 2018 (on the day chosen for data collection) to 561 in 2020. The number of cyclists using the route to leave the city has gone from 56 to 396 - a rise of 606%.

The Avenues programme has its roots in the economic crash of 2008 and the subsequent impact on city centres and retailers in particular, and aimed to improve the public space, reduce pollution and create a safer route for cyclists.

HeraldScotland:

Recent figures show the rise in cycling during the pandemic has been accompanied by a increase in bike accidents elsewhere in Glasgow.

Thomas Cornwallis of cycling campaign group Go Bike welcomed the figures but called for an “acceleration” of the programme.

He said: “The Avenue projects are a welcome change to the city’s fabric, creating not just better locations to walk, wheel or cycle but improving the whole public space with trees, new lighting and surfaces.

READ MORE: How a cycling adventure helped three old pals cope with grief, depressing and ageing 

"It will eventually lead to a more people-focused city, where access by private car will be maintained for those who require it. 

“We’d like to see Glasgow City Council be more ambitious with their scope, with a view to accelerating the pace of delivery in the city."

A number of other cycling projects are planned across the city, while plans to pedestrianise part of George Square have also been approved and free parking on Sundays was scrapped, in part to help encourage active transport.

HeraldScotland:

Figures show a reduction in cars and buses in the city centre in the first two weeks of lockdown in March led to a near 50% drop in pollution on Hope Street, which has long held the title of Scotland’s dirtiest street. However it is likely that car use may have increased in subsequent months due to concerns over the safety of public transport.

John Bynorth, policy and communications officer at Environmental Protection Scotland, said: “These figures are amazing and proof that people are willing to get on their bikes in all weathers if they feel it’s safe to pedal into the city centre.

READ MORE: Cycling increase for four months in a row as lockdown measures eased 

“Reducing congestion and vehicles in the city centre will improve air quality and benefit businesses, encouraging people to switch to cycling and walking will benefit health and well-being. 

“The success of the Avenues shows Glasgow is taking the right steps in creating the foundations for a greener recovery from the pandemic.

"This is crucial as it prepares to host the COP26 climate change summit next year.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The Sauchiehall Avenue is a pilot for the other avenues to be delivered across the city centre, and this success will hopefully be replicated throughout the rest of the project, which will bring economic, environmental and social benefits.”