Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
The Sauchiehall Street Avenue project transformed a four-lane city highway into a linear public space with segregated cycle tracks, continuous wide footways, seats and trees
Sauchiehall Street was the pilot project for Glasgow City Council’s ambitious £115 million City Deal funded 'Avenues' public realm programme which aims to transform and connect over fifteen primary city center
streets into exemplars of sustainable infrastructure to facilitate and encourage active travel and mitigate the effects of climate change and bring out health and economic benefits by creating people friendly streets.
Sauchiehall Street was once one of Glasgow great Victoria streets, part of the city centre 'grid' and a vibrant
destination drawing people from all over the city to dance, drink, eat, shop and work. Glasgow’s slow decline
through the 20th century (from a city of 1.2 million to around 0.6 million today) was reflected in the fortunes of Sauchiehall Street which slowly shifted its offer to cheap student bars and take-away food venues which supported the live music venues and clubs.
Glasgow City Centre has few public open spaces, gardens or squares (nearby Blythswood Square is gated). To help address this shortfall Sauchiehall Street was simply re-conceived as a linear public space (simple, bold and straight) that meets the projects sustainable infrastructure objectives. Amazingly there are very few public seats on the city’s streets outside the big public spaces. The project changed this dramatically by installing approximately thirty new three-seater benches all with backs and arm rests.
Glaswegians are notoriously gregarious and friendly and like eating, drinking (and smoking) with friends or
strangers. The city centre had very places to sit out on the street to do any of these things. The wider clutter free footways of Sauchiehall Street have changed this and 'pavement café culture' is now evident on both sides of the street. The positive effect on the local economy with increased retail, leisure, commercial activity is evidenced by the number of people now 'out on the street'.
The principal components of the new Sauchiehall Street are now part of the public highway and will be maintained by Glasgow City Council’s highways department. These include the widened footways (with space licensed by GCC for eating and drinking); a bi-directional cycle track; seats and cycle stands; street and decorative lighting and the carriageway with disabled parking and loading bays. The council are very keen to protect the quality of this £6 million pound investment and safeguard its long-term future.
The council also maintain the bus shelters and real time bus information system and the traffic lights and Toucan crossings, again ensuring that these will last as long they still serve a useful function.
The large semi-mature trees that run down the middle of the street, central to the Avenue concept, are currently being maintained (and guaranteed) by the planting contractor, ideverde. After five years the city council’s Parks Department will take on this responsibility and are currently building a maintenance team to carry this out.
To ensure that the footways are kept free from clutter the Council are now rigorously enforcing a local by law that all trade waste must be stored internally as previously huge Euro bins littered the street blocking footways. Already the street has become a popular destination again with new places opening again after lockdown with an increased demand for outdoor space for eating and drinking. The widened footways provide space for this to happen, and the popularity of this activity will help to safeguard it into the future.
To encourage active travel (walking and cycling) on Sauchiehall Street we increased the width available to pedestrians by widening footways, creating furniture zones and removing trade waste bins and created a segregated bi-directional cycle track. We also created 'continuity' across side roads to give pedestrians and cyclists priority and remove trip hazards created by kerbs. Street lighting was also upgraded and additional decorative or feature lighting was added. This, along with the (free to use) seats, footway cafes and bars and the trees has turned Sauchiehall Street into a linear 'public space’ which has increased footfall making walking and cycling, through the 'eyes on the street principle' much more attractive and safer.
Decarbonising transport is one of the key steps in achieving net zero carbon. Access to public transport (buses) was made easier with zebra crossings across the cycle track to islands with new shelters with seats and real-time information. Seats with back and arm rests were also provided near the shelters to allow waiting bus passengers to sit in the sunshine… A similar approach was taken with the large taxi rank at southern end that serves the night-time economy with a dedicated waiting island with seats.
Around thirty 8m+ deciduous semi-mature trees were planted down the middle of the street to help to mitigate the local effects of climate change by providing shade and shelter and to reduce surface water run-off with permeable paving with root-space storage capacity below ground.
New jobs are being created within GCC to build a maintenance team capability to look after the trees and up-coming rain gardens. Trade on the street has increased, creating new retail and hospitality jobs following increases to footfall and a completely new market: cyclists. Cycling levels have increased by 80% E/B and 600% W/B.
Engagement events in local venue The Garage, enabled the business and residential communities to voice their opinions in an open forum.
The cycle track was segregated by a 2.5m verge providing a safe environment that even unaccompanied children use. Seats have been placed at 50m intervals so that people who are unable to walk far can sit out and enjoy the city with lots of rest stops.
The street is now much more social as people occupy the street in a way they couldn't before the project completed, whether they are playing, cycling or just sitting 'people watching', the possibility for social interaction has increased dramatically as have the 'eyes on the street’.
The concept was simple, but the Avenue could only be achieved with a radical re-allocation of carriageway space. The street was formerly a four-lane highway that ran west to east, one way. Through agreement with council’s highway team and public support gained through a series of engagement events, the design team was able to prove that one running lane, was sufficient for through and access traffic. Bus stops, loading bays and disabled parking bays were offset on both sides on the street to unsure that the single line of traffic meandered slowly through the carriageway space.
The simplicity of the 'straight line' design compliments Glasgow’s famous grid. The single informal avenue of mixed species deciduous trees runs down the centre of the street. The stone paving and kerbs are all part of Glasgow's existing palette and the cycle track, was surfaced in a buff crushed stone to compliment to the blonde sandstone buildings.
The cycle track edge was detailed with a contrasting silver-grey granite profiled edge which is detectable by visually impaired people with dogs or long canes but easily crossed by wheelchair users.
Glasgow City Council (Client)
Area: 1.3 hectares
Timescale: 2013 - 2019
Cost: £6 million
Length of street: 600 metres
Street width: 21 metres
Number of trees: 30
Number of seats: 30 (three person benches with backs and arm rests)
Number of bike stands: 30 (60 capacity)
- 3m segregated bi-directional cycle track
- 3 - 5m wide footways
- 6.5m 2 lane one-way carriageway
- 2.5m central verge with integrated rainwater tree watering system
- 12 car taxi rank operating into the small hours most nights of the week
- Bus stops with extra large shelters and real time service information
- Light tree sculpture installation commissioned by Glasgow City Council
"This project is a replicable model for main streets throughout the UK. It shows how traffic dominated roads can be transformed into places for people, encouraging active travel, supporting businesses and creating relaxing environments for all. The creation of a truly democratic space in the city is especially important."