Why did I ride my bicycle on a motorway?

The M74 Extension in Glasgow opens to cars and trucks at the end of June. Yesterday, cyclists, runners, wheelchair users and walkers were given early access to a five mile stretch of urban motorway that cost a mind-numbing £672m. Naturally, the motorway – built to ease congestion in a city already over-run with elevated carriageways – will soon fill with traffic and within a few years there will be calls for a bypass of the bottlenecks. And so it goes on.

Induced demand is a well-known phenomenon in road transport. But how come the demand inducing is always so car-centric? Why don’t the UK governments build a stonking great bike path network throughout the land and watch as that fills up with ‘build it and they will come’ riders? Why spend £672m on such a short stretch of road when the money could have gone on a transport network that is beneficial to the economy, to health and to peoples’ waistlines?

Because there’s always plenty of money for motorists, and White Elephants cost a lot to feed. This is unsustainable long-term but politicians have yet to wake up to the realities of Peak Oil and Peak Car.

Transport Scotland believe the motorway will “produce immediate benefits by removing traffic from the M8, taking approximately 20,000 vehicles per day off the M8…” and “improve journey times across and through Glasgow with 5 – 10 minutes being saved per journey in peak hours.”

Such time savings are amazingly low yet this sort of stat is wheeled out for every major road building project, and invariably the time savings are quickly absorbed as more and more motorists take up the slack.

So, if building more and more motorways is no answer to congestion, and if I’m clearly no huge fan of spending astronomical amounts of tax-payers money for such small gains, why did I travel to Glasgow from Newcastle (on the train, natch) to ride on the M74 Bike ‘n’ Hike Day?

Maybe lots of locals were treating this as fun ride but, for me, it was a form of wheels-on-the-ground protest.

I’m no Swampy, I’m not going to burrow underground, chain myself to a JCB, or belay off a tree. However, I can join 6000+ cyclists in an official Critical Mass (we paid £5 to be part of ride, with the money going to charity) and claim the M74, if only for a day.

Bike paths ought to be constructed to this sort of quality. The tarmac is super-smooth, perfect for cycling. Bike paths ought to be built wide, too, not the poxy slivers we get foisted with.

As a British tax-payer I help pay for motorways so it’s good to get the chance to ride on one, to see close-up how my money is being spent.

And it’s not being spent very wisely.