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May 12, 2020 5 min read

Is there anything better than a nice smooth road surface when you are cycling? And with the recent announcement that the UK government is pledging £2bn towards cycling and walking infrastructure, we are so pleased to be opening up part 3 (and the final part) of our 'Smooth Roads' series. These insights have been brought to you by See.Sense, partners British Cycling and of course you - our cyclists who have made this possible.

So, once again, if you are one of the British Cycling members riding with See.Sense lights and your app connected - we would like to say a big thank you to you for helping us map your roads for cycling in great depth. 

In our previous two articles, we released the top 5 cities with the smoothest road surfaces in the UK and talked about the top two cities (which were London and Manchester) and state of cycling in great depth in those areas. In this final piece, we will close out the series by taking a snapshot from the three remaining cities with the best road surfaces for cycling in the UK. A quick reminder of the scale we are using for road surfaces:

Reminder of SSRI (See.Sense Roughness Index)

Pavement Condition reporting for cyclists is ordinarily undertaken through visual inspections. A large engineering firm, AECOM, showed how the See.Sense data has a high correlation with visual inspections and a link to the PCI rating scale. Applying our proprietary SSRI scale, we can identify the road roughness experienced by a cyclist. Scores of 85-100 are considered a very good or 'smooth' rating. 

The three remaining cities were Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham. 

EDINBURGH - SSRI Index: 61% of journeys on PCI greater than 85

Thank you to everyone up in Edinburgh who has been riding with their See.Sense lights on. Edinburgh was the third best city in the UK for road surfaces. We know that by some standards, Edinbugh is a ptretty cycle-friendly city. It has a number of bike paths, on-road cycle lanes, a decent amount of forwarding stop lines at traffic lights, and other bike priority measures. Edinburgh is also one of the cities that is moving that bit closer to speed limits on most of the roads. 


Three of the top roads with the best surfaces in Edinburgh include Cowgate Street, which is about 500 yards southeast of Edinburgh Castle, Chambers Street, which is in the old town of Edinburgh and also Central Queen Street which is also a popular cycle route from our insights with a very good road surface. It's good to see so much purple covering Edinburgh, which is why it is one of the top cities in the UK. 


Let's look at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, which from our insights we can see is a very popular route to cycle around with a decent amount of purple, very smooth surfaces (the park is still currently closed due to lockdown in the UK). There are no official off-road bike paths in Holyrood Park, but there is a useful shared-use path that runs alongside part of the main Queen's Drive. It's not particularly wide, but the surface is good! There are also some spectacular views from the ring road which also has a good surface, allowing cyclists to travel at a comfortable speed. So that rounds up smooth cycling in Edinburgh. This definitely makes us want to go for a cycle there once the lockdown is over. 

GLASGOW - SSRI Index: 58% of journeys on PCI greater than 85

Glasgow was the fourth city with the best road surfaces in the UK, with 58% of journeys having a good smooth road surface for cycling on, so just slightly lower than their neighbour Edinburgh.  

Glasgow is not majorly different than the other UK cities in regards to cycling that we have featured. As for the infrastructure, its not too bad, there are some cycle paths most of which run west to east through the city. We will highlight some of the roads below:

On the north side of the River Clyde, particularly Clyde Street into Broomielaw - we've seen that this is a very popular route which offers fast and efficient travel for cyclists. The Clyde Walkway is a forty-mile walking and cycling trail that follows the River Clyde from the centre of Glasgow. 

Like many other cities, Glasgow has seen a 'cycling boom' with a downfall in car use during the lockdown period with plans to widen out more lanes (BBC News) which is great to hear.

If we now look at the insights we got from the west of the city - along Finnieston Street Bridge. The bridge takes four lanes of traffic, two of which are dedicated to public transport (buses and taxis) and two for private and commercial traffic. There are also pedestrian and cycle paths which we have noticed were really popular.

Let's move onto the final city...

BIRMINGHAM - SSRI Index: 52% of journeys on PCI greater than 85

Again, Birmingham has closely followed the Scottish cities with similar qualities of road surfaces in the city centre. Throughout Birmingham, we saw that the road surfaces are quite good in most places, giving quite a high average speed from riders here. 

In Birmingham, you will find traffic-free cycling routes, including canal towpaths, on-road cycle lanes and signed routes on quieter roads. From our insights, we saw that the A4540 ring road from Lucas Circus through to the Five Ways roundabout is a very popular commuter route (from pre lockdown data).

There must be a lot of coffee lovers in Birmingham, as we've seen that the drive-through Costa Coffee at Five Ways is a really popular pit-stop for our cyclists to ride through and get their caffeine fixes.. 


Road surface is the second greatest hazard faced by British Cycling members - more about this here.


So that rounds out this road surface piece, albeit at a strange time for us all. The UK lockdown has certainly changed our lifestyles. We have seen more of the young, the old (and the in-between) the key worker commuters, the shoppers and more roadies getting out on their bikes and enjoying the freedom of two wheels. We truly hope that this level of enthusiasm and love for cycling will be here to stay and that more and more people fall in love with cycling, meaning we can do even more of this type of work to help map and improve the roads in the UK working with our partners British Cycling. 


So how does your city compare? We hope you enjoyed the final part of this insight series on road surfaces. What would you like to see next? The worst road surfaces? The cities with the fastest cyclists? Or even if its something else, just let us know.

Remember, all British Cycling members get 30% off See.Sense lights. Log into your members area for access.

Stay Safe.