Well, when we organised the first Cycling Dumfries meeting we weren’t expecting things to get off the ground quite so quickly. In fact, we weren’t really expecting anything at all – personally, I had no idea if anyone would turn up or who they’d be or what they’d say. So we were pretty pleased to gather a dedicated bunch of ten at Mi Amore on Thursday night to chew over what could be done to improve the lot of cyclists in Dumfries. There will be some actual minutes eventually (and I’ll explain in a minute why they’ll be a little late) but the gist of it was that we needed:
- A decent cycle route from the east (e.g. Collin) into Dumfries, without cyclists having to tackle either the A75 or any big roundabouts, and quieter roads in from Glencaple and New Abbey as well
- Better bike bus services, with the 500 consistently providing space for bikes and bikes allowed on other buses in the region too. And good covered bike racks at bus stops in the outlying villages
- A more joined up bike network in the town, with routes that go somewhere useful rather than just out and back
- Clearer signposting for bikes coming off the cycle paths and onto the roads with clearly marked routes up to the shops
- Lower speed limits – preferably 20mph in all built up areas, not just around the schools
- Better maintenance of the bike paths that are built, with broken glass and thorns swept off, potholes repaired and the snow cleared and the paths gritted in the winter (indeed, the pavements could do with this as well, with people forced to walk in the roads after the snow last winter and the winter before)
- Better and more secure cycle parking…
- …And the political will to do something about it.
… and that last point is really the crux of the matter. According to GoSmart’s research, only 3% of people in the town cycle whereas almost everyone drives. Although some things, like 20mph speed limits and better maintenance of paths, benefit pretty much everybody, some things – like better bike routes – only really benefit the cyclists. With so few people cycling, we don’t exert much influence on the council compared with drivers. So to get better cycling conditions we need more cyclists. But to get more cyclists, we need better cycling conditions. It’s a chicken and egg situation. It’s a Catch 22…
It’s in order to try and kick start a cycling culture in the town that we’ve decided to apply for Cycling Scotland funding. The good news is, there’s a fund available for just these sorts of projects and it’s reasonably easy to apply for. The bad news is, the deadline for applications is on Tuesday. So that’s why we’ve been a bit slow reporting back from the meeting. Instead of sitting back and enjoying the long weekend – or even getting out on our bikes much – we’ll be spending it poring over spreadsheets and application forms and writing budgets and project plans. It’s very unlikely that a group can go from a discussion over a few drinks to a successful funding proposal in four days but we’re giving it our best shot. And if we make it – well watch this space. We could be in for a busy few months.