I was musing last night about the planned Bike to the Park rides on July 2nd, and how best to plan the route. Lochthorn Library will be one of our starting points because it’s one of the Go Smart ‘Park and Choose’ points where drivers can take alternative forms of transport into town, such as one of the Bike to Go bikes. From Lochthorn Library the very nice Caledonian Cycleway takes you right to the edge of town, well away from any cars, and perfect for beginners. So that part was easy. But once you get to the end of the Cycleway, what then? You can go down Nunwood Road – a nice quiet residential street – cross on the Nith Viaduct, and join the Maxwelltown Railway path for more quiet traffic-free cycling but that’s going entirely in the wrong direction.
I tried CycleStreets’s route planner to see what options it gave me, but it wasn’t a huge amount of help. It suggested taking the path down to the station (including a section where you have to dismount), along Newall Terrace (more dismounting) and along the High Street (some pedestrianised sections and not an inviting prospect on a Saturday morning with the market stalls up and a load of cyclists in tow). It’s hardly going to convince people that cycling is easy and convenient if they keep having to get off and push, is it?
If I was riding on my own, I know what I’d do. Down the Edinburgh Road, pulling out to the right to avoid the left turn lane at the lights, then turning right across traffic … no, that doesn’t sound very inviting either. Perfectly doable, for a confident cyclist, but the whole point of the ride is that it’s for unconfident cyclists…
The fact is, even with all the brilliant routes that we do have into town (and I know I bless the providers of the bridge over the Glasgow road roundabout every time I have to cross it), they do have a way of running out when you need them most. Fine if all you want to do is go for a nice bike ride; a little harder if you’re actually trying to go somewhere useful.
What could be done? Well, making it easier to cycle down the High Street would help, as the position at the moment is not entirely clear where cycling is permitted and where it’s not. Making the Friar’s Vennel and Bank Street two-way to bikes all along their lengths would also ease passage to and from the main shopping area and the cycle track on the Whitesands, especially if there were some bike as well as pedestrian crossings. There’s lots that could be done, and it wouldn’t even cost much money or inconvenience the drivers in their cars.*
Meanwhile, I’ll keep thinking of the best route from Lochthorn to Dock Park – I’m sure there’s an answer somewhere that doesn’t involve going half way round the town. I just wish it could be made easy and obvious for anyone, so that we can get everybody on their bikes and out of their cars.
* by the way, the council is doing a consultation at the moment about changes to the road layout to ease congestion, although sadly this is not one of the proposed options. The changes, apparently, ‘could make life easier for pedestrians, cyclists, buses and cars’ – have a look and see whether you think they will do much for the first three (I know what I think). And do take part in the survey too, whatever your opinion…