I know most of you will be looking forward to downloading and reading the Local Transport Strategy for yourselves, but just in case you don’t have time, here’s a brief summary of the key points, particularly for Dumfries and cycling. It’s a bit of a mixed bag: lots of good aspirations, but not offering much hope that anything concrete will be done to achieve them.
Like all good strategies, it identifies its objectives, as approved by the council as a whole:
- Assist economic growth
- Promote social inclusion
- Protect the environment
- Improve road safety and
- Improve the integration of journeys
The strategy is intended to integrate with the longer term Regional Transport Strategy has been developed in parallel with the Local Development Plan, which incorporates the Scottish Government’s Designing Streets guidance which emphasises prioritising places and people over the movement of vehicles, supporting development in places accessible by walking, cycling and public transport, locating development in areas well served by public transport, and improving active transport networks such as paths and cycle routes. However, it also takes into account the very rural nature of the region. As a consequence, the assumption is that most people outside the main towns will remain dependent on their cars, and so the main interventions will concentrate on Dumfries, Stranraer, Annan, Gretna, Castle Douglas, Lockerbie, Moffat and Dalbeattie.
Current situation and problems
The strategy identifies the key transport problems for the region as follows:
- High levels of car dependency
- Congestion around towns
- Problems of parking management
- Rising bus costs
- Unsustainable bus subsidies and
- A decline in the bus service
According to the statistics, 1% of people cycle to work in the region (and 5% regularly cycle ‘to get around’), 75% drive or are driven in a car, 7% use the bus and 15% walk (and 46% of people regularly walk to get around). Almost half of people in the region use their car every day, and 71% never use buses.
Looking at cycling, which is lumped together with walking, the strategy notes that there has been some development of cycle facilities, including the Kirkpatrick Macmillan Bridge, and (as noted earlier!) that “cycling and walking infrastructure is considered to be of a good standard and the council consequently considers that only incremental improvements to existing networks will be required in the short term”. It does note that ongoing funding will be needed to maintain the infrastructure there is (and we hope that this will include winter maintenance such as clearing and gritting of the off-road paths).
For public transport, while the Regional plan identifies likely improvements in the train service to Glasgow, the picture for buses is much less rosy with increasing costs and higher requirements for subsidies meaning a significant reduction in bus services across the board is likely. Considering parking, it notes that while there is enough parking in Dumfries overall, it is not well managed with people tending to overstay the time limits and the peripheral carparks being underused while drivers looking for more convenient parking places cause congestion in the town centre.
A vicious circle of car dependency
The strategy identifies a vicious circle that has developed whereby an older population than average, with their free bus passes, combined with a cap on funds for concessionary travel, combined with poor conditions (such as congestion) for bus services, has led to a decrease in bus services, making it less attractive to use public transport, increasing dependence on cars and making the roads congested, which in turn makes it even less attractive to use the bus, and so on.
Five options were considered for breaking this vicious circle:
- Increase funding for concessionary travel
- Enhance the infrastructure for buses (I assume this means things like bus lanes)
- Increase funding for bus subsidies
- Increase road capacity or
- Manage demand for travel by car
Although to a certain extent option 4 is being considered in the Regional Strategy, and some measures within Dumfries, primarily the strategy opts for number 5, through balanced management of demand. This means a series of interventions aimed at encouraging people to use more sustainable transport, persuading them to use their cars less and improving the transport network
This includes things like a Walking and Cycling Strategy (and we look forward to being consulted on the development of that!), trials of alternative fuels, highlighting sustainable travel options, modifying the taxicard scheme and making public transport more effective
This includes things like developing parking strategies, controlling development, workplace and school travel plans, and speed limit orders (but not, it would seem, 20mph speed limits throughout the towns)
This includes things like lobbying for trunk road improvements, publishing a road safety plan, improving traffic signals and monitoring air quality
Targets for all this include maintaining car usage where it is, reducing road deaths and casualties, maintaining public transport use and increasing the rates of regular cycling from 5% to 6%
What do you think?