It’s always nice to see Dumfries making it onto the news for a good news story so we welcome this BBC story on Dumfries’s 20mph zone. It received some approving comments in the twittersphere, and it does, at first glance sound quite impressive:
A new 20mph speed limit has been introduced across most of Dumfries town centre to try to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety in the area.
It applies to all roads within an area bounded by Loreburn Street, English Street, Shakespeare Street, Nith Place, Whitesands, Buccleuch Street, Church Crescent and Academy Street.
Also included in the scheme are Burns Street and Clerkhill.
We’re also pleased that these are proper 20mph speed limits and so properly enforceable, not simply green ’20s Plenty’ signs.
However, when you look at the zone itself you can see why we’re not more excited:
The fact is that the area bounded by Loreburn Street, the Whitesands, and so on (the roads in pink on the map – of course they, being actually busy roads, aren’t affected by the new speed limit), is tiny and the roads affected already mostly partially pedestrianised or dead end roads so short that you’d be hard pressed to get up to 20 even now, let alone 30. Welcome as it is to see a nod towards making the town centre more pleasant for those on foot, if only by discouraging traffic on the streets affected, we doubt it will do much for bikes.
The problem is, if you look at the streets around the town centre, they’ve been made impassable to through traffic – whether motorised or not. The one ways on Bank Street, Friar’s Vennel, Great King Street, Munches Street and Queensberry Steet are all designed to push traffic out onto the bigger roads – and that includes bikes. There’s no point trying to make things safer for cyclists, by calming traffic on these roads if you are effectively forcing the bikes onto Loreburn Street, Shakespeare Street, and Nith Place – all fast, wide roads. At the moment, the only legal way to get by bike onto the High St is to turn right off Shakespeare Street, across three lanes of traffic. Hands up all those who enjoy doing that to go shopping?
Fortunately there are some changes afoot. As we’ve long advocated, a contraflow is finally being planned for Newall Terrace, making access to the High Street from the station easier:
It will still mean tackling a short stretch of Loreburn Street before turning down Munches Street – although the timing of the lights should mean the traffic will be kept well away. And it is still unclear what’s happening with Bank Street, coming up from the Whitesands, where despite the toucan crossing for bikes, there’s no indication of where they can go from there. But it’s a small step in the right direction and we welcome that too.
This is not just special pleading. There’s increasing evidence that cyclists make good shoppers – after all, we’re not paying for petrol to get to the shops, so we’ve got that little bit of extra cash in our pockets. We’re more likely to shop locally, shop more often, and more likely to make impulse purchases than people who shop by car. Why wouldn’t shops on the High Street want to encourage us to cycle right up to their doors? It might be just the thing Dumfries Town centre needs.