Safe Links to Schools

As we said in our last post, we’re gearing up to ‘Pedal on Postbox’ – to ask our council to help create safe, traffic free connections to all of the schools in the town for cyclists, and particularly the main secondary schools in the town centre – Dumfries Academy, Dumfries High School and St. Joseph’s College (we’ll tackle Maxwelltown High School in a bit)

That might seem like a big request – but it’s actually tantalisingly close to being a reality. Take a look at the Go Smart cycle map of the town:

cycling map of Dumfries
Note how close all three schools are to the existing cycling network

What would it take to actually connect up the schools to the network? Not really all that much:

amended map
New links shown in red (with yellow indicating possible 20 mph roads)

Three short links, barely impinging on the roads, along with an extension of the town’s new 20mph zone, would actually do it!

So how are things now? Well if you take St. Joseph’s first, there’s already a short dead end street that runs from Dock Park up to Nithbank. The barrier at the bottom could be a bit more bike friendly, but other than that it’s reasonably safe:

route from Dock Park up to Nithbank
Replace the barrier with a few bollards and this would be a good link onto NCN 7

The problem with this is the other end. Although there’s a nice path from Nithbank that would connect to the school, first they have to cross the road – and when we took the councillors on this route back in April, it took about 5 minutes before we could find a gap in the traffic.

Nithbank and the roundabout
Busy, fast, and incredibly difficult to cross

But something as simple as a toucan crossing – plus perhaps some 20mph limits on the surrounding roads – would be all it takes to join this route up with NCN7 and open up St. Joes and the two primary schools next to it to safer cycling.

The Academy is even easier. There’s already a footbridge that crosses the Nith from the river path although it’s not open all the time. This is accessible from the Whitesands path via the cycle bridge, and from the Maxwelltown railway path via College Road which is a safe and quiet residential street – easily handled by secondary school pupils. The problem here is getting to the river path on a bike:

steps down to the river path
Danny McAskill might be able to manage it …

How much would it cost to put in a ramp and a decent all-weather surface on the river path? Combine that with a 20mph limit on Academy Street, and the school would be accessible from both sides of the river, and again, without it costing masses of money.

And finally the High School, which is easiest of all. It’s not far from the Caledonian Cycleway which links the town centre and Heathhall. It would be child’s play to run a path from the back of the school to the cycleway – so easy that they’ve actually started it:


shared use path past the High School
Nice, wide, lit, shared use path beside the High School…

There’s just one tiny problem…

end of the path
… turn the corner and this is what you find.

According to the sign (which has been up a while) lots of people had a hand in creating this path. It’s a bit hard to read now, but it was put in to tackle the school run and combat climate change. Hmmm. How’s that working out do you suppose?

path sign
Dumfries High School Link. Linking the school to the back of the playing fields since 2010…

I first came across this half-a-path three years ago, at the start of the GoSmart project. Since then a lot of money has been spent, but the path remains unfinished. Anyone wanting to get from the Caledonian Cycleway to the school who doesn’t fancy scrambling through a bramble bush has to cycle down the Moffat Road, without so much as a bike lane.

We did ask the council why the path was unfinished. Apparently it’s down to the developer of the new houses to finish the path – and that’s been delayed because of the recession. I suppose that’s understandable – but only if you think of things like cycle paths and safe cycling as something extra, a nice-to-have, that can be paid for by a developer rather than out of the core council funds. Is that really what we want?

If you don’t agree – then please tell the council you’d like to see these small changes that would make such a big difference. Get yourself to our Pedal on Postbox on Sunday and make your voice heard. Or if you can’t make it, sit down and write to your councillor (an email will do) and tell them you support safe links to all our schools.





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