Love Dumfries, Go Dutch?

On Tuesday, Mike Gray and I attended the Cycling Scotland ‘Go Dutch’ conference in Edinburgh, which was held jointly with Dutch cycling experts. As the Netherlands sees over a quarter of all journeys take place by bike (with more than half in some areas), clearly it has a lot to teach us about how to make our towns and cities places where everyone feels they can cycle.

Children cycling home from school

This is what ‘Rolls Royce’ cycling facilities can look like, and it means everyone can cycle safely

It was a very full day, and there was way more information than can be summarised here (I’ll add a link to the presentations once they’re available), but following Mike Gray’s wise advice, I thought I’d share the three main points that came across very strongly throughout the day. Basically, if the government wants to reach its stated target of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020 then they need to:

– concentrate on creating a network (rather than isolated individual cycle route) connecting all the places where people want to go to
– think local first, looking at journeys of under five miles
– make it more convenient to walk or cycle these short trips than to go by car.

As an example of the last point, we saw the entrance to Delft University, which was only accessible on foot, by bike or by tram. In contrast, the last time I cycled through the Crichton at around 5pm it was clearly being used as a rat run by through traffic.

The Dutch made the point that cycling facilities had to be made safe and feel safe – which meant wide bike lanes (1.5m wide at a minimum) or, even better, completely separated tracks for bicycles. Looking at Edinburgh’s recently opened Quality Bike Corridor they commetned ‘Narrow painted lanes suggest safety without providing safety’ (goodness knows what they’d make of the shared-use pavement along Hardthorn Road which not only make life unpleasant for the pedestrians but which require cyclists to cross the road half way along and continue on the other side). Sure, good (‘Rolls Royce’ as the Dutch described them) bicycle facilities are expensive – but the cost can be lowered by making sure that every time a road or junction is going to be dug up, then bicycle facilities are designed in from the start. A lesson for Edinburgh, still in the throes of its tram works, could definitely take on board.

narrow bike lanes

Lanes like these do very little to make people safe – they’re just a waste of paint

So what does it mean for Cycling Dumfries? Well, we took away three main lessons that we’ll be putting into practice over the next few weeks and months:

Mixed Messages

Mixed Messages

  • identify the missing links that would join our existing cycle paths up into a really useful network
  • be ambitious in what we ask for; we may not get ‘Rolls Royce’ facilities, but there’s no point wasting money on paint on the road or the pavement if it’s going to be actively dangerous. That doesn’t do anyone any good
  • identify ways to make it easier to get around by bike and not just by car. For instance, Dumfries has already done a lot to make it hard to drive through the town centre, with one-way and partially closed streets – but that also hampers people on bikes. Simply allowing bikes to cycle up and down Bank Stret, for example, or two ways on the High Street, would do a lot to make the bike a more practical alternative.

We’ve already started identifying the missing links: stand by for a series of posts laying them out in more detail. And we hope that anyone reading this will chip in with suggestions of their own.



Filed under News, Policy

2 responses to “Love Dumfries, Go Dutch?

  1. Totally segregated cycling will be lovely of course. However, didnt they also mention slower speeds in towns, ie 20mph limits (30kph, ie 18mph over there)?

    Rod King, Director of 20’s Plenty For Us says:
    ”Yes I presented in a workshop at the Bristol Love Cycling-Go Dutch conference and am also doing so in Manchester.
    The very strong message is that 30mph traffic and cycle promotion are not compatible.”

    Meanwhile can I rely on all cycle campaigners in Dumfries and Galloway to support our campaign for 20mph limits in Langholm. The High Street consultation is happening on Monday and Tuesday (19th and 20th November) being conducted by on behalf of Transport Scotland.
    The issue can be summarised thus:

    Consultation Regarding Parking and Road Safety on Langholm High Street

    Removal of car parking on Langholm High Street without reducing the speed limit to 20mph will increase the speed of traffic and make the street more stressful and dangerous for everyone, including drivers and passengers, as well as the more vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists, mothers with prams, older children, the elderly, and mobility impaired.

    Therefore, I/we, the undersigned, believe that a 20mph speed limit is vital for the High Street. This will enable everyone to share the street safely and fairly, regardless whether or not parking is retained. It will also provide a quieter, healthier environment for the residents, traders, and shoppers making the High Street a more pleasant place and improve the quality of life for all of the town’s inhabitants.

    Anyone unable toattend the event should contact BEAR by email or telephone
    tel; 08001389903

    thanks Bill

  2. sallyhinchcliffe

    Hi Bill, it did come up, but it wasn’t emphasised, compared to the other points (in my opinion). Maybe because that’s just obvious to the Dutch. But everyone takes something different away from these events, I suppose

    I’ll add the consultation as a new post so people see it.. Thanks


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