This post is one of our Missing Links series, where we’ll be detailing how the existing cycling network could be made more joined up. The aim is to make it easy for people to cycle safely anywhere they need to go, making the bike a true practical alternative to the car for shorter journeys in Dumfries.
The shopping streets at the heart of Dumfries are, quite sensibly, very restricted to through traffic and almost entirely 20mph. As such, they could provide an inviting environment for people making their way between the two main traffic free routes into town, the Maxwelltown and the Caledonian Cycleways to DG One, the station, their workplaces and most importantly the shops. There is masses of research that shows that people on foot or on bikes spend more per head than people in cars, and they’re more likely to visit small local shops rather than out of town chains. Adding in the extra disposable income that comes from not spending so much on petrol, it means that pound for pound more of what they spend stays in the local economy, something Dumfries sorely needs. Not only that, but during the summer months, hundreds of touring cyclists pass along the Whitesands following NCN7, most of whom are only too ready to ‘refuel’ at local cafes and shops. Inviting routes into town will help bring more business into the town centre.
Yet at the moment, it’s actually impossible to cycle directly to the High Street from the Whitesands, without either getting off your bike or breaking the law. The map shows the problem
We now have a nice Toucan crossing from the Whitesands path to Bank Street. However you can only get half way up Bank Street before you meet a no entry sign, with a one way going the other way, and you have to divert onto Irish Street. On Friar’s Vennel, it’s the same story – two one-ways going in opposite directions to prevent through traffic. The High Street is also one-way, and specifically mentions that this applies to bikes as well. The only legal route is either to go up Buccleuch street – along with all the cars and buses – and turn right at the Burns Statue and then get off and walk along the High Street, or else keep following the one way system all the way round Loreburn Street and go down Munches Street. For the far end of the High Street the only legal option is to go all the way round to Nith Place and turn right (across multiple lanes of traffic) onto the High Street. None of this is exactly encouraging the shopper on two wheels – and it also means the town centre becomes a barrier to bikes instead of a way of avoiding the bigger roads and one-way system.
Fortunately, this is now easily fixed. Previously, if bikes were to be allowed to go the wrong way up a one-way street, then it meant quite elaborate contraflow lanes had to be created, like the one in Newall Terrace. In the last couple of years it’s now become possible simply to put up a sign saying ‘Except bikes’ underneath the no entry sign. This could have been done as part of the traffic orders creating the 20mph zone, but unfortunately it wasn’t. We think that bikes should be allowed to go two-way on all of the one-way streets within the 20mph zone. That will instantly create a network of quiet routes for cyclists to use.
Now, before people object, we’re not expecting that bikes should be allowed to bomb down the High Street willy nilly. Pedestrians should continue to be king on a shopping street like that – along with all the activity that goes with it, like buskers, market stalls, hanging out, chatting, strolling, and sitting in the sun. We would be quite happy to see signs reminding cyclists that pedestrians have right of way on streets like the Friars Vennel and the High Street, encouraging bikes to use Queensbury Street and Irish Street instead if they’re in a hurry, rather than accessing shops. However we do feel that a signposted route between the Whitesands and Newell Terrace, via Bank Street, should be created as a through route for bikes. Add in improvements to Queen Street and the access through the back of DGOne and the council carpark (discussed in our last post) and the whole of the town centre would be significantly opened up.
We note that there is work planned around the Burns Statue end of the High Street, offering an opportunity to include these changes into the work. We hope that the council takes heed of this very easy way to improve cycling in the town.