We’ll continue with the missing links posts in a bit, but for now there is a slightly more pressing matter that we’ve been in correspondence with the council over – the autumn and winter maintenance of the various off-road paths in the town, and particularly the Caledonian Cycleway to Heathall. In particular, the clearing of leaves in the autumn (a buildup of fallen leaves can be almost as slippery as ice when it’s wet), the clearing of snow, and the gritting of the path in the event of ice.
According to the council’s interactive map (be patient, it’s very slow) and its winter gritting policy, the Caledonian Cycleway is a ‘priority B’ path, as it is a walking and cycling link to a number of schools. No, we didn’t know what priority B meant either, so we asked further and were told that the path is ‘only gritted as part of snow clearance’, despite the fact that black ice can happen at any time, whether it’s snowed or not. When it comes to leaves, we got no further response on the subject of the Caledonian Cycleway, but did find out that the Maxwelltown path is swept every two weeks by the road cleaning department, although it is not on any sort of gritting schedule. As far as we know the other paths (except the Whitesands in town) are not a priority for clearing or gritting at all. Attempts to contact the Nithsdale depot to get the Caledonian Cycleway cleared of leaves have not been successful – after first saying that they would clear it, the work wasn’t done. The next time they were rung, they claimed it wasn’t their responsibility. Regular users of the path report that it’s in the worst condition this year that they’ve experienced – and some are abandoning it altogether, preferring to take their chances on the roads.
This is more than just a cycling matter. The Maxwelltown and Caledonian paths are as much used by pedestrians as by cyclists, and they’re as affected by slippery ice and leaves as bikes are. The council and Sustrans have invested millions of pounds in building these routes, and Dumfries is supposed to be a ‘Smarter Choices’ town. Yet the minute the temperature drops or the leaves fall they’re rendered almost unusable, for want of a little maintenance. Apart from anything else, it’s a terrible waste of money if these paths can’t be used all year round.
If you use these paths, whether you cycle or walk, you need to let the council know that you’d like them properly maintained. After all, by walking or cycling instead of driving, you are helping cut congestion in the town, keeping yourself fit and healthy, and freeing up pressure on parking spaces, so it’s in their interests to make sure you can use them safely. If the path you use is dangerous, then ring the Nithsdale depot or the council contact number and ask them to sort it out. If they fob you off or tell you it’s not a priority, then talk to your local councillor. If enough of us let them know it’s important, then they’ll have to listen – after all, they work for us!
- Nithsdale Depot: 01387 271171
- Council contact number: 030 33 33 3000
- Find out who your local councillor is and how to contact them