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.
For many visiting cyclists, the station is an important the gateway to the town – whether they’re coming by bike, getting off a train and renting an orange bike, or coming off the Caledonian Cycle way. And the new contraflow on Newall Terrace has meant that there’s now a nice direct route from the station to the town centre.
So it’s all good, right? Well, it’s improved but there’s still a few changes that would make that investment into Newall Terrace really pay off.
For a start – signage. Even if you come out of the station at the main entrance, it’s a bit of a head scratcher to know how to get into town – or onto NCN 7. The only sign for bikes is for the Caledonian Cycleway – why not include some directions into town as well? I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s had to rescue a puzzled cyclist who’s been staring at the map in the bus stop wondering what to do next. And if you’re coming off the Glasgow train it’s even more puzzling – either you have to lug your bike up the steps and over the footbridge, or you have to find your way out the back entrance and into town. Signs don’t cost very much, and a few good route indicators would do a lot to guide cyclists onto the quiet and direct Newall Terrace route, instead of sending them the long way round via Lovers’ Walk and Academy Street.
Slightly less easy to tackle is actually getting from the station to Newall Terrace. We used this route on one of our summer rides, and that made it clear just how daunting it is for a family or a novice cyclist to tackle. The sightlines coming out of the station forecourt are very poor, the traffic on Lovers’ Walk is fast and it’s a busy road. Trying to turn right out of the station is quite daunting – with kids in the group we had to stay on the pavement, and then cross the road onto Newall Terrace. Ideally, there would be a separate cycle track here, or wide cycle lanes, with a crossing to make it easier to get across. That would also help visiting cyclists find the route into town and would even help motorists – trying to come out of the station forecourt and turn right can be quite difficult as you can’t always see if there’s any traffic coming from your left. Slowing traffic on Lovers’ Walk and putting in a crossing would make that turn easier to make for everyone.
Coming out of the station from the other side, there is a cycle lane, but of the worst kind. Narrow, painted lanes put cyclists round the edge of the roundabout – which is actually the most dangerous place for them to be. Meanwhile the roundabout itself is large and designed to be crossed at speed – making it even more dangerous to bikes. The lanes then disappear over the bridge, and a cyclist has to negotiate a right turn (again with no directional signs for bikes letting them know they can reach town this way). We think that these cycle lanes should simply be removed and replaced by a separated route for cyclists to avoid the roundabout altogether. For instance, a cycle track could be put alongside the footpath that runs up to the bridge with a crossing at the top. Narrowing the roundabout to a single lane would slow traffic down and also make it safer. In addition, a simple wheeling ramp could be added to the footbridge in the station itself, giving cyclists, and people pushing pushchairs, an easier route out of the station.
Looking beyond access to the town centre, Cornwall Mount, which runs down to the Annan Road, should also have proper cycle provision, either wide lanes, or a separated track instead of the existing narrow lanes which appear only at the entrance to the roundabout. There’s plenty of room on this road and this would join the town, the station and the Caledonian Cycle path with this major route – which, as we’ve already suggested, needs a proper protected cycle track on it. If this was done, then it would be possible to cycle from Heathhall to the eastern edge of town without having to tackle any difficult roads at all.
This shows how, by making some small changes in key locations, some major pieces of investment (the Caledonian Cycleway, making the Annan Road cycle friendly) could then be joined together in a way that suddenly turns them into a proper network – and could turn Dumfries into a real cycling town.