As many people will be aware, our hospital is due to be moved in 2015. The new site in Cargenbridge is well out of town on a greenfield site, but near to the bypass. We were assured when the site was chosen that sustainable travel to the new hospital, including cycling and walking, would be a high priority – in fact the hospital needs to create a Travel Plan to reduce dependency on the private car as part of the conditions for its planning permission. As one of the biggest employers in the area, having the right conditions for cycling and walking right to the hospital’s door would be a great way to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Dumfries.
Fortunately, the site is also very close to the end of the Maxwelltown Cycle Path, a flagship path built by Sustrans and part of the National Cycle Network (NCN 7). In fact the hospital sits between the end of the Maxwelltown path and the Glen Road (the old A 75), which is a popular cycling route for anyone wanting an almost traffic-free route towards the west. It should then have been easy to join up the dots and create a safe and convenient route right from the heart of town to the hospital – one that anyone could use, whether they’re cycling or walking, and whether they’re an experienced cyclist or just starting out. Unfortunately it looks as if this opportunity is bound to be wasted.
This aerial photo shows the route bikes (and pedestrians) are supposed to take to get to the new hospital from the Maxwelltown path:
This means crossing the (60 mph) Garroch Loaning just at the roundabout. This is what cyclists and pedestrians have to do at the moment – and it’s already very hairy. Nobody indicates properly coming off the roundabout and it is already quite busy. Imagine what it will be like once there is all the additional traffic for the new hospital (including all the construction lorries when they’re building it). Yet the council has no plans to put in anything here to help people cross, like a crossing. You’re expected to just find a gap in the traffic and go for it.
The access road to the new hospital will be exactly the same: no crossing, and a 60 mph road, with pedestrians and cyclists looking for a gap in the traffic coming off the bypass. Amazingly, the council have developed plans for cycle access on this road without even knowing from the hospital what the layout for the cycle paths within the hospital grounds are. So much for joined-up thinking
There will be a shared use cycle-and-pedestrian path alongside both roads – but the one along Garroch Loaning isn’t going to be widened. It’s a nice enough surface, but it’s far too narrow for both bikes and pedestrians to share comfortably.
We believe that if nothing is done to change these plans then either someone will get hurt attempting to cross this road – or else people will vote with their feet and just opt to drive to the hospital instead, increasing congestion in the town and on the bypass and surrounding roads.
A really imaginative council – one that genuinely wants to encourage active travel, rather than just playing lip service to it – might even open up the viaduct and put a route in directly to the hospital without needing to cross any roads. Failing that, putting in toucan crossings (bike-and-pedestrian crossings) would give people a safe way to cross these two roads.
The new hospital will be about 3 miles from the town along the cycle path – a perfect distance for anyone wanting to commute by bike to work (and without any hills!). Anyone commuting there by bike 5 days a week would easily get their recommended amount of weekly activity, without really breaking a sweat – and save themselves loads of cash to boot. But without a safe way to get from the cycle path to the hospital, the opportunity to encourage this sort of active travel will be missed. What kind of a message does that send about the council’s commitment to cycling and walking – instead of just paying lip service to it?
It’s not too late. The plans are still being finalised for the new hospital. We urge the council and the NHS to get together and plan how the new hospital can become a flagship not just for better health care but for sustainable travel. Don’t let this massive opportunity go to waste.
Since writing this post yesterday afternoon it’s gone viral – with almost 100 shares on facebook and hundreds of views. If you want to see safe access to the hospital on foot or by bike you can email or write to your local councillors and let them know. You can find out who they are and send an email directly via Write to Them, or there’s a list of members and their contact details on the council website.