New Hospital – an opportunity missed

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.

Maxwelltown path
The Maxwelltown cycle path. A pleasant, lit, well-maintained traffic-free route that goes *almost* to the hospital door…

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:

Aerial photo showing route to hospital
The route to the new hospital (left hand side) from the Maxwelltown path (right hand side) – crossing two busy 60 mph roads

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.

Crossing Garroch Loaning looking west
Crossing Garroch Loaning looking west. There are poor sightlines of cars approaching the roundabout and it’s a rare driver who indicates when they’re coming off it. No signalled crossing planned here
Crossing Garroch Loaning looking east. Ironically, the pillars of the (closed) viaduct obscure the sightlines of approaching cars. Remember, this is a 60mph road. But there's no need for a crossing here, according to the council
Crossing Garroch Loaning looking east. Ironically, the pillars of the (closed) viaduct obscure the sightlines of approaching traffic. Remember, this is a 60mph road. But there’s no need for a crossing here, according to the council

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.

Existing narrow shared-use path
Existing shared-use path. Once there are more people walking to and from the hospital, conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians will be a problem, especially at bus stops. Yet there’s plenty of room to give people on bikes and on foot their own space

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.

blocked viaduct over Garroch Loaning
Imagine if, instead of a locked gate, the viaduct was reopened and a route run all the way to the back of the hospital? But that would take imagination and a determination to make cycling and walking the most convenient choice.

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.

26 thoughts on “New Hospital – an opportunity missed”

  1. While the idea of having a traffic-free cycle route straight to the hospital makes a lot of sense I don’t see how reopening the viaduct would help you achieve this – on the other side of the viaduct you have a sewage treatment plant and the other an industrial park, busy with lorries and other associated traffic.

    1. @sgm – you’re right, it’s not 100% straightforward – could either run a ramp down to the other side of the Loaning – or keep going past the industrial estate and to the back of the hospital site. Or both…

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve crossed this road a few times on my bike with my children and it is not safe even before the extra traffic for the new hospital is added. Surelly with the amount of money being spent on the hospital they could reopen the viaduct which seems like a fantastic idea in so many ways. So how are the health service and the council consultating?

    Keith Walters

  3. Was there not some talk (and some money) looking at an off-road route to Mabie which was coming out this way? Couldn’t the 2 come together?

    1. Hi Alison – it would be brilliant, but what we’ve seen of the Mabie route (and we’ve not really seen that much of the detail) is going through Islesteps rather than using the viaduct. Shame…

  4. as one of the councillors for the Abbey ward ,can i point out that at this stage only outline permission has been granted. currently permission has been granted to re-align the roundabout on the by-pass.i raised matters of access at the initial planning meeting including public transport to and from the site. I want to minimise the traffic impact on those who reside on the routes to the new hospital. there is time before the hospital opens to address the concerns you raise, i will keep them in mind for when the matter comes back to the planning committee.
    Tom Mcaughtrie

    1. Tom – thank you very much for your response. One of the reasons why we’ve gone public early on this is because we’ve not had any real feeling that anyone had overall concern for this aspect of the hospital build, so knowing that people will bear it in mind is reassuring.

  5. I fully support any campaign to improve access to the new hospital. I use the garroch road junction regularly both as a cyclist and pedestrian, and to say that the experience is hairy would be an understatement. Maximum concentration is essential to safely negotiate the two lanes of fast flowing traffic.
    That said, I don’t think it’s fair to criticise drivers for not indicating when exiting the roundabout as they are not obliged by road law to do so.

    I think the best solution to linking up the paths would be to use the existing viaduct. The surrounding buildings etc may mean the route would be a little less direct than is ideal but I don’t think it would be particularly difficult to link both sides of the road this way.

    Who knows ? once the viaduct is finished we may eventually get a cycle route that goes as far as the Goldilea viaduct as was originally intended.

    1. I suppose – regardless of the law, it’s the fact that not everyone indicates at roundabouts that makes it all the more dangerous trying to cross the road there.

      The viaduct route would definitely be our preferred option, here’s hoping we get some progress on that…

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