Rediscovering Queen Street

Last week, Cycling Dumfries members joined Sustrans’s Street Design team for a ride along to see what they were planning on doing in the area around Queen Street.

aerial view of Queen Street and surrounding streets

The area around Queen Street covered by the project

Although this is a Sustrans project, it’s not about bikes – it’s mostly about improving the streets where people live. However, part of that involves cutting traffic, and making the area more friendly to people on foot and on bikes is all part of that so they were interested to hear from us what suggestions we had, while we were interested to hear their plans.

Most of us didn’t ride through the area that often – even though for some it’s a more direct route than the ones we choose instead. The reason? Well mainly because you have to tackle either Shakespeare Street or Brooms Road, neither particularly inviting places to cycle.

Looking up Shakespeare Street

The view for anyone attempting to cross Shakespeare St towards the High Street – you have to step right out into the road to see any oncoming traffic

We were pleased to hear that one of the possibilities includes narrowing Shakespeare Street to make it easier to cross and provide a fitting setting for the Theatre Royal. There’s no need for Shakespeare Street to have two lanes of one-way traffic (three if you count the ‘deceleration lane’ for cars turning into Queen Street – which tells you everything you need to know about how pleasant a road it is). There was also talk of providing a bike contraflow along the top end of Queen Street (past Kirkpatrick Cycles) which would immediately make it a much more useful route for bikes.

view down Queen Street

Looking down from the top half of Queen Street to the theatre. Straightening out the corner will unify the two halves of the street while tighter corners will stop cars sweeping quickly round the bends

At the other end, we discussed how to make it easier to cut across from Cumberland Street into Glebe Street and from there to St Michael’s primary school. There are two crossings on Brooms Road, but neither lines up with the streets here – and they’re not linked to each other either. So you either have to take a chance and find a gap or make a detour and use the pedestrian crossing. Simply linking the two sets of traffic signals might be all it takes to make this easier to negotiate on foot or on a bike. Meanwhile the back entrance to DG One will probably get sorted out so that bikes, buggies, wheelchairs and mobility scooters can easily navigate it. There will still be something to stop bikes from zipping through too quickly – possibly a bollard or some cobbles would be all it took. It’s important that whatever they do, it doesn’t stop tandems, cargo bikes or people towing trailers so families can use it as well.

Chicane blocking entrance to DG One

Back entrance to DG One makes access almost impossible even to buggies. What were they thinking? This was only built a few years ago

Once in the streets themselves, they’re not too bad to cycle on as traffic is slow, but the narrowness of the road due to all the parked cars, and the number of cars trying to use the roads as short cut makes it a bit stressful. The hope is that road treatments such as different surfaces, greenery, and tighter corners will slow cars and discourage people from using the streets as a through route. We hope that will work; alternatively, a bit of ‘filtered permeability’ – barriers or restrictions that mean cars can’t use the street as a rat run, although bikes and people on foot can still get through – might cut traffic even more.

Looking down Queen Street

Queen Street – too narrow to really accommodate much through traffic.

Our verdict? Nothing’s set in stone yet – and there are many more ideas than there is money to implement it all. Obviously, what happens next is up to the residents themselves but from a bike point of view our top three priorities would be:

  • Implement a bike contraflow on the upper end of Queen Street (either a separate lane or just a sign saying ‘except bikes’ under the no entry sign
  • Make Shakespeare Street easier to cross, and reduce it to a single lane of traffic plus parking
  • Open up the back entrance to DG One

If the will and the money was there we’d add:

  • A crossing from Glebe St to Cumberland St across Brooms Road
  • A contraflow lane along Shakespeare Street

Watch this space – there will be a day coming soon when they’re going to try out all the ideas for real on the street – we’ll keep you posted.

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