Local Transport Summit – our response

You may remember back in August, that the high heidyins came down from Edinburgh to talk about transport in the region and forgot all about walking and cycling.

Well, the report of the summit is out – and they are at least looking for feedback from those of us who didn’t get an invitation. You have until the end of October to respond – so have a read through and see what you think. You can respond by writing to D&G Transport Summit, Transport Scotland, Buchanan House, 58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow, G4 0HF

Or email to: dandgsummit@transport.gov.scot

For what it’s worth, here’s what we’re saying below. But we’re sure you’ll have things to add yourselves…

Dumfries and Galloway Transport Summit – Cycling Dumfries’ response

– We were disappointed to see that no active travel organisations were invited to the meeting (not even Sustrans who have funded a lot of the existing infrastructure) whereas the ‘Dual the A75’ pressure group were invited.

– Active travel and/or walking and cycling barely get a mention in the report (one mention each) and then only in the context of the council’s Active Travel Strategy which has yet to be implemented.

We believe that active travel (particularly cycling) has a significant role to play in the region’s economy:

Inclusion

The summit noted the difficulties already in the region for those without access to a car. We propose that D&G council work with the Scottish Government to create a network of safe, direct and attractive cycle routes which can be used not just by fit adult cyclists but by those transporting children or using adaptive cycles (including e-bikes). These should prioritise linking all communities within a 5 mile radius to the train stations/major bus routes in the region. We consider safe routes to include lightly trafficked roads (less than 2,000 vehicles a day), separated cycle tracks along busier roads, and traffic-free routes away from roads (as long as they are well-lit and subject to winter maintenance). The evidence from the UK, continental Europe and North America is that where such routes are available, people choose to cycle and these routes particularly benefit women, older cyclists, people with disabilities (including those using mobility scooters) and those needing to transport children. This would make it easier for lower income households and particularly young adults to access work and education opportunities. It would also particularly benefit those who work outside normal office hours, when public transport is not widely available. Finally, more people cycling and walking can help to reduce isolation, especially in villages and towns.

Buses

The summit noted the problems of maintaining a sustainable rural bus service. We feel that cycling has a role to play here – multimodal journeys (e.g. cycling to the bus stop, or on from the bus) open up each bus route to a wider catchment area of passengers. For this to work, however, people need to be able to leave their bikes securely at bus stops, or take their bikes onto the buses. Bus stops could also offer secure charging points for e-bikes, which would attract a wider variety of cyclists. At the moment, only the 500 and the X74 bus routes take bikes. Although EU regulations make the carriage of bikes on rcks on buses complicated, it is not impossible (and most rural buses are empty enough that bikes could potentially be carried inside the bus with a bit of flexibility, especially if the wheelchair space is not in use). Encouraging people to cycle and walk within town centres instead of driving will also cut congestion, enabling more reliable bus services within towns.

The summit also noted the pressure that both the Dumfries Learning Town and the new hospital will put on bus services and the local road network. We believe that creating direct, safe, traffic-free routes between the schools and the learning hub, and to the new hospital (including a safe crossing of Garroch Loaning) will help to reduce private car usage and take pressure off the buses. In particular, there is no reason why most secondary school children could not cycle between education sites within Dumfries as long as the routes between them are safe. This would also have the benefit of increasing their activity rates during the day, with well-understood knock on benefits on learning, behaviour, health and obesity.

Rural economy

Dumfries and Galloway benefits from being on a number of long distance cycle routes, including the main west coast Lands End to John O’Groats route. Its network of quiet rural roads offer very attractive routes to touring cyclists who can spend large amounts of money in the local economy. However, it is not doing enough to maximise the benefit these visitors could bring. Better signposting of routes (including signposting passing cyclists to shops and cafes en route), better routes through towns and villages rather than skirting them, and potentially the conversion of disused railways to cycle routes, could all attract more visitors and encourage them to spend more.

Retail economy

Dumfries and Galloway benefits from a number of towns offering a good variety of specialist shops (Castle Douglas and Wigtown for example) while Dumfries is a major retail destination for the area having to compete with Carlisle and online shopping. We believe that by making these towns more attractive to active travel, retailers will benefit. Customers who cycle, walk or use public transport shop more often, and are more likely to visit independent local retailers rather than national out-of-town stores. This means a greater share of every pound they spend stays in the local economy. With more and more shopping moving online, high streets need to offer an attractive destination and pleasant experience to encourage shoppers to linger and window-shop which also encourages them to visit cafes, pubs and restaurants. By restricting the passage of cars through retail areas (while offering them plenty of free, attractive and convenient parking at the margins), streets automatically become more pleasant places to linger. This also encourages people to cycle and walk for short journeys, as it is less convenient to drive for trips of less than one mile.

Health

Regular active travel has obvious benefits for the health of the population, and those who cycle to work are less likely to take sick days off, with benefits to their employers. Dumfries and Galloway has high levels of poor health outcomes, most of which would be improved if people were more active, reducing pressure on the local NHS and care services. Building exercise into everyday activities, such as cycling to work, is also a more effective way to prevent weight gain, reducing obesity (and related health problems) overall.

The immediate actions we would like to see the area take are:

– The council to implement its Active Travel strategy in full.

– The Scottish Government to investigate ways to ensure that more central government funding for active travel comes down to the region (e.g. improve the scope and quality of the funding applications, and have more plans ready to submit when there are short notice opportunities for funding)

– All parties to ensure that any future considerations of transport issues give equal weight to active travel alongside road, rail and public transport.

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