We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote is asking what people would like to see changed in 2017. We will be starting 2017 off as we mean to go on – but we also hope that there will be improvements in Dumfries’s cycling network in the year to come and beyond.
In all our conversations with people, there’s one theme that emerges time and time again. We all know that having kids cycle to school is a good thing – good for the kids, good for the parents, good for school results (children who cycle or walk to school concentrate better than those who are driven, for example) – even good for drivers, who don’t find the roads clogged up as soon as the schools go back. And most children love the thought of cycling to school if they can, especially if their friends can do it too. In town, a lot of kids already walk to school – but for some the distances are just too far, especially in the outlying villages, where families aren’t entitled to free transport if they live within two miles (three for children over eight) of the school.
The problem is that we just don’t have a comprehensive enough safe network of cycle routes that would allow all children to choose cycling for those distances. We know from our summer rides that cycling two or three miles is well within the capabilities of most primary school children – as long as they’re separated from fast, busy traffic. In town they can manage on the pavement (but that’s not ideal for everyone else and is technically illegal even for a small child) but there are many rural roads without even a footpath and where children might be mixing with cars going at 60 mph. That’s stressful even for adult cyclists, let alone a small child (or more to the point the parent of a small child).
So here’s what we’d like to see in 2017. We’d like to see the council make a start towards designing a network that makes safe cycling to school possible for every child within the catchment. Safe enough for primary-age children with their parents, and secondary school age ones on their own. It can’t be done in a year, of course, but it would be wonderful if this became the council’s own stated aim – with a plan to make it happen.
What’s your wish for 2017?