Cycling Dumfries has been a supporter of Walk Cycle Vote since it started before the Holyrood election, but these council elections are even more crucial when it comes to improving conditions for cycling and walking in Dumfries.
The campaign is asking all local authority candidates to sign up to three clear pledges:
- Investment: Provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget
- Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure suitable for people of all ages and abilities
- Local action: To solve the main local barriers to active travel, as identified by residents and businesses
These could be transformative for active travel in Dumfries
Nationally, the efforts of campaigns like Pedal on Parliament and We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote means that the Scottish Government is investing much more money into cycling – but very little of that is reaching Dumfries. The reason is that schemes like Sustrans’ Community Links and Community Links Plus require councils to put in match funding. Councils like Edinburgh have committed to spending 10% of their transport budget on cycling – but Dumfries and Galloway only spend what is in their (ringfenced) Cycling Walking and Safer Streets fund. This limits the amount of money the area gets compared with the rest of Scotland, despite it having one of the higher cycling rates in the country. Ultimately, the failure of the council to put in a proper crossing at the Garroch Loaning came down to money. That’s why our doctors and nurses will be forced to ‘find a gap in the traffic’ if they want to take the healthy way to get to work when the new hospital opens.
Cycling doesn’t just require investment – it needs the right kind of investment. Bike lanes that leave you vulnerable to cars turning right into the Lidl car park will not make anyone feel like Brooms Road is an inviting place to cycle. Unfortunately, we are seeing too many schemes proposed that simply put paint on the road rather than creating space for people to cycle. When we object, or try and propose more ambitious solutions, we hit obstacles at every turn. Having political commitment to provide the right sort of infrastructure that enables everyone to cycle can help us overcome those barriers – and save the council from wasting time putting in cycle lanes nobody will use
Overcoming local barriers
All politics is local – and so is all cycling. It doesn’t help knowing that there’s a shiny new route to Mabie Forest if your route to work involves the Lockerbie Road. We hear a lot from people about why they don’t cycle – and it’s mainly because they don’t feel safe on the roads that they would have to use. We hope that our new councillors will be open to hearing from their constituents about where the barriers are for them – and taking action to get those barriers lifted. Whether it’s gritting paths, building bridges, putting in crossings, or literally removing barriers, the experts in this area are the people who face the problems every day.
It’s easy to be cynical about ‘the cooncil’. But every five years, we get a chance to take our complaints to the people who can make a difference and know that we will be heard. Please tell your candidates about We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote and urge them to sign up to these three pledges – you can find out if they have or not here. And come along if you can do our Candidates’ Cycle Ride and tell them yourself, in person.