Of Coos and Crossings

Pop Dumfries poster
Poster for our Mad Cow Ride!

As we announced last week we’re joining in with the Pedal on Parliament Pop-up Pops weekend of action with our own Mad Cow Ride – a tour of some of the worst crossings for pedestrians and cyclists in Dumfries.

We chose to focus on crossings because they’re a real Achilles’ heel in Dumfries’s cycling network. We’ve got some great cycle paths and some amazing rural roads, but they’re not as joined up as they could be because when it comes to crossing the road then it’s clear that people on foot and on bikes are considered second class citizens – they mustn’t do anything to slow the flow of motorised traffic.

map of route
The map of our planned route – click on the map for more details

The route of the ride takes us through some of the most glaring examples (although it’s by no means all of them!) This post is to just to explain why we’ve chosen them and how we think they can be improved.

So sit back, relax, and join us on a pictoral tour of the crossings of Dumfries:

Dock Park

Dock Park crossing
Crossing into Dock Park with a couple of the Buddies bikes

To be fair, the council are planning to upgrade this crossing and have had some funding from Sustrans to look at options for it. However, it’s been a long time coming (almost as long as it takes to get a decent sized group of cyclists across). Anyone who’s been on any of our summer rides knows what this crossing is like if you need to cross safely with children and wait for the green man/bike. Add in non-standard bikes or trikes, and the fact that sometimes the green man simply doesn’t come on, and it can be very slow and stressful using this crossing. Dock Park needs a better entrance than this.

The Vennel Crossing

Crossing to the Vennel
Run! You’ve got 5 seconds to cross here. Usain Bolt might manage it …

There’s a lot that’s right about this crossing – it’s a single stage crossing, there’s no railing penning you in, and it is a nice connection between the river and the town. But the green man/bike lasts for just 5 seconds (and you can be waiting for almost a minute depending on when it last came one). That’s fine for alert able-bodied people, but if you’re a bit slow off the mark, then the green man will have gone before you’ve even left the kerb. Hurry! Hurry! Mustn’t keep the important cars waiting …

Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park

Cuckoo Bridge crossing
Crossing to the Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park. Via a drive-thru …

Cyclists and pedestrians make good customers – plenty of studies have shown that they spend more than people who drive to the shops, yet the entrance to the Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park couldn’t be less welcoming if you’re not driving. It takes two stages to cross the road, and there’s a narrow traffic island that’s caged in to make it extra awkward. And once you’ve negotiated that, you have to go past the exit to the KFC drive thru – hopefully its customers will be paying attention to where they’re going rather than their meal…

KFC drive thru
Here’s how cyclists and pedestrians enter the Cuckoo Bridge retail park now … right past the drive thru exit

The ‘McDonalds’ Crossing

Mc Donald's Crossing
Another two-stage crossing with a narrow fenced-in island (and an endless wait).

Crossing the A76 into Lochside is no better. Despite the fact that this crossing joins the new campus with the new learning hub, priority is clearly given to those in their cars heading for a Big Mac rather than pupils who may be going between the two on foot. This crossing can take ages for the lights to change, you have to cross in two stages, and there’s barely room in the middle for one bike.  Compare and contrast the huge amount of space given to the entrance and exit of McDonalds. Is this really where our priorities lie as a town?

McDonalds entrance
Are three lanes – and a nice sweeping curve – really necessary to allow cars in and out of the drive thru?

The Garroch Loaning

Garroch crossing
Heading to the new hospital? Here’s where they wouldn’t put a proper crossing …

We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the crossing to the hospital in the last few years – and while the new crossing is an improvement on the old one, it still means that anyone wanting to get from the Maxwelltown Path to the cycle path to the hospital has to find a gap in the traffic in what is officially a 60mph road. We went round and round in circles on this one – but at the end of the day, if the will was there, we think the council could have either put in a proper green man crossing here – or bought the land needed to use the viaduct as a bridge.

Garroch loaning crossing NCN 7
The other crossing of the Garroch

But it’s even worse at the bottom of the road. This crossing is part of NCN 7 – supposedly a national flagship route – as well as the council’s route to Mabie Forest, but the dropped kerb doesn’t even line up with the traffic island. This is a 30mph limit just here so there could have been a proper crossing here, rather than some faded paint and a dropped kerb.

Dalbeattie Road

Crossing the Dalbeattie Road
Another ‘find a gap and run for your life!’ crossing

And it gets worse if you want to use the cycle path back into town via Troqueer…  Crossing the Dalbeattie road onto the path, you don’t even get a traffic island. Although technically in the 30 mph limit, the cars go fast here and when it’s busy, good luck finding a gap in both directions big enough to cross.  Again, we know the council have plans to put a wider shared-use path on the other side of the road eventually – but those plans have already gone through two iterations and they still haven’t worked out how it will all work between here and the New Abbey Road.

end of the Park Road route
Where the Park Road track ends …

Meanwhile, this is what greets you if you do manage to cross and continue on down Park Road. Right on a bend, with poor visibility, the cycle path just … ends. Time to rejoin the road and take your chances with the traffic. That’s fine for fit, confident cyclists, but it’s no good for families, less confident riders, or anyone who’d actually prefer not to have  cars squeezing past them on the road.

And the rest

There’s more … including the complete lack of any safe way to cross from Newall Terrace to the station – but we end with this interesting puzzle:

Whitesands to the Loreburne Centre
A crossing without a cycle path…

This pedestrian and cycle crossing is a bit of a puzzle because there’s no cycle path on the other side of it. Head up towards the Loreburn Centre and you’re suddenly going the wrong way into the bus stances. We don’t know what the plans are here – but it’s been like that for several years now. Just one more disjointed piece in the half-finished puzzle that is the Dumfries cycle network. But at least this is one junction that’s actually just as much of a pain in the neck in a car as on a bike …

If you think that the town could do more to make riding a bike (or walking) as inviting as driving a car, then please join us on Sunday 28th April for our Mad Cow Ride. Because cows get to cross the road in relative comfort  in Dumfries and Galloway – and we think people should be able to too!

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