We see from the Courier on Friday that there are plans in hand to open up towns in the region again – and to encourage people to walk, cycle and wheel into town if they can. The results from our two surveys – in town, and out in the country – show that people are cycling (and walking) in huge numbers, showing that the willingness to do it is there, as long as the conditions are right. But will this last as traffic returns in full force? We worry that if people aren’t given the space to do so safely, many will default to using the car and an opportunity to make Dumfries a healthier (and happier) place will be lost.
As the article mentions, there has been a lot of work done on cutting back the vegetation on the cycle paths going into town, which we welcome to give people more space – but what about once people are in the town centre? The article implies that there will be some measures including making space outside shops, which we welcome, but there’s not much information.
We did have some input into plans for the council’s Spaces for People bid but we have no idea whether any of our suggestions will be taken up or not. For what it’s worth, we suggested pavement widening, retiming of pedestrian lights so that people could cross in one go, and exempting cyclists from the one-way regulations in the town centre so they could safely access the High Street. We also suggested removing some of the barriers around pavements e.g. near schools and around English Street, selected road closures to reduce rat-running through streets where people live, and ‘school street’ closures (during school run time) when schools go back. Indeed, some of these measures could be permanent – we raised many of them back in February long before this all started on our ride with council officers.
Some of these measures could take time to implement but there are some other really simple interventions that could be done now – and which wouldn’t have much impact on those who do need to drive. We’ve tweeted them in this thread but repeat them here for those not on Twitter.
First, where parking restrictions are already in place, then coning off some of the street would make space for pedestrians, and also hopefully reduce illegal parking. Some of those parking are blue badge holders – who often can’t use the official disabled parking spaces because of able-bodied drivers abusing them, so this should be combined with enforcement of all parking in the town centre.
Second, the Whitesands is getting very busy and it now actually feels a bit anti-social to cycle down it as there are so many pedestrians. Many cyclists are taking to the carparks (which are still pretty empty). As we’ve mentioned before, coning off a lane for cycling (while still leaving plenty of room for parking) would make a big difference and reduce conflict, making it easier for older people, wheelchair users, and other vulnerable pedestrians to use the Whitesands safely.
Even when the shops open, a little bit of rearrangement would create a nice wide cycle path and still leave space for the currently reduced levels of parking needed here. But if we don’t do it soon, it will be too late.Third – the reduction in traffic has shown how over-engineered some of our roads are. Do we really need three lanes on Shakespeare Street, separating the car park in Brooms Road from the town centre? If we coned off one of these lanes, we could make much more room for people to get from Brooms Road car park, without using narrow passageways like Globe Inn Close.
Similarly Bank Street would be wide enough to move the parking out a few feet and create space for pedestrians along the currently narrow pavements. Making the top half two-way for cyclists and one-way for cars would create a welcoming route to the town centre for those coming to shop by bike (as the council is encouraging us to do!)
Finally, there are some really quick wins just from moving bins – for instance here at the Kirkpatrick MacMillan bridge, moving the bin a few yards would allow cyclists and pedestrians who are not going onto the bridge to avoid the pinchpoints created by the railings and chicanes at the top.
The people of Dumfries have shown that they’d love to walk and cycle more – and it’s been fantastic to see so many happy families out on their bikes. So we think it’s only right that they should be given the space to do so as we reopen our towns. If you agree, please do email your councillors and let them know – you can find out who yours are here. The more people tell them that that’s what they want to see, the more likely the council will do something about it.