Normally about this time of year we spend a lot of time trying to get the various cycle paths around Dumfries cleared of fallen leaves before they turn into a lethal slick of leaf mulch. We report dangerous leaf build up using the council’s own ‘Report it’ tool (on the front page of council’s website), follow up with emails to officials, and even chase up our councillors. Unfortunately, these efforts usually aren’t all that successful – or at least not until we take matters into our own hands and clear at least one path ourselves.
This year, though, nothing has been as expected – and it seems that even extends to leaf clearing. We were delighted to see that the station path (which is usually leaf clogged for most of the winter) had been beautifully cleared this week.
Similarly the stretch of the Caledonian up to the Moffat Road (and beyond) was also cleared, and they’d done a nice job of it too (and even Cuckoo Bridge, which tends to have a lot of litter as well as leaves collected at the edges, making it quite unsalubrious, had clearly been tidied up).
‘Leaves on the line’ aren’t just an issue for trains – wet fallen leaves can be just as slippy as black ice and we regularly get reports of cyclists breaking an arm or worse at this time of year from coming off their bikes. Far too often in the past, we have got the impression that the council just wait until all the leaves are down (which may not be until well into December) before starting to clear them – by which time too many cyclists will have either taken an unnecessary tumble, or simply been put off and put their bikes away until spring. Clearing the paths right back to the edges also makes social distancing easier and means cyclists and pedestrians can share paths more easily and comfortably, without being squeezed together on a narrow strip of clear tarmac in the middle.
So we’re really delighted at this change of heart on the part of the council – and we hope it’s not simply a one off, but a new approach to path maintenance (following on from the improvement in gritting and de-icing from last winter).
We know that not all the paths have been done (yet) and that the leaves will keep falling and the paths will need to be done again before too soon but for now let’s rejoice at the sight of a well-cleared path and say thank you to the council for making autumnal cycling in Dumfries much safer and more pleasant than it was before.