Cycling Dumfries: Ten years on

Cycling Dumfries is coming up to an important milestone: on May 26th it will be exactly 10 years since we held our inaugural meeting in what was then Mi Amore on Bank Street and got our fledgling campaign off to a flying start.

Since then, much has changed (if nothing else Mi Amore has gone through several different incarnations) but some things stay the same. At that first meeting we asked people what the burning issues were for cycling in Dumfries and this was the response

  • A decent cycle route from the east (e.g. Collin) into Dumfries, without cyclists having to tackle either the A75 or any big roundabouts, and quieter roads in from Glencaple and New Abbey as well
  • Better bike bus services, with the 500 consistently providing space for bikes and bikes allowed on other buses in the region too. And good covered bike racks at bus stops in the outlying villages
  • A more joined up bike network in the town, with routes that go somewhere useful rather than just out and back
  • Clearer signposting for bikes coming off the cycle paths and onto the roads with clearly marked routes up to the shops
  • Lower speed limits – preferably 20mph in all built up areas, not just around the schools
  • Better maintenance of the bike paths that are built, with broken glass and thorns swept off, potholes repaired and the snow cleared and the paths gritted in the winter (indeed, the pavements could do with this as well, with people forced to walk in the roads after the snow last winter and the winter before)
  • Better and more secure cycle parking…
  • …And the political will to do something about it.

Of these issues, some progress has been made in recent years. We now have slightly better maintenance of the cycle paths, especially winter gritting, while the 20mph limit in town has been expanded somewhat (including a trial extension as part of the Spaces for People funding, which is under review now; you can submit your feedback here by the way). We’ve just seen new cycle racks put up on the Whitesands and on the High Street, with hopefully more on the way. The town’s cycle network has got slightly more joined up with handy cut-throughs put in between Newall Terrace and Great King Street, for example, which joins the station to the town centre.

New bike parking

After 10 years of campaigning locally, combined with national initiatives which mean there is more funding for active travel in Scotland, we do feel that council officials and councillors alike pay a bit more attention to the need to make cycling an attractive mode of transport for everyone, not just those who are already ‘keen’ cyclists. And we’re seeing many more people on bikes in the town, especially since the start of the pandemic.

Yet much remains to do to make Dumfries a place where everyone can use a bike, or trike (or mobility scooter) to get around freely everywhere. Back in 2012 we identified some of the more glaring missing links in the network, and many of those are still an issue today.

Mixed Messages

Unfortunately, we can’t afford to wait another 10 years to see just incremental progress in conditions for cycling and walking. As part of tackling the climate emergency, we need to make it easier and more attractive for people to start leaving their cars at home for more and more short journeys. The council has recognised the urgency of the situation and declared a climate emergency, while the new Scottish government has promised to increase the share of funding going to active travel. That means we have the opportunity to start closing the remaining gaps in the network – as long as the will is there to do so.

We’ll start by updating our list of missing links and making suggestions as to how to close them. You can help by adding your ideas in – especially if there are gaps which are preventing you or your family from cycling for some trips instead of driving. The council is (over)due to update its active travel strategy so we’ll be making the case to try and get these gaps closed as quickly as possible. Hopefully before another ten years have passed!

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