Missing Links: Cuckoo Bridge Retail Centre

This is the latest in our series of detailed ‘missing links’ posts as we explore the gaps in the active travel network in and around Dumfries. Coming in no particular order (as we manage to write them up) we continue with another shopping area, which could also gain from making itself more accessible to those without a car…

Today’s missing links post is a tale of two supermarkets – Aldi and Tesco, both of which can be found a stone’s throw from the Maxwelltown Path, the flagship part of our traffic-free network. Yet, as the following aerial shot shows, getting to one from the path is a lot more straightforward than getting to the other.

To get to the Aldi – the pink line on the map – is simple (at least now they’ve moved the barriers out a bit so that they’re easier to negotiate) – straight up the path which comes out right by the cycle parking and very close to the entrance. 

To get to Tesco, or any of the shops in the Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park from the nearest point on the path, is a little more complicated (the yellow line on the map). First you have to keep going under the Glasgow Road and up beside the Bridge on the other side. So now you’re on the wrong side of a busy road and the crossing looks like this (we’ve blogged about it before …)

Cuckoo Bridge crossing with railings in the central island and two stages for pedestrians to cross
Crossing to the Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park. Via a drive-thru …

Once you’ve waited for both sets of lights and negotiated your bike or shopping trolley or wheelchair or double buggy through the barriers in the middle, you’re faced with your next obstacle:

KFC drive thru with shared use path going right across the exit.
Here’s how cyclists enter the Cuckoo Bridge retail park now … right past the drive thru exit

Yes, the most prominent cycling entrance to one of our biggest shopping areas is through the exit of a drive through KFC (if you don’t fancy joining the A76 and going round the roundabout, which most of us don’t). You can continue on the shared use path to the main entrance, although this then drops you out on the wrong side of the main road into the retail park, and straight into a second roundabout (and the Costa drive through…).

Coming from town is a little better, in that the crossing from Goldie Park onto the shared use path beside the retail park is a single cycle of the lights, although you’re still very much on your own once you’ve crossed and want to access the shops. All in all, cycling feels very much like an afterthought, rather than something that has been encouraged and built in from the start. 

The other entrance to the retail park. There’s nothing for bikes here except a dropped kerb to get you off the shared use pavement

The difference between these two destinations is in a sense a good news story – when the Aldi opened four years ago, it was a planning requirement that there was direct access to the Max Path for cyclists and pedestrians (it took a bit of lobbying to stop the barriers from blocking access to tandems and adaptive bikes, but we got there in the end). When active travel is built into developments from the start, it’s a lot easier and cheaper than trying to add them on to a car-centric design after everything has been built.

Out of town retail parks can have a detrimental effect on the town centre, but places like Cuckoo Bridge are part of Dumfries now, and at the very least, they should be more accessible by bike from all directions, and people shouldn’t be made to wait endlessly for crossings or sent the long way round while cars just go straight in.

There are three clear things that need to be done here to make active travel the more attractive option. First, and most importantly, the crossing of the Glasgow Road needs to be updated to prioritise those walking and wheeling, and cycling (as is laid out in the sustainable transport hierarchy). This means removing the barriers, to make it more accessible, and allowing people to cross in a single cycle of the lights, rather than having to wait in the middle for the green man. 

Second, the entrance to the retail park shouldn’t send people down a steep path right into conflict with drivers using the KFC, with poor sight lines for those exiting the drive through and into a carpark – instead, it should connect up to a clear and direct pathway to both sets of shops, and with an improved cycle route from both crossings of the Glasgow Road into the retail park.

Third, there should be a direct entrance from the Maxwelltown Path into the retail park as there is for the Aldi. This could be fairly easily done, although it would be for the retail park owners to do, rather than the council. A path would need to be built up into the back of the park and safely separated from the lorries delivering to the shops on that side.

Some of these changes are the remit of the council and some would need the owners of Cuckoo Bridge to be on board, particularly putting a direct link in from the path, and improving the routes (and the cycle parking – a topic for another day) within the retail park itself. However, by working in partnership the council and the owners could significantly improve access to this key part of the town’s economy – and help enable more people to make their retail trips sustainable, wherever they choose to shop. 

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