Author Archives: sallyhinchcliffe

Double Trouble for Halloween …

After the success of our night ride for Halloween last year, we’re going to run another one – but this year there’s twice the fun with two rides, including one that’s more suitable for younger children

Ghost Riderz posterOn Wednesday 25th October, Buddies will be running a led ride and ghost hunt along the cycle paths beside the river and through Dock Park for anyone who fancies a bit of spooky fun – it will be on cycle paths and off road the whole way and Buddies can also arrange loans of bikes (including trikes) for those who don’t have their own, but please get in touch with them first to let them know if you need this.  Buddies supports adults with learning disabilities, but this ride is open to everyone and will be particularly suitable for families with young kids. Meet at Buddies on Castle St at 4:30 pm. Don’t believe in ghosts? Maybe this ride will change your mind!  Come in fancy dress if that’s your thing.

Halloween rideFor those who can manage a few more miles on quiet roads (around 26 miles, some quite hilly), and who have good lights on their bike, our  own Halloween Night Ride is on Sunday 29th October, just as the clocks go back.  Don’t put your bike away just because the evenings have gone dark – instead embrace the night and enjoy the dark skies of our country roads.

We’ll meet at Dock Park at 4pm, and then set out along the Maxwellton Path, up the Glen, towards Glenkiln Reservoir just as the dusk descends and the bats start to fly. We’ll climb up and descend past Speddoch, coming back along the Irongray Road into Dumfries again and undoubtedly the pub.

Note that we will be riding on unlit country roads, so it will be dark! You will need good lights, especially the front one.

night group shot

Who knows what terrifying creatures you might encounter …

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A fun-packed Saturday awaits: consultation event and our AGM

Mark your diaries because it is the Cycling Dumfries AGM on Saturday 7th October – we’ll be holding it at 4pm at the Aviation Museum at Heathhall. This will be in lieu of our regular Tuesday meeting.

And because AGMs sound a bit dull, we’re going to liven it up with a short easy ride beforehand – meet at Dock Park at 3pm for a gentle pootle up to Heathhall, passing a few Beat Boxes on the way. We should arrive in time for people to have a wander around the museum before getting down to serious business (and cake) at 4pm.

Hospital route consultationMeanwhile, we have had word of another consultation event about changes to the roads to prepare for the opening of the new hospital which will be held at Troqueer Primary School on Thursday 5th October (5-8pm) and Saturday 7th October (10am-2pm) – unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to comment online.

The plans as we currently understand them include some improvements over the current situation: a light-controlled crossing of the New Abbey Road, and a shared use path along the other side of the Dalbeattie Road, removing the need to cross it, or Park Road twice as currently happens.  Some of the changes have already proved controversial, although around 3/4 of those responding support the New Abbey Road crossing, and over 80% support the need for a safe cycling and walking route to the hospital. If you are likely to use this route, and feel the plans are an improvement on the current situation (or if you think they aren’t!) then please do try and go along and have your say. If you can’t make it, then you should also contact your councillors with your views.

This shows the proposed cycle route through Troqueer and along the Dalbeattie road (click for a more detailed version)

Proposed hospital route

Proposed hospital route – click for larger image

This shows the preferred option for crossing the New Abbey Road (click for a more detailed version)

New Abbey Road crossing plans

Detail of crossings for New Abbey Road – click for larger version

You can read in great detail about the options considered and the recommended plans in this report (particularly sections 3.7, 3.10 and 3.11) and the council’s decision (Section 17 of the committee minutes).

Our verdict is that the revised plans are a mild improvement on the version consulted on last February (see our verdict on those plans here), in that there will be waiting/parking restrictions on the Dalbeattie Road. This makes the proposed on-road cycle lanes for the top half of the Dalbeattie Road marginally less useless, as long as they are enforced. However, because there will be no change in priority between Dalbeattie Road and Park Road, we think that traffic levels on the Dalbeattie Road will be too high for comfortable cycling, even with bike lanes. It’s not clear whether the proposed 20mph limit for Hermitage Drive will also be extended to that section of the Dalbeattie Road either. We will continue to monitor the situation and plans and press for a route that keeps cyclists away from all but the lightest traffic.

It is also worth noting that whichever route cyclists or pedestrians take, they will still need to cross the Garroch Loaning (a national speed limit road) without the benefit of any traffic signals and we will continue to make the case for this situation to change.

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Dawn raiders…

sunrise

Despite the early start, our annual Bike Breakfast is one of the highlights of our cycling year – and this year’s was better than ever. Despite a sprinkling of rain, we had a record turnout of over 85 cyclists, and this year there were over 30 kids, including around 20 from St Michael’s primary school, who turned up en masse. This absolutely made our morning – it was great to see them arrive, looking full of confidence and skill. But there were others too, including some secondary school kids arriving independently, which is encouraging.

St Michaels pupils

Schoolkids arriving en masse from St. Michaels

The food – provided by the Usual Place – was as good as ever (as one participant remarked, you could smell the bacon from half way across town. Who needs posters, eh?) and we also had Fair Trade tea, coffee, juice, flapjacks and bananas.

Bike registering

Rhian was marking and registering bikes on the national Bike Register (invaluable if – heaven forbid – your bike is ever stolen), while Katie was our Dr. Bike, dealing with everything from flat tyres to maladjusted gear cables.

Dr Bike

It was also good to have a visit from the police, on their bikes of course, as they continue to rack up the Beat the Street points.

bike police

We also had good political support, with council leader Elaine Murray showing up on her bike, as did Jeff Leaver, while Ronnie Nicholson and Archie Dryborough were also there, as well as MSP Emma Harper. Douglas Kirkpatrick, SWestTrans Lead Officer, was also there to listen to complaints and suggestions about the cycle network, and managed to remain remarkable cheerful right to the end. Hopefully all the conversations were constructive – and we look forward to seeing what comes out of them over the next year.

Elaine Murray

Elaine Murray waiting for her tea to be poured

All in all, a great day – and worth all the hard work that goes into making it a success. Thanks go to our tireless volunteers for organising, publicising, chalking, flyering and getting it all set up. Thanks too to the council for making their forecourt available (even at the cost of prime parking spaces!), Sustrans for the loan of Katie and Rhian, the Usual Place for the grub and all of you who turned up and were such fantastic company.

Hands up all those who want us to do it again next year?

St Michaels kids

 

 

 

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Sweating the small stuff

Back in June we had a bit of a moan about the barriers to the new Aldi store off the Maxwelltown cycle path

chicane barriers on the Aldi path

Indeed, we didn’t just moan – we wrote to Aldi, and to the council, to see if they could be made more accessible by at least widening the gap between the barriers so that non-standard bikes such as trikes, tandems and hand cycles could also take advantage of the path up to the new shop.

Well glory be, it seems that someone has listened:

Lots of people have let us know about this – and we’ve had confirmation that a tandem can now get through, where it couldn’t before, so it has genuinely removed a barrier to cycling for those who can’t use a standard bike for whatever reason.

Whether it was our email or everyone else who contacted them, a sudden rush of common sense, or the fact that one of Aldi’s cycling specials is coming up (28th September) and they didn’t want to put off any of their likely customers, we don’t know. But it does show that it is worth raising these problems, large and small, whenever they arise. We’ll always do what we can to help draw attention to these sorts of barriers to cycling – and occasionally they may even get sorted out.

So thank you, whoever it was who sorted this out!

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Popping up in Irish Street

Although Cycling Dumfries was founded as a cycle campaign, these days we also want to support pedestrians too, particularly in the town centre, where shoppers and other people on foot should predominate.

illegal parking

Just because you can squeeze your vehicle onto the pavements behind the double yellow lines, doesn’t mean it isn’t still no parking!

Unfortunately, in recent years, it seems as if more and more cars have been creeping into streets like the High Street and Friars Vennel, which ought to be almost entirely pedestrianised. Without any traffic wardens any more, a few drivers have got into the habit of parking where they like. In particular, the spot outside the bakery on the Vennel – which ought to be a lovely sunny spot where people can linger and watch the world go by – has become just another parking spot

Friday 15th September was Park(ing) Day, where people around the world turn parking spaces into parks, so this gave us an idea… With the help of Cloud 9 Gallery, and Incredible Edible Dumfries, we pulled together some planters, chairs, astroturf, and a few other bits and pieces and turned this bit of pavement into a lovely pop up park.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect – whether people might think we were causing a nuisance, or just park on top of our nice ‘grass’ or simply ignore us, but in fact everyone who stopped to chat or passed was pretty positive (OK so we had a few confused drivers whose sneaky parking spot had disappeared – sorry about that! But we might have saved you a ticket).

tea break

T in the park! Enjoying a cuppa – all that chatting is thirsty work

All of the local shopkeepers seemed pretty much on board: as well as Cloud 9 keeping us well supplied with tea throughout the day, we got a loan of some flowers from Flowers on the Vennel and some sparkly butterflies from Reel Em In. The Douglas Arms chipped in with chocolate biscuits and cans of coke and a few other business owners stopped by for a chat.

Town Centre Ambassador

Dumfries’s Town Centre Ambassador, Lorraine Wilson, enjoying a nice sit down while we shared ideas over what could improve this part of town

Everyone agreed that illegal parking and poor driving was becoming a nuisance along the Vennel (we actually saw someone driving the wrong way down Irish Street, as well as lots of pavement parking and impatient behaviour in what is supposed to be a pedestrian space), and that they much preferred our park! There were suggestions for a tree (ideally with fruit), big planters and permanent benches, or maybe a statue.  Only two people actually complained – one driver who thought it might be illegal to put up ‘no parking’ signs, even though there were already double yellow lines, and one taxi driver who claimed he was picking up a passenger, which turned out to be a bacon roll from the bakery…

rain does not stop chat

Rain does not stop chat at the parklet, it just moves under the umbrella

Even a brief shower couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm (it helps when you have a big umbrella). We were quite sad when the time came to roll up our astroturf and slip away, returning the street to the cars – and we weren’t the only ones who were sorry to see it go

But while our popup park may have popped away again – that’s not the end of the story. Perhaps if there’s enough will, we can get some sort of parklet made permanent there. It needn’t be very elaborate, just a space to sit and chat … as we enjoyed all of Friday.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by

Chatting over biscuits

Buddies on bikes

Standard journalist

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10 Ways to Get the Most out of Beat the Street

Almost two weeks in to the Beat the Street game and we thought we’d give you our top ten tips maximise your points (especially if you’re signed up to the Cycling Dumfries team – we need to keep our place on the leaderboard!) but also the benefits to you …

1. Get on your bike

Sure, you can walk around the beat boxes easily enough – but to cover more than a handful of them in a go, a bike is the thing. It’s the quickest way around town when the traffic is bad anyway, and with lots of the beat boxes on the cycle paths, it almost feels like cheating to whiz between them on a bike! If you’re not comfortable riding in traffic, then try the Maxwelltown path – there are beat boxes at either end, and one half way along, as well as one just at the Cuckoo Bridge exit. The Caledonian path also has a few points you can easily pick up without getting out of your comfort zone.

Group at Kingholm Quay

Out hunting beat boxes last week

2. Go in a gang

The kids have worked this one out already – it’s more fun to play with friends, as we found last week. And it also makes riding on the roads feel a bit safer – you’re more visible as a group, and if you’re not that used to riding in traffic, then following the lead of a more experienced pal can be a great way to gain skills and confidence, as well as learn sneaky routes which avoid the worst roads

3. Find new places

Sure you could maximise your points by finding the two beat boxes which are closest together and riding back and forthe between them – but where’s the fun in that? Get the map out and look for some new places or work out new routes to old places – even if you’ve lived in Dumfries all your life you might well discover somewhere new.

Beat the Street map

Beat the Street – where will it take you?

4. Find new routes

There are some strange omissions in the beat box network, in our opinion – really not a single one on the Whitesands? – but that just means planning new routes around town that maximise point opportunities instead of sticking to the beaten path. You may even discover new routes which turn out to be better than your old ones.

5. Build it into your everyday life

You might not have time to get out cycling just to play a game – but if you can switch to riding your bike for trips you’ve got to make anyway, then you can multi-task. Have a look at the map and see if there are opportunities to walk or cycle some of those journeys, and you may actually find you’re saving yourself time (you’ll definitely be saving yourself money). If the roads look too scary, then maybe we can help with route planning – there are many unsigned cycle paths that you might not even have noticed that could take you off the worst roads.

bike at the butchers

Heading to the shops? A bike might actually be quicker than the car anyway – and you can park where you like

6. Make it the nudge you needed

It’s fairly common for people to think about cycling to work, or school or college for ages, but not to actually take the plunge until something finally tips the balance – and then when they do, they can’t believe it took them so long. If that’s you, why not use Beat the Street as the trigger for giving it a go? And again, we’re happy to help with routes if that’s what is holding you back.

7. Park and ride (or stride)

If you don’t live close enough to town to cycle in, or the roads are too hostile (think Collin, Torthorwald, Lochmaben…) you can still join in the fun AND save yourself some time by parking towards the edge of town and walking or cycling the last bit of the journey. There’s free all-day parking at places like Dock Park and Lochthorn Library, with plenty of opportunities to pick up points as you walk or cycle the final couple of miles. You’ll miss the worst of the traffic in town and have a great start to the day made all the sweeter as you pass everyone else stuck in a jam.

Health benefits

8. Challenge yourself

Already riding a bike or walking a fair bit? You can always benefit from stretching yourself that bit more and taking your fitness up to a new level. We’ve heard on our Facebook page that people have done all the beat boxes in one session (a 26 mile circuit), and others are running round the boxes. Even if that sounds a bit energetic, once you get the tapping habit, there’s always one more box within easy reach, and the next thing you know you’ve gone much further than you might have thought possible. If you log into the Beat the Streets page it tells you how many miles you have done – you might just surprise yourself.

Jim animation

9. Get into the habit

Challenges aside, the real benefits come when you start to make it a habit – and don’t let it stop once the game is over. Yes, you’ll no longer have the fun of seeing the points mount up or your team climbing the leaderboard – but you’ll still be out in the fresh air and getting some exercise, and that brings loads of benefits from improved health to saving money, better mood and weight loss (or at least being able to have that extra treat without feeling bad about it).

10. Get a free breakfast

Speaking of extra treats … don’t forget that on Friday 22nd of September we’re having our Big Bike Breakfast, and if you show up on a bike you get a free bacon roll (or vegetarian equivalent). It’s also a chance to meet councillors and council officials and let them know about all the changes you’d like to see having spent more time out and about on Dumfries’s streets and cycle paths. There’s a beat box right there at English Street so you’ll also get some extra points right there. And did we mention it was free?

bike breakfast reminder

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Hunting Beat Boxes …

Well that was a bit of fun!

Group at Kingholm Quay

Now where? Plotting our route to maximise our points 

We’ve been really impressed with the success of Beat the Street so far – and particularly to see so many people out on bikes, especially all the groups of children out on the cycle paths dashing between ‘beat boxes’.

We didn’t see why the kids should have all the fun, so we arranged to meet up before yesterday’s pub meeting and see just how many beat boxes we could manage to hit in an hour. Our members have been clocking up the points over the last week, but this seemed like a good way to give our total a boost (and see if we couldn’t catch up with the Police team …).

Our hunt took us to some new-to-us places in Dumfries, and it was good to see even more cyclists and pedestrians out and about although it did sometimes mean a queue to tap our cards

queue of cyclists

Queuing up to ‘tap in’

It also helped us find a few places where there were gaps in the network (especially getting up to the High Street – surely a pretty key destination for people to reach by bike!) which we’ll be adding to CycleScape.

Most importantly, we worked up a good thirst and after an hour we were ready to repair to the pub to make plans for the coming Bike Breakfast and other events. In total we managed 11 beat boxes in an hour – not bad going and hopefully inspiration for the remaining five weeks.

Has Beat the Street got you back on your bike, or encouraged you to use it more? Do share your stories with us if it has!

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