Author Archives: sallyhinchcliffe

Hospital routes – a site visit

On Saturday a couple of us took a ride out to Cargenbridge to have a look at where the proposed new routes to the hospital will be going. The plans are here (click for the full size version)

proposed routes

Proposed hospital routes – click for full size version

As you can see, the plan is for bikes to go down the Dalbeattie Road, and then dogleg along Hermitage Drive, before crossing where Park Road crosses the New Abbey Road now. There does seem to be an indication of an alternative route up Maxwell Street, which doesn’t quite take into account the fact that Maxwell Street goes vertically up the side of a hill – as cyclists, we’re all for a direct route, but deviating around the worst gradients is generally recommended.

There are some good features. Continuing the shared use pavement from Cargenbridge to the junction between Park Road and Dalbeattie Road avoids a nasty crossing at the moment

current crossing

Current crossing of the Dalbeattie Road to get to the shared use pavement on the other side

On the whole, we’re not fans of shared use pavements, but there is little foot traffic on this stretch of the road, so it’s probably acceptable.

Plans to improve the crossing of the New Abbey Road are also an improvement. At the moment this is such a tricky crossing, we have stopped taking family groups on it.

New Abbey Road crossing point

Where Park Road joins the New Abbey Road. Not at all easy to get across

However, we don’t think that on-road cycle lanes along the rest of the Dalbeattie Road will add anything at all to the cycling experience:

Dalbeattie Road

Lower end of the Dalbeattie Road

Either they will be parked on, in which case they will be pointless, or they will need to remove the parking altogether, in which case there would be room to put in a proper separated cycle track. However it’s possible there could be room here for Dumfries’s first parking-protected cycle lane, if they got rid of the centre line.

We still feel that the best bet would be to continue the current Park Road off-road path to the junction with New Abbey Road. There are fewer pedestrians to contend with and less demand for parking, plus it’s more direct for cyclists who intend to go along Rotchell Road and then down to Suspension Brae, or indeed on to Troqueer.

end of the Park road path

Park Road path, which currently just ends, on a bend.

We would also suggest extending the Park Road path in the other direction, all the way down past the roundabout and Garroch Loaning. This would  then enable cyclists to avoid crossing the Garroch Loaning altogether, if the current pavement on the far side of the road was extended all the way up to the viaduct

other end of the path

The other end of the Park road Path. If the road was a bit narrower here to make room for a wider path, speeds would be slower too.

If that’s all too difficult with land ownership, then we’d suggest closing one end of the Dalbeattie Road off altogether, reducing through traffic, so there would be no need for separate lanes.

If you want to put these or any other points to the council, don’t forget tomorrow’s consultation – pop in to Troqueer Primary School from 2 to 7:30 to have your say.

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Routes to the new hospital: An update

hospital-access-consultationAs most folk in Dumfries will be aware, the new hospital will be out at Cargenbridge – and we’ve been pressing for over three years now for improvements to the cycling routes to the site once it has opened.

Unfortunately, we have not been successful in securing much in the way of improvements to the crossing of Garroch Loaning. Work will start next week to provide a cycle path past the roundabout and a new crossing on the other side of the roundabout, with some road narrowings to make it easier to get across, but no provision for a toucan crossing. We are extremely disappointed with this, because nobody we talk to, with the exception of road engineers, seems to think that is enough to encourage people to cycle to the new site. We will continue to press for the viaduct to be opened, as that would remain the gold standard for crossing what will be an extremely busy road once the hospital is up and running.

However, that is not the only route to the hospital, and the council have just started consulting on the alternative route, along the Dalbeattie Road and across the New Abbey Road. This is another very tricky crossing (we have stopped running our summer rides along that route because it is too difficult to manage with a group or with children) so any improvements will be appreciated. At first glance, the plans do not look all that promising but you can see for yourself here, here and here.

Please do go along to the consultation if you can. There has been some unease among residents about the reassignments of priorities between Park Road and Dalbeattie Road, so nothing is set in stone. The more cyclists’ voices can be heard on this matter, the better.

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Punctures and petitions on our fourth winter ride

Group assembles on the Whitesands

There was another good turnout for Sunday’s ride, with fourteen of us assembling on the Whitesands (fifteen, initially, until Rhian noticed her front tyre was coming apart and decided to make a detour via Halfords).

After a brief pause to fix a fellow cyclist’s puncture, we set off in what turned out to be another fine winter’s day, apart from a very brief shower (just after an unwise remark about how lucky we had been with the weather).

With a larger group, and a variety of abilities and preferred cycling pace, we decided to let the group split into two or three different speeds. This also makes cycling along the Bankend Road a little more relaxing than having to deal with drivers fazed by encountering a big bunch of cyclists!

At Brow Well

Once at Brow Well, we enjoyed the warmth of the winter sunshine, fixed another puncture, and contemplated eighteenth century medical practice (Burns had attempted to be cured here by wading out into the Solway in winter …). A full Burns Supper was impractical on a bike, but we did manage some ‘mini haggises’ (actually cocoa covered date balls) and some flapjacks, including some Cranachan-inspired ones complete with a tot of whisky in the mix.

Next stop was Caerlaverock Castle tea rooms – but first we were reunited with Rhian, who had a new front tyre but was now wrestling with a puncture on her back wheel – two spare inner tubes later (and a back wheel that was reluctant to go back on), we got her back on the road again. As the front group had gone on ahead once it was clear it wasn’t going to be a speedy repair, this at least eased any congestion in the tea rooms.

petition signing

Signing the petition on the blind bend in question! Thanks to Rona and John for taking up this battle

For the tail enders, there was one final stop, just past Kelton, to meet Rona and John Carson and sign their petition for lower speeds on the Glencaple road. Standing on the blind bend where they live, it was clear that this was a very dangerous spot, made all the more so by the 60mph limit. Unfortunately the council are very rigid about lowering speed limits on rural roads – we would like to see them following Clackmannanshire’s lead and make some rural roads far more cyclist, walker and horse-friendly.

If you didn’t manage to sign the petition on Sunday, you can do so online – it only takes a minute and it would make a big difference.

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A Safer Glencaple Road?

We’ve written about the Glencaple Road before, but as you may have seen on Facebook and Twitter, now someone is taking action about it.

If you haven’t done so already, please sign this petition calling for road improvements, including lowering the speed limit from 60mph to 40 from Kelton village to beyond the houses at Kelton Bank.

As anyone who has cycled on this road will know, you do tend to get many fast and close passes from drivers – we’ve stopped running our summer rides along it, because it really doesn’t feel pleasant to ride along with children. Given this is part of our National Cycle Network, it’s time it was made safer for cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and local residents.

As we’ll be in the area on Sunday for our Rantin’ Rovin’ Winter Ride,  the plan is to stop off at Kelton on the way back to briefly meet the petitioners and publicise their campaign.

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A cracking start to 2017

Well, we were hopeful we would get a good turnout for our new year’s day ride – but we never quite know who’s going to show up to these things, even on a perfect winter morning for cycling.

cyclists gathering

Participants gathering at the start

We certainly didn’t expect 27 people to decide that the only sensible way to kick off the new year was a bike ride – but after all, who can argue with that? Indeed so unprepared were we, that we didn’t even manage to get a group shot of everyone before we set off. Still, we did at least manage to get a photo of Rhian’s bubble-blowing set up – surely the must have bike accessory for 2017 – as we set off along the Whitesands.

bubble blowing bike

Bubbles just visible!

Avoiding the path down to Kingholm Quay which was likely to be busy with walkers, we rode up through Castledykes Park (the group keeping together remarkably well given the sudden change in gradient) and then through the Crichton before taking the Bankend Road down to the Caerlaverock Wetlands Centre. With such a big group, and a fair few cars out (though mostly very patient drivers), we soon naturally divided up into two or three bunches, allowing those who had rashly worn shorts to power ahead to keep warm.

We regrouped at the turnoff to Caerlaverock (and had a minor ‘fender bender’ pile up, fortunately at slow speed – too much chatting to pay attention to an unannounced stop ahead), and then made the final run down to the Wetland Centre where soup and bacon rolls were very much the order of the day – as well as the usual chat, bike related and not.

post lunch group shot

Post-lunch line up – about to tackle the headwind …

By the time we got the traditional group shot, a few had set off for home already – and others were still finishing the last mouthful of cake in the cafe, but it gives an idea of the size of the ride.

Once on the road again we faced the reality of the headwind, and as we were on the slightly busier Shore Road, again split up into a faster (and more skimpily dressed) bunch at the front, and those of us who like to chat at the back.  This allowed people to ride home at  their own pace, after what had been a grand day out with some great company – it’s only a shame that with so many people, it wasn’t possible to get to know all of the new faces as well as catch up with old hands.

The next ride will be on the 29th January, when in honour of Robert Burns we will ride out to Brow Well. We hope we’ll see a similar turn out – and equally kind winter weather

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If wishes were bicycles …

bike skid roadsignWe Walk, We Cycle, We Vote is asking what people would like to see changed in 2017. We will be starting 2017 off as we mean to go on – but we also hope that there will be improvements in Dumfries’s cycling network in the year to come and beyond.

In all our conversations with people, there’s one theme that emerges time and time again. We all know that having kids cycle to school is a good thing – good for the kids, good for the parents, good for school results (children who cycle or walk to school concentrate better than those who are driven, for example) – even good for drivers, who don’t find the roads clogged up as soon as the schools go back. And most children love the thought of cycling to school if they can, especially if their friends can do it too. In town, a lot of kids already walk to school – but for some the distances are just too far, especially in the outlying villages, where families aren’t entitled to free transport if they live within two miles (three for children over eight) of the school.

Wish for cycling

The problem is that we just don’t have a comprehensive enough safe network of cycle routes that would allow all children to choose cycling for those distances. We know from our summer rides that cycling two or three miles is well within the capabilities of most primary school children – as long as they’re separated from fast, busy traffic. In town they can manage on the pavement (but that’s not ideal for everyone else and is technically illegal even for a small child) but there are many rural roads without even a footpath and where children might be mixing with cars going at 60 mph. That’s stressful even for adult cyclists, let alone a small child (or more to the point the parent of a small child).

waiting for repairs

So here’s what we’d like to see in 2017. We’d like to see the council make a start towards designing a network that makes safe cycling to school possible for every child within the catchment. Safe enough for primary-age children with their parents, and secondary school age ones on their own. It can’t be done in a year, of course, but it would be wonderful if this became the council’s own stated aim – with a plan to make it happen.

What’s your wish for 2017?

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2016: A Year in Review

For those of you who are not members (and why not?) here is our year end newsletter – it’s been a busy year!
With Christmas looming (and our New Year’s Day ride coming up – please do come out and make a start on burning off the excess Christmas calories) it seemed like a good opportunity look back on what has been – for us at least! – a busy and largely successful year.
completed challenge cards

Two happy participants in our bike message challenge

We started the year with the news that we’d won a Cycling Scotland grant for our Bike Message Challenge, and thanks to the herculean efforts of Rhian Davies, we signed up huge numbers of shops and organisations to take part; who even knew there were so many shops in the town centre? We didn’t get quite as massive a response this year among actual cyclists, but those who took part enjoyed it and we made some good new contacts (and signed up some new members) so all in all it has been worth the effort and we are actively considering running it again next year and letting it build up. It also introduced us to Buddies, and we’ll hopefully be helping them get on their bikes more frequently in 2017
smiles on the bike

One lad’s cycling career begins the way we like to see it – all smiles!

We’ve also been working with Cycling UK (formerly the CTC) in two capacities – they helped fund our first ‘Bike Curious’ Family workshop (building on the try a bike activity we ran at the Environment Fair) for those who wanted to learn more about cycling with children. Despite monsoon-type rain on the day (the curse of Dock Park strikes again) this was a great success and I have been told that the wee boy who got his bike fixed (and learned to ride it) that day has barely been off it since, so that in itself counts as a win. We’re also doing more joint rides with the local member group (still known as D&G CTC) which has boosted turnout on our winter rides.
night group shot

Kicking off our winter rides season with a Halloween night ride …

Our summer rides have also continued to be a success, attracting both beginning riders (of all ages) and some old hands and introducing people to cycle routes and little known places of interest around Dumfries. Despite some very wet Saturdays, and the closure of the Loreburne Bridge, the rides were always great fun and a pleasure to lead – mechanical incidents and all.
12 Apostles

Summer ride to the 12 Apostles, the stone circle nobody’s ever heard of

This September’s bike breakfast – ably catered by Bill Johnstone – was another growing success. We saw increased numbers and as always it was a chance for those who ride to work to raise issues directly with councillors and officials. This year we made it even easier with the introduction of Cyclescape which allows you to enter issues that you’d like to see fixed online. Please do give it a go – the council assure us they are monitoring it and while they don’t have a huge budget for fixes, small changes like dropped kerbs will get prioritised. Of course we’ll keep on pressing for the big things too.
bike breakfast crowd

Conversations going with a swing at the Bike Breakfast

Speaking of which, the issue of the crossing at the Garroch Loaning continues to loom large – and with progress being made on building the new hospital, this will soon become urgent. We have continued to make representations on this behind the scenes, and we are now assured that the crossing point will be moved to a position with better sight lines (past the roundabout). This will improve things for regular cyclists who don’t mind ‘finding a gap’ and are confident that they can get across the road safely, but it will remain a barrier for pedestrians, those cycling with children, slower or less confident cyclists. We remain concerned that this will prove a problem for efforts to get more people cycling to work at the new hospital and will continue to press hard for a solution that works for everyone. This huge new investment in the area offers a real opportunity to encourage active travel and it would be a shame if it was missed for the sake of a little forward-thinking investment on a single weak link in an otherwise excellent route.
candidates at the start

Candidates for Holyrood getting on their bikes earlier this year – watch this space for council candidates doing the same next year

Looking forward to 2017, we have some plans in the pipeline – including the coming local authority elections. But for now, we’d just like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a wonderful new year. And we hope to see you all, on your bikes, at Devorgilla Bridge on January 1st to usher in the next 12 months.
Indeed it’s been such a busy year that I forgot the Christmas tree festival and the candidate’s bike ride! Too much going on …

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