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Back in the saddle for our first Discovery Ride!

After months of lockdown – and weeks of planning – it was pure delight simply to be back running a group ride on Sunday afternoon, especially given the gorgeous weather!

Smaller group sets off from Dock Park

Although we’re now under the ‘rule of six’ in Scotland – with only two households only able to meet at a time outdoors – organised rides can still go ahead as long as they follow the guidelines set down by Sport Scotland. This has meant a lot of changes to how we run our rides, not least requiring people to book in advance, but fortunately it hasn’t put people off. Indeed, with 25 people turning out on Sunday we probably had one of our biggest days out ever!

Group being briefed on the other side of the crossing (no word on when there will be any changes to make this crossing safer for social distancing!)

In order to manage everything safely, we actually ended up running three group rides, with each smaller group setting off once enough people were assembled, in order to prevent too big a group setting off (and to prevent people from getting bunched up at the Dock Park crossing which, predictably, is also not working properly for pedestrians and bikes at the moment. We also had to maintain social distancing during the ride – fortunately, at around 1.8m long on average, a bike is a handy guide to keeping people 2m apart.

group of cyclists at the destination
No group photo but this was one of our smaller groups.

It all felt a little strange at first, but once we were riding along – and especially once we’d reached the 12 Apostles and could take the time to explore – it quickly felt like just another pleasant bike ride in the afternoon sunshine. It’s always a pleasure to introduce people to new routes and new places whatever else is going on in the world!

group approaching the stones
Approaching the stone circle

We had some familiar faces and some new people, including a few who have returned to cycling during the lockdown, and it was actually a benefit to have multiple groups as this meant people could ride at their own pace without feeling they were inconveniencing the whole ride. Two of the groups took a longer route back, via the Hardthorn Road, while one group was content to enjoy the magic of how you can go down a steep hill into Newbridge on the way there … and somehow not have to cycle up it again on the way back.  It also allowed group two the chance to hang out and chat to their heart’s delight – but all in a socially distanced manner.

All in all, it was a fantastic day out and most people seemed keen in coming out for our next ride, which is up the Glen Road. Numbers are once more limited so if you’re interested in joining us please do book your free place as soon as possible. You can also see all our planned Discovery Rides here, including links to book yourself on.

view from the bench
The view from the Glen Road, next week’s ride

Thanks to all our ride leaders for helping out – and also to all our participants for being such a fantastic bunch and bearing with us while we managed all our coronavirus procedures.

See you all next week!

Join us on a Wild Goose Chase!

Join us for a free led ride to WWT Caerlaverock on Tuesday 13th October at 10 am, as part of the Wild Goose Festival – book now

Wild Goose Festival

We’re delighted to be joining forces with The Stove and WWT Caerlaverock to offer a ‘wild goose chase’ down to the Wetland Centre as part of their Wild Goose Festival in October.

You’ll probably have already noticed the geese returning from their summer breeding grounds to winter on the Solway. This ride will be your chance to find out more about these winter wanderers, as we cycle down to Caerlaverock in company with experts from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. The ride includes free entry to the centre grounds (but not the Visitor’s Centre due to restrictions on numbers) and refreshments will be available (outside, but under cover).

This ride is around 20 miles all in, with plenty of stops along the way to observe the wildlife and learn more about these internationally important bird wintering grounds.  The pace will be gentle, but may not be suitable for children under 10.

group ride
Past rides to Caerlaverock in less socially distanced times

Due to Coronavirus restrictions on numbers, we ask you to book your free place in advance.

 

 

 

Discover Dumfries by bike with us!

In these uncertain times, we’ve been disappointed not to be able to run our summer rides – but now we’re making up for it with a brand new programme of Sunday afternoon Discovery Rides, starting on September 27th!

We know that lots of people have taken up or rediscovered cycling during the lockdown but may be feeling a bit nervous keeping going now that traffic levels are getting back to normal. If so, these rides are for you! Based on our summer ride routes, they’re suitable for beginners and families, as well as for anyone who just wants a slow-paced ride in good company. We’ve planned four rides of 6-11 miles, all on cycle paths or very quiet roads:

Each ride will start from Dock Park carpark at 1:30pm (note the slightly earlier time compared with our summer rides).

In these uncertain times, we have to do things a little differently to make sure everyone stays safe. So we will need people to book in advance (you can do so on the links above, or from our Discovery Ride page), and we will be dividing each ride up into small groups to keep the potential for mixing to a minimum. We also, sadly, can’t provide our usual homemade treats so participants will have to bring their own snacks if they need something to keep them going on the road.

cyclists on the viaduct

At the moment we’re all a bit restricted in what we can do and where we can go so we hope these rides will offer a new perspective on Dumfries and the surrounding area, if you’ve not experienced it by bike much up to now.

These rides are about gaining confidence to use your bike more, and about finding new routes that you might not have discovered already – but they’re also all about getting outside, getting some fresh air and exercise, and above all having a bit of fun and meeting people in a safe and socially distanced way. We hope you’ll join us!

12 apostles group photo

Tell us your secrets! (Your secret routes that is)

signage

One of the minor frustrations of cycling in the region can simply be finding your way around – especially if you want to use some of our cycle routes, rather than going the way you would in a car.

Over the years, we’ve all gradually discovered a few short cuts or unsigned routes that make life easier when cycling around town – although sometimes it’s not until another cyclist shows you a route that you realise an alternative is available.

cycling map of Dumfries
Whenever we do events with a stall, these cycling and walking maps usually get snapped up pretty quickly – and they’re often out of print

Which is where you come in: we want your sneaky shortcuts and cunning cut-throughs! Your unsigned and unsung paths that save you tangling with traffic, that you didn’t know about until you stumbled across them. They could be new paths that haven’t yet been signposted (we’re still waiting for the Mabie Forest one to get its way finding) or they could have been there for ages. Either way there’s bound to be another local cyclist who is still completely unaware of them and we want to share the knowledge.

If you’ve got a route you’re willing to share, let us know. You can reply in a comment below, or send us an email (cyclingdumfries AT gmail.com).  Or draw it out on a map and send us a link – and don’t worry if it seems really obvious. There’s plenty of us have spent years gritting our teeth and cycling down unpleasant roads when there was a traffic-free alternative that seemed blindingly obvious once it was pointed out …

Mixed Messages

 

Notice of (online) AGM

A quick post to announce that our AGM will be held online this year (as is becoming traditional) on Tuesday 6th October at 7pm

side-by-side pedal gokart
Fun at our AGM in 2018 – sadly no such shenanigans this year

We agreed at the last meeting to hold our AGM virtually, and to use our regular meeting slot of the first Tuesday of the month.

This is also the time of year when annual memberships are due to be renewed (except for those who have joined in July or August) at the bargain price of £5. We will soon (we hope) resume some in-person activities by October but in the interests of social distancing, it might be better to use our online form rather than the traditional grubby fiver this year.

All 2019/20 members will receive a Zoom link by email as the AGM approaches. If you are a non member but would like to attend as an observer please let us know by email (cyclingdumfries AT gmail.com).

cake trolley
Sadly no cake either

Bike Boom: The key to recovery?

Regular visitors to this site will remember that we ran two bike surveys during this summer, one rural one at the Routin Brig, and one in town on the Whitesands. Both of these largely picked up leisure riders, but with the shops and many other businesses now fully open, we wanted to see what was happening on the High Street – has Dumfries’s  newfound love of cycling extended to using bikes for shopping trips as well as rides out in the country or through Dock Park? If so, it will be to the benefit of the town’s businesses as recent evidence shows that those who walk, cycle or use public transport to get to the shops spend 40% more than those who drive in total.

bikes parked by lampposts
Cyclists make good customers – especially if they can park their beloved bikes where they can keep an eye on them

After spending just over two hours counting all the bikes we could see along the High Street one busy Saturday lunchtime, the answer is ‘partially’. We stationed people at four spots along the street: at the Burns Statue, at Queensberry Square, at the Midsteeple, and at the fountain by English Street.

Figure showing where cyclists were
The Burns Statue end of the High Street saw the most cyclists

On average, each of our surveyors saw 28 cyclists in the course of our count (from 11:30 to around 1:30) – ranging from a child on a balance bike to a gentleman with a prosthetic leg who clearly found cycling an easier way to get about than walking. Having eliminated the duplicates, we estimate a total of 53 cyclists visited the High Street, most of them before 12:30. A few were just passing through, but most of them appeared to stop to visit a shop or cafe, or were carrying shopping of some kind.

As with our Whitesands survey, men outnumbered women and adults outnumbered children, an indicator of a more hostile cycling environment:

30% female cyclists and 70% male
Only about 3 in 10 cyclists were women or girls
28% children and 32% adults
There weren’t many family groups cycling

Interestingly, the children we did see were either kids cycling while their parents walked, or teenagers on bikes with their pals – a sign perhaps that family cycling for shopping and transport rather than leisure is lagging behind in Dumfries.

one ay sign

Although these figures are higher than we would have expected last year, in line with the news that cycling numbers in Scotland remains 44% up on last year,  they are much less impressive than the sort of counts we were seeing on the Whitesands and out in the countryside. Partly it may have been the weather (it had rained earlier and it was still quite nippy without the sun, even though it was August). However, another reason could be the difficulty of accessing the High Street (legally) by bike. As we raised with council officers back in February it’s very difficult to get from the Whitesands to the High Street because the one-way system doesn’t exempt cycling.

Motorbike parked by bike racks

Lack of good secure cycle parking doesn’t help much either. The most heavily used racks are those at the Burns Statue (and not always just by pedal cycles!) – despite the fact that one has been bent over almost since it was installed, which doesn’t fill you with confidence that your bike will be safe from a swipe by a vehicle. The other bike parking spots aren’t well signposted, and the Stove’s combined bike-and-bench parking doesn’t work so well in an era of social distancing. Most cyclists seemed happy to use a lamppost or even just lean their bikes against the shop they were visiting, but this can lead to problems for visually impaired pedestrians, and with the rise of e-bikes, the lack of good bike racks may be putting off other people from using their bikes to visit the shops.

On the positive side, we did count very few motor vehicles using the High Street illegally (outside the posted delivery hours) – just a couple of parked vans and one car that went right along the High Street without even delivering something. This may be due to the market stalls in the High Street on a Saturday, which not only bring in lots of people, they also make the space much less inviting to drivers chancing their arm on a lack of enforcement. It does show that by allowing businesses to make use of the High Street as a space for people rather than cars, then a virtuous cycle can emerge – stalls encourage more people, and discourages drivers, which in turn encourages more people and more business for the stalls and other businesses.

Riverside Tap
The Riverside Tap have made use of some of the Vennel to provide outdoor space – much more economically productive than just being used for illegal parking.

Which brings us to the point of this post! There are constant calls for more parking spaces in Dumfries, and over recent years there has also been an increase in people parking illegally in the town centre, despite occasional crackdowns by the police. With capacity on public transport limited by safety requirements, this pressure can only get worse, if everybody switches to driving. Based on our Saturday bike count, we calculate that – had everyone we saw who had cycled into town driven instead – at least 20 more parking spaces would have been needed to accommodate them. That’s the size of the car park outside the Visit Scotland office, down on the Whitesands.

Whitesands car park
This car park has 20 parking spaces. This is the amount of parking that would have been needed had everyone who cycled to the High Street during our survey driven instead.

The council’s Commonplace consultation closed earlier this month, and the second most popular suggestion (after sorting out the Dock Park crossing) was to close this car park to cars and use it instead for pedestrians and businesses, allowing more cafes and pubs to put out tables, for instance. It is measures like these that will bring life back to our town centre and help our local shops and businesses recover from the lockdown. But in order for it to work, we need to make it much more inviting for people to cycle into town instead of driving.

Map showing were is a 15 mins cycle from the town centre
Pretty much the entire population of Dumfries lives within a 15-minute cycle ride of the town centre

Fortunately, that could be entirely doable. As this map shows, almost everywhere in Dumfries and many of the surrounding settlements is less than 15 minutes cycling from the town centre – that’s approximately 35,000 people who could hop on a bike and be in town quicker than they could find a parking space for their car if they had driven. Not everyone will find it practical to do so – but, as our other surveys have shown, many local people have proved themselves keen to get out on a bike during lockdown and are continuing to do so. Now what we need to do is to encourage them to think of a bike as a practical means of transport as well as a fun way to get fit and enjoy the countryside.

What will this take? We hope that the outcome of the Commonplace consultation will see some measures that will improve access to the High Street for pedestrians and cyclists. In the short term, allowing two-way cycling up Bank Street and the Vennel and along the High Street, putting in bike parking, and preventing illegal parking in our pedestrianised streets will all make our town centre more inviting to locals and visitors alike.

In the longer term, providing safe, well signposted routes for cycling from all corners of the town – including Georgetown and other under-served areas – will make it easier for everyone who wants to to leave the car at home and save a parking space for those with disabilities or who are coming from further afield.

None of this is radical. In fact, most of it is already council policy, it’s just not being implemented or progress is microscopically slow. For instance, the council actually had plans in place to open up the town centre for two-way cycling but put them on hold because of concerns about signage and yet another revamp of the High Street. Swestrans have agreed a ‘five mile’ plan to make cycling in to all our towns from outlying villages easier – but nothing has yet been done to implement it. And just before the lockdown happened, we had discussed the placing of bike parking in the town centre, when everything got put on hold by the pandemic.

Now that things are moving again, we need urgent change if our economy is to bounce back fully. We think that bikes have to be part of that – and we hope the council understands that too.

 

September Meeting

Riverside Tap
While we’re not quite ready to gather in the pub yet (even outside), restrictions on outdoor activities are being lifted

It’s great to hear that from today, restrictions on outdoor activities (such as, to name a random example, group bike rides…) are being lifted so that up to 15 people can now take part, as long as social distancing is maintained (in fact the guidance is for up to 30 but Cycling UK suggest maintaining a limit of 15).

This means we can start to plan our activities for the coming months – and that means a full agenda for our next meeting which will be on Tuesday 1st September.

With restrictions on indoor gathering still limited we’ll stick to meeting online via the wonders of Zoom. Members will get an invitation in their monthly mail out, but if you’re curious and want to take part, please let us know (via cyclingdumfries@gmail.com) and we’ll send a link.

group ride
Time to start thinking about winter rides?

Tell us your lockdown cycling stories!

cycling group

It’s been heartening to see so many people on bikes over the last few months – and even with traffic returning and a gradual easing of lockdown, we’re still seeing many more cyclists out and about.

We’d love to hear more from anyone who’s either taken up or rediscovered cycling during this crisis. What got you cycling, what’s worked (and what hasn’t)  – and whether you think you’ll keep it up.

cyclists on the viaduct

Most (but not all) of our members tend to be experienced cyclists who will continue riding despite conditions which aren’t ideal – so we’re keen to get a wider range of perspectives, especially those who don’t necessarily fit the ‘MAMIL’ mould

thumbs up

If you would be willing to share your experiences, ideas and opinions please let us know! You can reach us on cyclingdumfries@gmail.com or via our Twitter or Facebook accounts.

still smiling
Riding in rain or shine? Let us know how it’s going for you

Spaces for People – What do we think?

As we posted last week, the council are looking for suggestions to make it easier to walk and cycle in the region and this is an opportunity too good to be missed – especially with Dumfries and Galloway having been awarded £600k by the Scottish Government to implement these measures.

commonplace map snippet
There are a few suggestions for Dumfries already – click on the map to add your own, or add your approval to those already made.

We’ve already made some quick suggestion of our own but it looks like people have been busy – at the time of writing there were over 80 suggestions just in and around Dumfries, although some of them are duplicates. We’ve picked out some of the ones we think will make the most difference to the town (and not just for cycling). If you’re short of time, you can just click on the ‘agree’ icon to any you wish to support (note that the first time you do this, you will need to create an account and confirm your email address, which takes a minute or so. After that, you can go around agreeing to your heart’s content). And if you have a suggestion nobody else has made, then it’s very easy to add it to the map as well.

Closing streets to cars and opening them to people

This is probably the quickest way to make our town centre a pleasant place to be – and something that’s already been popular down south as you can see from this post from London

The main road closure people have suggested is closing Queensberry Street (where the Tam O Shanter pub is) to cars, allowing pubs and cafes to use the space for seating as well as making it more pleasant to walk and cycle there. There’s a car park just around the corner so it won’t affect people’s ability to get there by car. You can support that suggestion here

Queensberry Street from Google Street view

Other suggestions include closing one of the Whitesands car parks (on the buildings side) to allow for outdoor seating areas and closing Assembly Street to cars to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get up to the High Street from the Whitesands (this was actually suggested twice, so we’ve linked to the one with the most ‘likes’ so far, as we’ve done with any suggestion which has been made multiple times).

parked vans on the High Street
We’ve got a really nice pedestrianised High Street – it’s just that sometimes it gets abused.

Of course some of our existing pedestrianised streets seem to have an awful lot of traffic – so there are also suggestions to put a gate or barrier to close off access to the High Street outside permitted delivery hours (again, this cropped up multiple times so we’ve linked to the most popular one), and to enforce the parking restrictions on the Vennel.

All of these ideas would make the town a nicer place to be as well as a safer one – tempting people to eat out who may feel reluctant to go into a cafe or a pub but who feel safer sitting outside. It will also make for a nicer shopping experience, giving traders in the town a much needed boost.

bike at the butchers
Remember what the Vennel used to be like before it became a car park?

There’s also a suggestion for more bike racks and seating on the High Street to make it easier for people who have come in by bike or had to walk a bit further.

Road closures don’t just have to be about the town centre either – one suggestion is to filter Rotchell Road in Troqueer, to create a low-traffic neighbourhood and cut out rat-running and speeding in what should be a quiet residential area.

Safety around schools

With the schools going back next week, there are still lots of questions about how social distancing can be maintained – the kids might be mixing in their classrooms, but parents and grandparents dropping them off will still be advised to keep their distance. The school run can be fraught at the best of times and narrow pavements and badly parked cars can make it dangerous for all concerned.

cramped pavements by St Michael's
Hard to see how this will work with even a metre social distancing

There are a few suggestions around schools in the town. One is to remove the guard rails and close Glebe Street during school run times to make more space around St Michael’s and the other two schools in the area (these temporary closures for the school run are known as ‘School Streets’ and a recent study has found that they are a safe and effective way to help kids walk and cycle to school). There’s also a suggestion to widen pavements and remove barriers on Academy Street – anyone who’s been in the area when the Academy lets out for lunch will know how busy the street can get with all the youngsters heading for town. Slightly further out there are calls for wider pavements around Noblehill and Laurieknowe primary schools.

St Michael's kids at the bike breakfast
This seems like a photo from another age now … the kids of St Michael’s queuing up at the bike breakfast last year.

There are a lot more schools in Dumfries though and we’re sure that more could benefit from either temporary road closures or wider pavements so please do check the map and add your own ideas, especially if you’re a teacher, parent or a child connected to one of these schools.

Missing links

With bus services limited and lots of people discovering cycling during the lockdown, many of the suggestions centre around creating safe traffic-free routes for cycling in and around town in places where there are gaps in the network. Some of these may be outwith the scope of the current scheme, but it does no harm to raise them as a longer term issue.

Bank Street
Bank Street is the obvious route from the Whitesands into the town centre – but the pavements are narrow and it’s not possible to cycle up to the High St because it’s one way at the top

Some could be easily fixed now, however – for instance allowing two-way cycling up Bank Street or along the Vennel would create obvious routes from the Whitesands path up to the town centre – something that it’s currently not legally possible to do. The council did actually plan to do this a few years ago, but then implementation got delayed, so it should be easy enough to resurrect the scheme.

Other suggestions include a safe link between Georgetown and the town centre (a glaring omission in the town’s cycling network given how many people live in Georgetown), extending the existing path along the A76 just a few hundred metres to Holywood, extending the Mavis Grove Path along the New Abbey Road so it doesn’t just drop you out in to the traffic, completing the Park Road path all the way down to the New Abbey Road (instead of it just ending half way). A bit more ambitious are suggestions for a segregated path along the whole of the Brooms Road, wider pavements and space for cycling along the Lockerbie Road, a segregated cycle route all the way to Glencaple (currently it’s part of NCN7 but it’s on the road so it’s not suitable for families and anyone who doesn’t like being close passed by an impatient driver), and a cycle path to Collin – this was suggested four separate times so we’ve linked to the one with the most likes.

Pavements and crossings

We’ve long been big on crossings at Cycling Dumfries – both for pedestrians and bikes – and this pandemic has made it more important than ever to give people space to cross safely and not be penned in waiting for the green man.

Dock Park crossing
The dock park crossing struggles to cope with the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians at the best of times

It’s no surprise that one of the most popular suggestions has been shortening the wait time at the Dock Park crossing. When we did our last cyclist and pedestrian count we could see how many people were crossing against the lights, or even away from the crossing itself, because it was so busy. Retiming the lights so that people can cross in one go has to be an obvious change for the council (and ideally, taking away some of the barriers as well that make it so awkward to use).

But there are other suggestions around crossings in the town including narrowing New Abbey Road where it meets Laurieknowe to make it safer for pedestrians to cross, making it easier to cross the Glasgow Road to get to the Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park and improving the crossing at the bottom of the Garroch Loaning where the sight lines are poor.

Finally, there are lots of comments about narrow pavements, which are a particular problem for wheelchair users. This is not about cycling (in an ideal world nobody would feel they had to cycle on the pavement, but we would have our own space) but it is important to allow some of our most vulnerable citizens the space to get around (many of whom will have been shielding for months). So please also give your support to suggestions to widen pavements on Church Street, English Street, and Queen Street – and if you know of places where it’s difficult to get a wheelchair or double buggy through safely then please add them to the site.

Narrow pavements and illegally parked cars on English Street

Phew -this has been an epic post and if you’ve got this far, well done. There are just over two weeks left of the the Commonplace consultation so we hope this has done the job to build support for some of the most effective suggestions and also to inspire you to add more of your own.

 

Vote for Cycling Dumfries Activities

We’d normally be in the full swing of our summer family rides now and looking forward to the Bike Breakfast. As we’re not able to do our normal activities we’re wondering what other things could we do to help you get out on your bike in Dumfries? Please complete the online poll and add any suggestions in the comments or as an additional option, so others can vote on it too. Click here to fill in the poll.

Some ideas we’ve had are:

Commuter Bike Maintenance. Learn the essentials to keep your bike running smoothly. So things like inflating tyres, cleaning and oiling the chain, how to replace a chain that drops off mid ride and changing an inner tube if you get a puncture.

Buddy rides. Fancy going somewhere by bike but not sure of the route or need a hand? One of our members can accompany you on a ride and help plan a route! It doesn’t even have to be an A to B ride. If you’ve got several stops to make we can help you plan it.

viaduct

School bike buses. A bike bus is where a group of students can be collected at different “stops” on a pre-planned route and all cycle to school together. This is overseen my adults accompanying the children. We can help parents and schools interested in getting children to school by bike plan and maybe help run a school bike bus.

Our core team at Cycling Dumfries is a small band of merry volunteer so may not be able to do all of these things, which is why we want your help to prioritise what we can do. Cast your vote to let us know!