On Sunday we had our usual end of the month curiosity ride, this time to Crocketford. A fair sized crowd of limbs and wheels assembled at the rowing club to set off at 11am. We knew we’d be picking up a few extras along the route so sensibly phoned the pub to forewarn them of our arrival for lunch. The estimate of 1pm proved to be bang on – well done Sally.
As we set off along the Maxwelltown Path, it became apparent that there was certainly a headwind as well as a few dark clouds around. At the top of the old Glen road we found three extras had joined us, having arrived a little late (although we no longer have bookings for the ride, if you know you’re coming and likely to be late, do email us and if we get it in time, we’ll wait a few minutes for you).
We proceeded around the A75 roundabout towards Lochfoot where we were greeted by five more folk to swell our ranks. At this point, we took the decision to split into two smaller groups for the remainder of the way to Crocketford. The old military road is somewhat hilly and these were worsened by the wind in our faces, but we ploughed on and were rewarded with the sight of rain showers elsewhere but not on us.
As it’s January, the ride planners had taken the decision to have an indoor rest stop at the Galloway Arms for lunch. Maybe this is why we had 17 folk on the ride! We piled into the warmth and all enjoyed a meal and chat, reluctantly leaving a good while later to find the day had brightened up for us. A piece of flapjack courtesy of Jeanette and we were happily on our way again, up the A75 through Crocketford before turning left on the little road to Shawhead. In a big group, it certainly feels much safer when cycling on the main road, even though it is a 30mph speed limit and shouldn’t feel intimidating.
We whistled along the road to Shawhead where our first small contingent peeled off. The rest of us continued on towards Terregles with another split at Seeside Road for the Lochfoot and Cargenbridge riders to leave. The remaining six enjoyed the descent down to Terregles and back to the Maxwelltown Path to return to our starting point.
It was lovely to have some new faces joining us as well as a good number of the regulars. Many thanks to Jeanette and Sally for leading the ride and John for the photos.
Our next ride will be on Sunday 26th February where we’ll be heading out on our Cairn/Cluden circuit.
There was a point during Friday when we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to run any ride at all this Sunday as the flood waters rose and even our usual starting point was underwater.
By Saturday at least the floods had receded, and the mopping up had begun (please do support our local businesses and and around the Whitesands over the next few weeks as they try and recover from a dreadful end to 2022). We knew that the roads down to Glencaple and beyond were passable – but that there were still lots of large puddles and debris to contend with. Add in the traffic on the roads around Glencaple and Bankend – you only need one impatient driver and a puddle to get a drenching – and we decided on an alternative destination: out towards Mabie Forest and Kirkconnell Flow and ultimately to Airds Point, where the Nith meets the Solway, a route suggested a couple of months ago by Gilbert West. The forecast was a bit iffy but we decided we would give it a go, and turn back if the conditions got bad.
Ten people were hardy enough to brave the forecast and the ebbing flood waters. All went smoothly enough as we passed Mabie Farm Park, but it then became obvious that we had an eleventh member of the group – the puncture fairy, who struck not just the front wheel but the back wheel of Steve Cussell’s bike. As he and Steve Jefkins stopped to deal with the aftermath, the rest of the group continued on, past the Kirkconnell Flow entrance. Here there was plenty of water about, including some tricky bits where the road had become a burn, complete with a bed of gravel, but as the road was quiet we were able to take our time and pick our way through safely.
Once at Airds Point we stopped for some sustenance and admired the wonderful open views across the water (as long as you keep your back to the waterworks buildings). The weather by now was fine and calm and there were even a few patches of blue sky. The two Steves finally caught up with us as we were thinking about turning for home and were relieved to discover we hadn’t eaten all the biscuits (we’re not monsters).
We then made our way back by way of Carruchan Beeches which meant a stiffish climb, but amply rewarded by the wonderful views back towards Criffel (and a very brief detour to admire a rare surviving ice house). As is traditional with these winter rides, the group then began to splinter as people peeled off to make their own way home singly or in groups.
Jim Mackison has put together a nice little video of some of the ride back from Airds Point, using his rear view camera. It gives a flavour of the outing (although it wasn’t ALL that flooded!) and demonstrates that we do genuinely ride at the speed of chat!
Our next outing will be on Sunday 29th January as we head to Crocketford. Please join us – weather gods permitting!
It’s easy to go into hibernation mode at this time of year, but we think there’s nothing like a bike (or trike) ride in good company to blow away the cobwebs and lift the mood.
If you agree, join us for an 11am start at the Rowing Club – see map – ready for a 19-mile jaunt at a gentle pace. Bikes, trikes, or whatever you ride, ebikes and pure pedal power are all welcome.
There will be no cafe stop but we’ll take a break for refreshments at Castle Corner, which is usually pretty sheltered – but it will get chilly in the depths of winter, so do make sure you’ve got a warm layer or two if you need it. Bring your lunch or whatever sustenance you require. We run our rides come rain or shine, only cancelling if there’s a weather warning (keep an eye on the site or our social media if you’re not sure).
We’ve also got a second ride at the end of January as we resume our last Sunday in the month pattern – you can see our full ride programme here.
The strategy is quite a long document and there’s a lot to take in, so we haven’t yet formulated our response to it. However, a few things stand out. First, it’s a whole lot better from an active travel point of view than we might have expected, given how patchy the Case for Change document was. There’s an eye-catching pledge to spend 50% of SWestrans’ capital budget on active travel, which is very much to be welcomed. There is also an emphasis on building active travel connections between and within communities -and, importantly, to use the planning system to minimise the need for unsustainable travel. There’s also recognition of the need for accessibility – although here, the devil is in the details.
To summarise, the strategy has one vision (below), six strategy objectives, and ten themes, all with a number of priorities.
The objectives are:
To facilitate and encourage safe active travel for all by connecting communities and travel hubs.
To improve the quality and sustainability of public transport within, and to /from the region.
To widen access to, and improve connectivity by public transport within and to / from the region.
To improve integration between all modes of travel and freight within and to /from the region.
To provide improved, reliable, resilient, and safe road-based connectivity for the movement of people and goods within the region, and to key locations including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle and Cairnryan.
To reduce the impact of transport on the people and environment of the region.
These objectives are covered by 10 themes:
Enabling more sustainable development (integrating land use and transport planning).
Connecting our communities (facilitating active travel – walking, wheeling and cycling – within and between our villages and towns).
Transforming travel in our towns (reducing car dominance and reallocating roadspace to buses and active travel).
Reducing the impact of transport on our communities (cutting through traffic, albeit largely by building bypasses).
Enhancing access to transport services (accessibility for all)
Sustainable and extended local and regional public transport connectivity (extending networks and services)
Improving the quality and affordability of our public transport offer (including concessionary fares, accessibility and better integration)
Supporting safe, effective and resilient connections to Loch Ryan and other strategic sites (this is largely about road building and widening)
Managing our car traffic (contributing to the government target to cut car km driven by 20%)
Making the most of new opportunities (innovation and technology).
It’s worth having a read through, as there’s a lot packed in to the strategy – more than we can realistically summarise here. Some of it is good, some of it is less good, some of it seems very ambitious. There’s even a mention of reinstating the railway line to Stranraer, for the optimists and train fans among us (lucky they didn’t fill in that bridge!)
As always in these things, the devil is in the details, so we’ll be going through it quite carefully in our response. The consultation exercise itself allows you to comment in detail on each objective – but you don’t have to comment on every point. You can just broadly support the priorities and direction of travel – and particularly that capital budget commitment. It’s worth putting in a word in support of active travel, because you can be sure that the ‘build more roads’ brigade will be piling in too.
We’ll also be putting together a more detailed response ourselves, but we did want to encourage you to have a read through and let the government know what you think.
While there are quibbles to be made, in summary, this plan is head and shoulders above its predecessor, the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland. It concentrates on the essentials – building a network of safe cycling infrastructure, along with a focus on effective resourcing, fair access, training, and monitoring. Each priority comes with a set of concrete actions which taken together do add up to a plan to deliver a step change in improvements to cycling in Scotland. This includes funding to reach £320m per year by 2024-5, or 10% of the transport budget. This is something we’ve long been campaigning for through groups like Pedal on Parliament and Walk, Wheel, Cycle, Vote.
The catch, at least for those of us who live outwith the big cities, is that the plan depends heavily on local authorities to do the actual work (and also face the wrath of motorists where road space and parking need to be curtailed). Not all councils are created equal, and while Dumfries and Galloway council have made strides in terms of their policies, we’ve seen very little actual action in recent years compared to places like Glasgow.
The plan relies on councils creating active travel strategies, but there doesn’t seem to be much in place to ensure that these strategies are both ambitious enough and also actually implemented. DG council has already adopted its Active Travel Strategy (although it doesn’t seem to have been published beyond its inclusion in a set of committee papers – you can find it here; scroll down to page 63 …) and it’s also better than the last one. However, for whatever reason, we didn’t see all of the last strategy implemented. So we will be watching this carefully over the coming months and years .
The Scottish Government is conscious of the issue with councils and the consultation ends with a couple of options on how to incentivise councils which could have worrying implications for us here in D&G:
In order to ensure maximum value for money and impact, active travel funding in the short term should be prioritised for those local authorities with the greatest capacity to deliver, with capacity building support offered to those with the least.
Future funding for active travel infrastructure should include a mechanism for re-distributing investment from local authorities unable to deliver to agreed standards and timescales.
This seems like a recipe for a two-tier Scotland, as far as cycling goes. Given the massive potential for cycling in this region, it seems short sighted not to work harder with councils to bring them up to speed, rather than just giving up on them altogether.
It’s hard to remember after what feels like a solid week of freezing fog, but last Sunday offered a wonderfully mild window in the weather – one that we exploited to the full on our last Curiosity Ride of the year.
After a pause to admire each others’ matching wardrobes (and the highly reflective effect of Proviz jackets even in daylight) a good dozen of us assembled at the start of our Two Stone Circles circular ride – a number that was to fluctuate for the rest of the day as folk joined and left the group. As we made our way along the Maxwelltown Path and the Old Military road towards Lochfoot, we picked up three on the road (including two who had ridden in from Beeswing) and a fourth at Lochrutton Church, where we parked our bikes for a while to have a bite to eat, a blether and, for those who fancied it, a half-mile walk to the first stone circle.
Easthill Stone Circle is not very spectacular but what it lacks in awe-inspiring grandeur it makes up in atmosphere and wonderful views – the mesolithic people who built it knew what they were doing.
The weather was mild enough to make standing around reasonably pleasant, which is quite something for the end of November. We then made our way back to the rest of the group for a final group shot before setting off to our next stop
This was our maximum group size as we then started shedding riders in true winter ride fashion – one to a puncture (she was near enough home to decide to bail out at that point), one heading back to Beeswing, and one peeling off to Shawhead as we crossed the A75 and took Seeside Road up to the Terregles Road. From there it was a short ride up to the Irongray Road towards Newbridge and the 12 Apostles.
At this point, our weather window was starting to close, and the lure of coffee in Dumfries was calling some of our ride members so we didn’t linger at this second stone circle. As the main group headed back towards Dumfries, a splinter group went west to avoid a long detour before getting home. By the time the day was over, the rain had set in again – but at least we’d got the best of it! In November you can’t hope for much more than that.
Our next ride will be our traditional New Year’s Day ride – always the best possible way to start the year. We’ll be setting off from the usual spot by the Rowing Club at 11am so see you there – or at our last ‘meeting’ of the year on Tuesday evening.
As we’ve returned to fully in-person meetings this year, we’ve been trying a few different formats and venues to try and make the most of these gatherings. After a good discussion at the last meeting we’ve got some ideas about how to improve our meeting formats and make sure that they’re accessible to everyone. But that’s a matter for next year – as we come to the end of the year we’ve decided to make our last ‘meeting’ of 2022 into a bit of a celebration and a chance to get together with no particular agenda other than a good chat.
James Croft has once more generously offered to host us at his flat – AND provide home-made pizza to boot. We’ll be gathering there from 6:30 on Tuesday 6th December.
We’ll email all our members with the address and a contact email so you can RSVP – but if you want to attend and haven’t yet joined up, please email us at cyclingdumfries AT gmail DOT com and we’ll pass the details on.
As the November weather keeps us guessing, it’s the time of year when we need to get out while the getting is good. The forecast for the weekend is, it’s fair to say, mixed – but the weather gods do look as if they will be smiling on us on Sunday when we head out for our next Curiosity Ride – the Two Stone Circles Circular Ride.
If you’re up for some prehistory, or just a nice 18-mile excursion in good company, please do join us on Sunday at the bridge by the Rowing Club for an 11 am start. You can sign up on Facebook if that’s your thing or just turn up on the day. Bring your own food, as there won’t be a cafe stop, although there might just be some home baking…
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 a look at Glencaple, situated on NCN 7.
At first glance, Dumfries to Glencaple might seem like an odd subject for a missing links post – after all, the two places are joined by the National Cycle Network (NCN7) no less – and we even regularly ride down that way on our own curiosity rides (indeed we rode it just recently on our Wild Goose Chase ride). The Glencaple and Bankend road loop is a popular one with Dumfries cyclists looking for a 20-mile circuit. So where’s the gap?
In fact, the route down to Glencaple illustrates the difference between catering for (existing) cyclists and creating cyclists – providing a route where cycling is not just possible for someone who is willing to mix with traffic, but one which positively invites cycling.
Glencaple is just 6 miles from the centre of Dumfries (depending on the route you take) and with both a pub and the bistro on the quay it should be a nice destination for a leisure bike ride. It’s a substantial village, with plenty of people living there who work, shop or study in Dumfries, so making it easy to cycle to and from the village could significantly cut car journeys. Assuming a not-too strenuous pace, it would be about a half-hour ride – and with an e-bike, well within the reach of most people to do without even breaking a sweat. And yet, most of the people you see cycling on this route seem largely to be doing it in order to break a sweat: adults, usually men, almost always sportily dressed and on road bikes, heads down, getting the miles in. There’s nothing wrong with that sort of riding – but where are the families, commuters, shoppers and tourists out for a nice lunch by the river that you would have thought the NCN was designed for?
The NCN route to Glencaple starts off as a shared path through Dock Park and along the river path down to Kingholm Quay, and this is definitely a nice leisure route and very pleasant on a sunny afternoon.
So nice, in fact, that the shared path down to Kingholm is more or less unusable on a fine day – it means negotiating dog walkers, families out for a stroll, and all sorts of other pedestrians who’d rather not have to move out of the way to let a bike past. This path shows the limit of using green leisure spaces as if they were also through routes for bikes. While most cyclists are polite about slowing down and negotiating their way past, the potential for conflict is built in. The path is also unlit, which makes it feel unsafe for many people after dark, and especially women.
Those who are in more of a hurry can use the Kingholm Road but this has a 40 mph speed limit and, despite plenty of room alongside, no space for bikes off the carriageway.
The more direct route along the B725 past the bottom of the Crichton is even less appealing to most, being narrow, walled in, and often involving negotiating round parked cars.
Cyclists could also make their way through the Crichton itself, avoiding the road, but the Brownhall Gate entrance is firmly ‘no entry’ the other way.
Exiting the Crichton onto the Glencaple road at the Brownhall Gate is currently illegal. Some signage and an exemption for bikes could connect the NCN with the campus and onwards along the Maidenbower Path to Georgetown and Calside.
Once at Kingholm, the NCN heads up Kingholm Loaning – on the carriageway except for a short section on the pavement just at the mini roundabout where the route joins the Glencaple Road. This is helpful for avoiding the roundabout, but it isn’t clear where you need to rejoin the carriageway – if you stay on the pavement, it becomes very narrow and there is no proper dropped kerb at the point where the pavement runs out, just at the point where the road reverts to the national speed limit.
There is no sign indicating that cyclists should rejoin the road but if the footway on the right is supposed to be a shared use path, it is very narrow and constrained by the railings. If you don’t get off just at the roundabout there is then no dropped kerb until right at the end of the pavement.
From then on, even though this is part of the national cycling network, there’s absolutely no provision for them, except for the directional signs. The road is fairly busy and fast, narrow enough to barely accommodate two cars to pass each other, but with a white line down the centre, which means drivers don’t feel they have to negotiate the space the way they might on a single track road. This encourages close passes and impatient drivers. There are also a number of blind bends – the worst being the dogleg just after Kelton. Although you’re treated to some spectacular views of Criffel and the river, it’s not a route where you can safely relax and enjoy the ride. And we know that many would-be cyclists are put off by the experience, and opt for the safety of the car instead.
NCNs are supposed to be suitable for sensible 12-year-olds to cycle on independently – but we’d be hard pressed to recommend this route for any unaccompanied child, however level headed. Recently Sustrans has recognised that large parts of its network were unfit for purpose and have reclassified whole stretches of the NCN – including a stretch of the NCN7 eastwards from Bankend. They haven’t done so for the Glencaple Road but, reclassified or not, we don’t believe this route is good enough to make cycling between Glencaple and Dumfries a reality for the majority of the population, not just the quick and the brave.
There are a number of alternatives if Sustrans or the council did want to upgrade the route. There is a riverside footpath which runs along the Nith, supposedly to Glencaple, although a washed out footbridge makes it difficult to walk the whole way and the surface isn’t suitable for most bikes. It is also regularly flooded by the tide. Upgrading it into an off-road route would require a lot of investment to create a surface that’s suitable for all users (including wheelchairs) and might not be appropriate for a sensitive riverside habitat. It would also suffer from some of the same problems as the path to Kingholm Quay, being unlit and somewhat lonely after dark. It would make a fantastic leisure route – but it can’t be considered a year-round practical transport cycling proposition.
The path is unsurfaced and although it is reasonably walkable when not flooded, would need a good deal of work to bring it up to a standard suitable for most bikes, wheelchairs or buggies.
Another suggestion might be to modify the Glencaple road itself by removing the white central line, lowering the speed limit, and introducing cycle lanes to visually narrow the road and encourage lower speeds. This has been done in a few roads in Scotland, such as Gogar Station Road, and a similar approach is sometimes used in the Netherlands – but such schemes work best when the road isn’t busy. We’re generally loath to recommend on-road cycle lanes as they are generally considered to make routes less safe for cyclists, not better.
A better alternative would be to create a new path, away from the traffic but still alongside the road (for social safety after dark). In some places there is space to do this within the footprint of the road, but not everywhere. In those cases, land would need to be purchased to create space. This wouldn’t be cheap, but it would mean creating a high-quality route that would actually encourage people to use their bikes for a journey that might have otherwise been driven – what we mean by creating cyclists, rather than catering for them.
As for the cost – well, thinking a bit laterally, the land needed for the route could also be used as a linear solar farm, helping to defray the cost – and doing even more to cut carbon emissions. The path would provide access to service vehicles too. In South Korea they do this along motorways (and provide a bit of shade and shelter from the rain). It could even provide a few charging points for ebikes and mobility scooters, making the route even more accessible to all comers. Now THAT’s a way to create cyclists!
It’s been a damp and blowy end to October (as we found out on our Wild Goose Chase Ride) and though we hoped we’d get away with a dry evening for our Halloween loop around Speddoch, the forecast wasn’t that promising
Nothing daunted, 8 of us gathered at the Rowing Club at the appointed hour – all with good lights and dressed for the weather, which was fortunate because we certainly got a fair bit of that. Some had even gone above and beyond, in keeping with the Halloween theme
It remained dry as we set off, and with 5 e-bikes in the group we set a good pace along the Maxwelltown Path, up the old Glen Road and down towards Seeside Road (the origin of which unusual name occasioned some discussion).
Normally we cut across what’s known as Bunny Lane but the road surface wasn’t great so we went via Shawhead, where we had a last minute adjustment of lights and layers as the dusk began to turn into darkness.
By the time we’d reached the top of the reservoir the rain had found us, although fortunately the evening remained mild. Normally at this point we’d fuel up for the final climb with a bit of cake (and we had two sorts this time – gingerbread and toffee-apple cake, both very seasonally appropriate), but the rain didn’t encourage lingering so we pressed on to the top, avoiding some epic potholes on the road up.
The rain was still making its presence felt, so we didn’t linger at the top but set off in the dark for the descent down – spread well out so as to give everyone room to find their own line. Fortunately the potholes aren’t so bad on this side of the hill, so it was just a question of avoiding the worst of the gravel, leaves and water as we swooped down towards the valley. With the rain stopped we finally had a chance to sample the cake and recover from the adrenaline of the descent.
There’s no getting around the fact that this ride is more fun when it’s not raining – but that said, if we wait for a perfect day (or night) to ride our bikes, we may be a long time waiting at this time of year. Wet, dark nights are a barrier to many, so it was good to face the worst of the conditions and find out they really weren’t as bad as they might appear.
Once back on the flat we rode along the Cairn / Cluden Valley (crossing over to the other side of the river to avoid the worst of the potholes) and the rain eased off so we could even see the odd star, and the moon rising to see us home.
It’s been three years since we last did this night-time jaunt in all its glory and – even though the weather didn’t quite play ball – it was great to be back. Thanks to all who came!