Gearing up for summer: Come to our May meeting!

After a successful Pop-Up Pop protest it’s back to a bit more routine – and  with the summer on its way we have some planning to do. This is a reminder that our regular meetings have resumed and the next one will be on Tuesday 7th May at 6pm in the Coach and Horses to talk about possibilities for the Environment Fair, our summer rides programme, other summer activities (we’re open to suggestions!) plus the usual bike chat.

Please do come along if you can make it – it’s very informal and we’re always happy to see new faces. If you have issues to raise, ideas to share or just want to see what we’re up to, pop along




New Abbey Road – Actually, several steps forward

First – an apology. An over hasty post last week (partially fuelled by Pedal on Parliament related stress and the ill-advised effects of opening Twitter before the coffee has had a chance to kick in) suggested that the council had rowed back on some of their more promising plans for the New Abbey Road.

Having now been to the information event at Troqueer Primary School yesterday, we can confirm that if anything the plans are better than we had initially hoped, so we completely retract that suggestion. For those who couldn’t make it (and we stand by our assertion that it would be much better if these plans could appear properly on line for everyone to see) here’s what we gleaned:

As a recap, here’s the plan of where the works are to take place

Plans for New Abbey Road
Plans for New Abbey Road

(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos that follow – taken from the 3D ‘fly through’ that was playing at the time)

First, we’re happy to see plans for a segregated cycle track, with space for both pedestrians and cyclists, rather than a shared use path. The devil can be in the details with these – but the principle of everyone having their own space is sound and it would be good to see this used more widely in the town.

Here’s the crossing of New Abbey Road from Park Road to Rotchell Road at the Toll Bar:

Toll Bar Crossing – this will be a toucan crossing which will be a major benefit for pedestrians and cyclists alike – especially giving access to the shop on the corner

Here’s the main junction between Pleasance Avenue and the New Abbey Road, with an ‘all ways green’ stage promised that will get cyclists onto the track on the Park Farm side of the road:

Pleasance Avenue junction

And finally – and this is quite exciting and a new departure for Dumfries, here’s the crossing at Priestlands Drive:

Parallel zebra and cycle crossing

First, it’s really nice to see a return of the use of a zebra crossing which gives pedestrians priority without the need for traffic lights. They’re not perfect (they’re difficult for visually impaired pedestrians to use, for instance) but they’re better than just a dropped kerb and maybe a traffic island. Second, the parallel cycle crossing should give bikes similar priority to pedestrians, without needing to dismount. These have started to be used in London and they’re proving quite successful. It will be great to have something like this in Dumfries, and it will also hopefully connect up to the Mavis Grove path, which currently stops short, dumping cyclists onto the main road before they’re able to turn into the side streets of Troqueer.

All in all, as with Hardthorn Road, these plans show how far cycling provision has evolved in Dumfries, and that’s something to celebrate. Now we just have to ensure that the council has the courage to build what it’s designed and doesn’t get spooked by the inevitable nay-sayers online.

Pedalling on Cooncil

A quick post to say a huge thanks to everyone who took part in our ‘Mad Cow Ride’ today – those who turned up on the day (and gamely wore fancy dress) as well as those who helped with the preparations!

Coos assemble in Dock Park

We got some strange looks (and some friendly toots and waves) from those we passed but when we explained what we were up to, most people were supportive of our cause (apologies to the chap who objected to us blocking the pavement at the Cuckoo Bridge crossing)

Cycling up to McDonaldsOur circuit out to the hospital and back did serve to remind us why we were doing it though. It took two cycles of the lights to get a dozen riders across the road at Dock Park, and again at McDonald’s because there wasn’t room on the traffic island for everyone

Riding down the Maxwelltown Path
No problem riding the Maxwelltown path – even in full cow costume. Photo Paul Mackey

Once off the Maxwelltown path, things got harder – even on a Sunday it took a while to find a gap in the traffic to cross Garroch Loaning and it was even harder to find a safe place for our youngest participant to get across the road at the end of the Park Road path.

Waiting to cross Garroch Loaning Crossing the GarrochOnce at the council, we hoped a few councillors might be available to meet us, but although they had been invited, none were able to make it. We’ll be following up by email instead.

at the council offices
Arriving at the council offices – Photo Paul Mackey

We will keep on raising these issues, because a network is only as good as its weakest link. We already know that there are hospital staff who won’t cycle there because they don’t fancy crossing the Garroch Loaning without a proper crossing.  With climate change becoming an increasingly urgent problem, we have to provide people with alternatives to taking the car.

cow on a bike
The thought of cycling to work shouldn’t be as absurd as the thought of a cow on a bike – yet as long as our roads continue to be dominated by cars, for many people that’s exactly how it is. Photo by John Henry

New Abbey Road – one step forward, two steps back

UPDATE – we have since been reassured that the crossing between Park Road and Rotchell Road WILL be a toucan crossing (with a green man/bike). Apologies for spreading premature alarm! But please do go to the information event yourselves to find out more.
New Abbey Road information event poster

As you may have seen, the council are consulting on Thursday about changes to the Pleasance Road / New Abbey Road junction and an associated cycleway. This is something that has been a long-running saga – the original plans back in 2017 were at best only a partial improvement and got sent back to the drawing board. When we visited the site again with councillors last summer we were pleasantly surprised at how much the plans had improved with a segregated cycle path along the Park Farm side of the New Abbey Road and crossings between Rotchell Road and Park Road – this is a very poor crossing at the moment, and is the  reason why we have stopped taking family rides along this route.

Unfortunately, the latest plans for the New Abbey Road are nothing like as promising as the ones we saw before. Although the cycleway remains, there are no controlled crossings onto it at either Priestlands Drive or, apparently, Rotchell Road – i.e. either end. The only place where there will be a toucan crossing is right in the middle, at Pleasance Avenue (as part of the whole traffic light sequence for the cars). This seems ridiculous – why build segregated infrastructure for cyclists if you’re not going to offer a safe way to cross that can be used by families, people with disabilities, and anyone who can’t simply find a gap in the traffic and dash across

Plans for New Abbey Road
Plans for New Abbey Road – as found buried in the committee papers for the Infrastructure committee

It’s not immediately clear from the plans themselves, but if you read the committee papers (Section 3.25 onwards) you’ll see that there are no plans for a toucan crossing at either end – and there’s a whole other conversation to be had about why this information isn’t being properly put out online, rather than only making it available to those who know how to navigate committee papers or can go to an information event held on a single afternoon and evening.

This is why we’re going to the trouble of dressing up as cows on Sunday – because we want the same consideration for people as dairy cows get when they have to cross the road. It’s all very well building cycle tracks but if you can’t get to them easily, safely and conveniently, then what is the point?

Dressing up as a cow is a bit of fun – but the need for safe crossings is deadly serious

If you think this is ridiculous then please join us on Sunday – you can sign up on Facebook here  or just show up at 11am at the Bandstand at Dock Park ready to ride a route of our worst crossings – including the New Abbey Road (we didn’t even highlight that one because we thought it was going to be dealt with – naively).  You don’t need to come dressed as a cow, but please come and show your support for a decent, joined up cycle network  for Dumfries- not isolated bits and pieces put in where it won’t inconvenience the cars.

If you can’t make it (or even if you do) then get along to the information event and have your say – or write to your councillors to tell them we need proper crossings for people in Dumfries and Galloway

Get crafty for our Mad Cow Ride!

Pop Dumfries posterIt’s less than two weeks till our Mad Cow Ride – please do sign up online if you’re coming – and preparations are hotting up.  We’ve planned our route and we’re starting to spread the word – and now we’re getting organised with the costumes.

If you want to help out and/or create your own cow costume then come along to our afternoon costume making party on Saturday 20th April (Easter Saturday). We’ll be at Buddies Bike Barn (on Friar’s Vennel) from 1:30 getting crafty with felt, decorating overalls and other things.

We’ll confess now, we’re not 100% sure how to make a cow costume although we have some ideas, so come along with ideas of your own and any supplies you might have that you think might come in useful.

Tea, coffee and refreshments will be provided.

Of Coos and Crossings

Pop Dumfries poster
Poster for our Mad Cow Ride!

As we announced last week we’re joining in with the Pedal on Parliament Pop-up Pops weekend of action with our own Mad Cow Ride – a tour of some of the worst crossings for pedestrians and cyclists in Dumfries.

We chose to focus on crossings because they’re a real Achilles’ heel in Dumfries’s cycling network. We’ve got some great cycle paths and some amazing rural roads, but they’re not as joined up as they could be because when it comes to crossing the road then it’s clear that people on foot and on bikes are considered second class citizens – they mustn’t do anything to slow the flow of motorised traffic.

map of route
The map of our planned route – click on the map for more details

The route of the ride takes us through some of the most glaring examples (although it’s by no means all of them!) This post is to just to explain why we’ve chosen them and how we think they can be improved.

So sit back, relax, and join us on a pictoral tour of the crossings of Dumfries:

Dock Park

Dock Park crossing
Crossing into Dock Park with a couple of the Buddies bikes

To be fair, the council are planning to upgrade this crossing and have had some funding from Sustrans to look at options for it. However, it’s been a long time coming (almost as long as it takes to get a decent sized group of cyclists across). Anyone who’s been on any of our summer rides knows what this crossing is like if you need to cross safely with children and wait for the green man/bike. Add in non-standard bikes or trikes, and the fact that sometimes the green man simply doesn’t come on, and it can be very slow and stressful using this crossing. Dock Park needs a better entrance than this.

The Vennel Crossing

Crossing to the Vennel
Run! You’ve got 5 seconds to cross here. Usain Bolt might manage it …

There’s a lot that’s right about this crossing – it’s a single stage crossing, there’s no railing penning you in, and it is a nice connection between the river and the town. But the green man/bike lasts for just 5 seconds (and you can be waiting for almost a minute depending on when it last came one). That’s fine for alert able-bodied people, but if you’re a bit slow off the mark, then the green man will have gone before you’ve even left the kerb. Hurry! Hurry! Mustn’t keep the important cars waiting …

Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park

Cuckoo Bridge crossing
Crossing to the Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park. Via a drive-thru …

Cyclists and pedestrians make good customers – plenty of studies have shown that they spend more than people who drive to the shops, yet the entrance to the Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park couldn’t be less welcoming if you’re not driving. It takes two stages to cross the road, and there’s a narrow traffic island that’s caged in to make it extra awkward. And once you’ve negotiated that, you have to go past the exit to the KFC drive thru – hopefully its customers will be paying attention to where they’re going rather than their meal…

KFC drive thru
Here’s how cyclists and pedestrians enter the Cuckoo Bridge retail park now … right past the drive thru exit

The ‘McDonalds’ Crossing

Mc Donald's Crossing
Another two-stage crossing with a narrow fenced-in island (and an endless wait).

Crossing the A76 into Lochside is no better. Despite the fact that this crossing joins the new campus with the new learning hub, priority is clearly given to those in their cars heading for a Big Mac rather than pupils who may be going between the two on foot. This crossing can take ages for the lights to change, you have to cross in two stages, and there’s barely room in the middle for one bike.  Compare and contrast the huge amount of space given to the entrance and exit of McDonalds. Is this really where our priorities lie as a town?

McDonalds entrance
Are three lanes – and a nice sweeping curve – really necessary to allow cars in and out of the drive thru?

The Garroch Loaning

Garroch crossing
Heading to the new hospital? Here’s where they wouldn’t put a proper crossing …

We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the crossing to the hospital in the last few years – and while the new crossing is an improvement on the old one, it still means that anyone wanting to get from the Maxwelltown Path to the cycle path to the hospital has to find a gap in the traffic in what is officially a 60mph road. We went round and round in circles on this one – but at the end of the day, if the will was there, we think the council could have either put in a proper green man crossing here – or bought the land needed to use the viaduct as a bridge.

Garroch loaning crossing NCN 7
The other crossing of the Garroch

But it’s even worse at the bottom of the road. This crossing is part of NCN 7 – supposedly a national flagship route – as well as the council’s route to Mabie Forest, but the dropped kerb doesn’t even line up with the traffic island. This is a 30mph limit just here so there could have been a proper crossing here, rather than some faded paint and a dropped kerb.

Dalbeattie Road

Crossing the Dalbeattie Road
Another ‘find a gap and run for your life!’ crossing

And it gets worse if you want to use the cycle path back into town via Troqueer…  Crossing the Dalbeattie road onto the path, you don’t even get a traffic island. Although technically in the 30 mph limit, the cars go fast here and when it’s busy, good luck finding a gap in both directions big enough to cross.  Again, we know the council have plans to put a wider shared-use path on the other side of the road eventually – but those plans have already gone through two iterations and they still haven’t worked out how it will all work between here and the New Abbey Road.

end of the Park Road route
Where the Park Road track ends …

Meanwhile, this is what greets you if you do manage to cross and continue on down Park Road. Right on a bend, with poor visibility, the cycle path just … ends. Time to rejoin the road and take your chances with the traffic. That’s fine for fit, confident cyclists, but it’s no good for families, less confident riders, or anyone who’d actually prefer not to have  cars squeezing past them on the road.

And the rest

There’s more … including the complete lack of any safe way to cross from Newall Terrace to the station – but we end with this interesting puzzle:

Whitesands to the Loreburne Centre
A crossing without a cycle path…

This pedestrian and cycle crossing is a bit of a puzzle because there’s no cycle path on the other side of it. Head up towards the Loreburn Centre and you’re suddenly going the wrong way into the bus stances. We don’t know what the plans are here – but it’s been like that for several years now. Just one more disjointed piece in the half-finished puzzle that is the Dumfries cycle network. But at least this is one junction that’s actually just as much of a pain in the neck in a car as on a bike …

If you think that the town could do more to make riding a bike (or walking) as inviting as driving a car, then please join us on Sunday 28th April for our Mad Cow Ride. Because cows get to cross the road in relative comfort  in Dumfries and Galloway – and we think people should be able to too!

Ride Routes page ready – are you?

If there’s one thing we’ve done a lot of in Cycling Dumfries it’s go on bike rides. We’ve added a ‘Ride Routes’ page to our website to share our favourite rides with you. So if you’re stuck for ideas take at look at the page for some inspiration.

There are a mixture of rides starting at 3 miles and going up to 26 miles. Each ride page gives you a flavour of the ride – how hilly it may be and points of interest to look out for on the way.

summer road ride
The road from Kingholm

Compiling this list has been a great reminder of how fantastic the scenery is in Dumfries and Galloway. Even on a short 3 miler from Dock Park to Kingholm Quay you take in the wild river Nith, detailed old buildings and a braw view of Criffel. Take a longer ride out of toon and you’ll come across historic features covering the last 2000 years. Stone circles, old crannog sites and castles in various states of crumbliness.

All of this set to a backdrop of spectacular scenery and beautiful views, inhabited by some cracking plants and wildlife. Otters, badgers, red squirrels, nightjars, barnacle geese, red kites, osprey, wild garlic, samphire, bluebells, purple hairstreak butterflies . . . And a scattering of lovely tea rooms to top it all off.

We are surrounded by a rich heritage, so what better way to enjoy it than on a bike ride.