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Ever Wanted to Take Part in a JOGLE* …

… but couldn’t quite face the distance? Well here’s your chance. Local rider Billy Wallace from Tynron is doing the ride to raise funds for Support In Mind Scotland. As well as looking for sponsors (of course) he’s also hoping for some cycling company on the Dumfries to Gretna leg on Sunday the 12th June. The ride will start at Kaleidoscope at midday where there will be a pre-ride roll and drink available, and end at Gretna where there will be a reception group. Those not fancying the ride back into the prevailing wind can get a train home from Gretna Green station

To find out more about Billy, and to offer sponsorship, you can visit his fundraising page. And if you’d like contact details, let us know and we’ll pass them on.
*John O’Groats to Land’s End

First Meeting and a Flying Start

Well, when we organised the first Cycling Dumfries meeting we weren’t expecting things to get off the ground quite so quickly. In fact, we weren’t really expecting anything at all – personally, I had no idea if anyone would turn up or who they’d be or what they’d say. So we were pretty pleased to gather a dedicated bunch of ten at Mi Amore on Thursday night to chew over what could be done to improve the lot of cyclists in Dumfries. There will be some actual minutes eventually (and I’ll explain in a minute why they’ll be a little late) but the gist of it was that we needed:

  • A decent cycle route from the east (e.g. Collin) into Dumfries, without cyclists having to tackle either the A75 or any big roundabouts, and quieter roads in from Glencaple and New Abbey as well
  • Better bike bus services, with the 500 consistently providing space for bikes and bikes allowed on other buses in the region too. And good covered bike racks at bus stops in the outlying villages
  • A more joined up bike network in the town, with routes that go somewhere useful rather than just out and back
  • Clearer signposting for bikes coming off the cycle paths and onto the roads with clearly marked routes up to the shops
  • Lower speed limits – preferably 20mph in all built up areas, not just around the schools
  • Better maintenance of the bike paths that are built, with broken glass and thorns swept off, potholes repaired and the snow cleared and the paths gritted in the winter (indeed, the pavements could do with this as well, with people forced to walk in the roads after the snow last winter and the winter before)
  • Better and more secure cycle parking…
  • …And the political will to do something about it.

… and that last point is really the crux of the matter. According to GoSmart’s research, only 3% of people in the town cycle whereas almost everyone drives. Although some things, like 20mph speed limits and better maintenance of paths, benefit pretty much everybody, some things  – like better bike routes – only really benefit the cyclists.  With so few people cycling, we don’t exert much influence on the council compared with drivers. So to get better cycling conditions we need more cyclists. But to get more cyclists, we need better cycling conditions. It’s a chicken and egg situation. It’s a Catch 22…

It’s in order to try and kick start a cycling culture in the town that we’ve decided to apply for Cycling Scotland funding. The good news is, there’s a fund available for just these sorts of projects and it’s reasonably easy to apply for. The bad news is, the deadline for applications is on Tuesday. So that’s why we’ve been a bit slow reporting back from the meeting. Instead of sitting back and enjoying the long weekend – or even getting out on our bikes much – we’ll be spending it poring over spreadsheets and application forms and writing budgets and project plans. It’s very unlikely that a group can go from a discussion over a few drinks to a successful funding proposal in four days but we’re giving it our best shot. And if we make it – well watch this space. We could be in for a busy few months.

Why Cycle Events are Like Buses…

Well, this is just typical. You can wait weeks for a cycling event to come along in Dumfries and then two of them come along at once! Still, it means there’s a ride for everyone going on tomorrow, so there’s no excuse not to get your bike out and join at least one of them… in fact, if you’re nippy enough, you might be able to make it to both.

In no particular order, there is the combined CTC and Go Bike! cycle ride which starts at 1pm near Cargenbridge and will be a leisurely family-friendly ride along the Maxwelltown Cycle path. It will last 1-2 hours and will end back at Cargenbridge which should allow you enough time to double back and join …

… the Pink Mile fun day and cycle event in support of the Dumfries and Galloway LGBT centre. Their intrepid cyclists have just completed a mammoth 300 mile ride from Inverness, but they’re only expecting you to join them for their final mile. Gather for a picnic from 1pm at the King George V sports centre, and set off around 2pm, with other fun and games to follow.

We’re always happy to promote any bike-related event in the area so if you’re planning a ride, meeting, sponsored trip or anything like that, just let us know on the Events page and we’ll add it to the site.

Of Trains and Bikes and Alibis

Looking for a book the other day, I happened to pick up a copy of Dorothy Sayers’ Five Red Herrings, which is set in and around Kirkcudbright. I’ve read it before but not since we moved up here and it’s been interesting to re-read it now that I know the places involved. But what really struck me that I hadn’t noticed before was just how many bikes and trains there were in the book.

Could anyone these days write a book set in Dumfries & Galloway where the plot turned on who had managed to cycle to what station to catch what train? Most of the trains have long gone and so has a world in which everybody has a bicycle (or could lay their hands on one) and would think nothing of taking it eight or nine miles across country to catch a train. It was published back in 1931 and includes at the front a little map which was a revelation to me. I knew that there once were more railway lines in the area but according to the map (and she makes it clear in her preface that ‘all the trains are real’) they were everywhere – down to Kirkcudbright, up to Moniaive, Gatehouse, Castle Douglas, the lot, all now sadly gone.

Much as I’d love to see those trains back, I think that it’s pretty unlikely they’d ever be reinstated now, but it struck me that it’s left us with an opportunity in the region. One of the barriers to cycling around here is the hills and that’s one reason why old railway lines make such fabulous cycling routes. Like most cyclists, trains don’t like going uphill and they also like taking the most direct route from a to b. Dr Beeching’s axe might have robbed us of our train network but it has potentially left us with a whole new network of fantastic traffic-free and reasonably flat routes from town to town. As the photos on this post show, while there are loads of lovely quiet roads around here, they do tend to undulate a bit. But imagine being able to get from Dumfries to Castle Douglas avoiding the Old Military Road’s policy of going over every hill it can find. Imagine if families with younger kids could cycle direct to Mabie forest along the viaduct, without having to do battle on the A710 or have to load their bikes onto their car. If nothing else, imagine the tourism potential of enabling people to explore the whole county safely and easily by bike.

Perhaps it’s a pipe dream – it would cost a fortune, the lines may have long since been built over and the bridges and viaducts are crumbling away. But sometimes even pipe dreams can come true and if we don’t set our sights high, nobody else is going to do it for us.