No summer rides – but get out there anyway if you can!

It’s sad not to be starting our summer ride programme, as we would have been doing this afternoon, if the world hadn’t turned upside down.

group photo
Group shot from happier times

These rides have been a fixture of our summer calendar since 2012 so it’s very strange not to be embarking on eight weeks of Saturday afternoon fun, pedalling and home baking. However we hope that people will still find a way to get out and ride their bikes -and we’ve listed all the summer rides we would have done, with links to route maps and a full route description on our Summer Rides page.

If you want to try them, you can head out either with members of your household or in small groups – the current guidance is that you can meet up to eight people from up to two other households outdoors, as long as you maintain social distancing.  The rides all rely on cycle paths around the town, which have become very busy in recent weeks – so please ride courteously around pedestrians, and maybe choose a quiet time rather than our normal Saturday afternoon.

gathered at the library
It will be a while before we can encourage big groups like these again!

We’re working on putting together some ‘virtual’ summer rides – videos to show the route and give you a flavour of what to expect, if you’re not sure a particular ride is for you.

Let us know if you try any of these routes – and what you think!

A virtual meeting for May: Spaces for People fund

Well, apologies for the long break – I think the longest we’ve gone without updating the site since we were founded! We’ve been keeping up with posts on Twitter and Facebook, but since we went into lockdown, with all our activities cancelled, there hasn’t been anything to add here.

However, things are happening behind the scenes with the council interested in applying for the Scottish Government’s ‘Spaces for People‘ fund and we thought we should try and have a quick virtual meeting on Tuesday 19th May (at 6pm as is traditional) to discuss how we can campaign for the changes needed for safe, socially distanced, walking and cycling in Dumfries and beyond. Sadly we can’t gather in the pub as we usually do, but we can do so online. We’ll email all our members with the meeting link, but if you don’t get a regular email but still want to join in, just let us know (cyclingdumfries AT gmail DOT com) and we’ll send you the details.

coach and horses
Our normal meeting venue – sadly not open at the moment as we all socially distance

Glasgow and Edinburgh are already pressing ahead with temporary changes to their streets – indeed Edinburgh has announced quite a raft of measures from pop-up cycle lanes and widened pavements to road closures and re-timed pedestrian crossings.

We’ve already had a discussion with the council about possible measures – but it would be good to have more ideas from both members and non-members (and they don’t even have to be about making cycling easier – we’re just as keen to see people walking safely and easily as well!). Pedal on Parliament have been running a #SpaceForDistancing campaign to encourage people to contact their local authorities about places where they’d like to see pop-up measures and they’ve got some fun graphical tools you can use to make the point.

One bonus from this lockdown has been seeing all the families and other people out on their bikes both in the town and in the surrounding country roads. We really hope this will continue as people have got a taste for cycling – but if they have to contend with increasing traffic then we don’t think they will.

Next work party planned for the Maxwelltown Path

Clearing the path

Storm Jorge didn’t stop us from turning out in the beginning of March for our monthly joint work party with the Friends of Maxwelltown Path – we had about 8 people and soon made short work of the stretch of path from Hardthorn Road down towards Aldi.

Continuing on our journey along the length of the path our next session – on Sunday April 4th – will start at the Cuckoo Bridge entrance and work our way along to College Road.  If you can spare an hour or two, please join us – we start at 11am and plan to go on until 1, with the option of a trip to the Farmers’ Market afterwards to refuel. Bring any gardening tools you have, litter pickers and stout gloves (and if you use Facebook you can let us know you’re coming on our event page).

We might even see what we can do about tackling Loch Aldi…

 

 

Headwinds and tailwinds on our last winter ride

It’s been a bit of a wet and windy winter so far so it was something to start a winter ride with a little sunshine and no weather warnings – practically a balmy day, seasonally adjusted!

Empty A75
An unusual sight! The A75 was closed at this stretch for resurfacing.

Our destination was Crocketford – somewhere we haven’t been to for a while on our winter outings. Originally we had intended to go out via the Old Military Road and Milton and then back through Shawhead. With the closure of the A75 for resurfacing, however, we felt that some of the diverted traffic would have ended up on the Old Military Road so we headed out via the old Glen Road (in fact, we briefly considered taking advantage of the closure to ride along an almost empty A75 instead …)

top of the Glen
At the top of the glen (on the old A75) – with the headwind already making itself felt

From there we took Seeside Road up to the Terregles Road and headed west to Shawhead and then on along the back road to Crocketford – a nice and very quiet alternative to the Old Military Road if you’re heading west out of Dumfries.

coming into Shawhead
Coming into Shawhead village

An absence of weather warnings doesn’t necessarily mean an absence of weather, however and we soon found ourselves up against a stiffish headwind. Although nothing like as strong as some of the gales we’ve had recently, it was enough to make for slow going, especially on the uphill stretches, and it was after 1pm before we finally rolled into Crocketford (just as the weather was closing in) having worked up a substantial appetite for lunch.

group photo
Well lunched and ready to take advantage of the tailwind home!

Fortunately the Galloway Arms Hotel does a good range of food, from lighter options such as soup, sandwiches and baked potatoes, to a full Sunday lunch, and we were soon refuelled and ready to hit the road again. Knowing that this time the wind would be behind us, the group decided to take a detour up over the ‘top’ road past the last of the Henry Moores and down towards the Glenkiln Reservoir.

Approaching the Henry Moore sculpture
Admiring the Henry Moore sculpture – sadly, with one stolen, the rest have been put away for safe keeping. Photo Alyson Tyler

The ride then went back via the Routin Bridge to see the waterfall there and then a much speedier ride into Dumfries with the assistance of a tailwind!

Routin falls
Plenty of water going over the falls. Photo Alyson Tyler

That wraps up our winter ride season – it’s been a challenging one due to the weather, but each one of the rides has been good fun and a good way to get outside when the temptation is just hibernate and wait for spring. Thanks to everyone who’s joined us – whatever the weather!

We will still be joining forces with the newly formed Friends of Maxwelltown Path (FOMP) to get out once a month to help maintain and improve this key cycle route – with the next work party taking place on Sunday – meet at the Hardthorn Road entrance at 11am for a couple of hours work clearing and trimming – and undoubtedly some litter picking as well.

Last call for a winter ride

At the top of the hill
Old Military Road

It may not quite feel like it yet, but we’re reaching the end of February and that means spring is around the corner. That also means that this Sunday’s ride to Crocketford will be the last of our scheduled winter rides, and we’re hoping we’ll manage to sneak out between weather warnings and get a decent day’s riding in.

cycling through puddles

A wet winter like the one we’re having can be depressing – the temptation is just to batten down the hatches and sit it out until spring. But equally, if you do manage to get outside and do something active, it can be a powerful remedy to the winter blues, especially if you do it in good company.

So – as long as we’re not being battered by another massive storm on Sunday – why not join us for our ride this weekend? No need to sign up in advance (although you can do so on Facebook if you want). Just show up at Devorgilla Bridge on the Whitesands for an 11 am start, ready to ride and dressed for the weather – whatever that weather may be. We’ll be waiting!

Bike waiting at the start

A ride with council officers

group photo at the start
Group photo at the start of the ride
Route of the ride
Ride route – click on the map for more details

Thanks to both Cycling Dumfries members and council officers who came on Monday for a ride in and around Dumfries, to look at a few of the issues that raise barriers to cycling in the town. You can see the route we took on the map – starting at Cargen Towers, with lots of stops along the way to discuss various issues that have been raised at one time or another.

chicane barriers
Chicane barriers. This and the photos that follow are all courtesy of Annick Laroque of Sustrans (as I was too busy talking to take any!)

Some particular themes emerged. One is barriers to non-standard bikes – as you can see we had one handcyclist for part of the tour and we could all see the difficulty he had getting through the chicane barriers that still remain along some of our cycle routes.

looking at the high streetAnother issue is one-way streets designed to restrict cars without any consideration being given to bikes. We pointed out that there was still no legal way to cycle from the Whitesands to the High Street – even though plans were drawn up for two way cycling on Bank Street and the Vennel (and the High Street itself) several years ago but never implemented.

We looked at some of the places where cycling infrastructure (or, rather, painted bike lanes) can make things worse, for instance the lanes around the Morrison’s roundabout (which put bikes on the outside of the roundabout, which is dangerous if you’re not actually turning) and the ones on Brooms Road that leave bikes at risk from left-turning traffic. This was also a reminder that while we have some wonderful cycle paths and routes in some parts of town, there are whole areas of Dumfries which are still extremely hostile to all but the most experienced cyclist.

Another issue is gradient – too often the bike route appears to have been designed without reference to the contours on the map. For instance, most of the planning around routes from the centre of town up to the new hospital assume cyclists will go up Suspension Brae. Quite apart from the fact that you’re not allowed to cycle over the Suspension Bridge, this means an extremely stiff climb up from the river – and we made sure that the council officers experienced that for themselves! To be fair, they mostly made it to the top, but it did make the point that this is not necessarily the way to arrive at work looking cool, calm and collected.

crossingsCrossings are another big issue that cause problems where cycle routes intersect with roads. There’s the crossing into Dock Park which takes forever and is almost impossible to use with adaptive cycles. And then there are the crossings like Park Road and the bottom of the Garroch where sight lines are poor and in some cases traffic is going at quite high speeds – despite being on part of the National Cycle Route and the fairly recently designed route to Mabie Forest.

As well as riding, there was the opportunity to discuss some of the issues raised, both along the way and after the ride was over. Some themes emerged here too. One was about time – a lot of these problems are well known in the council, and there are plans to do something about it, but they seem to take ages – we’ve been talking about two way cycling in the town centre, the Dock Park crossing and the New Abbey route for several years now, and every year that passes just serves to put people off taking up cycling. The council has declared a climate emergency in recent months, so we hope that a little more urgency will be injected into the proceedings.

The second overall theme is that we’ve pretty much reached the end of what we can do by repurposing railway lines and sharing footpaths. To build a proper cycling network in Dumfries (without making life worse for pedstrians) we need to start reallocating road space away from private cars. That takes political courage – there’s an army of people ready to complain about even adding a pedestrian cycle to a road junction – but it is what needs to happen, and really it needs to start now.

Thanks again to the officers of the council for coming along and being willing to have their ears bent by us all – I think we can agree that the discussion was good humoured and constructive but that we were pretty robust in our views. We’ll keep you posted with what happens next.

 

Dodging puddles on our January winter ride

Bike waiting at the start
Not the nicest weather at the start

On days when the weather’s not great, there’s always a moment at the start of any ride when we wonder if anyone will turn up. Fortunately, despite a wet and blustery morning yesterday, there were six people willing to find out if the forecast was correct – and prepared for the weather if it wasn’t!

Plastic bag boot liners
This natty strawberry-patterned trim was in fact some repurposed plastic bags acting as waterproof boot liners

Fortunately, the forecast was correct and by the time we’d got out to the outskirts of town, the rain had stopped and the wind dropped and there was even some brightness later on in the day. We headed out over the river and along College Road to cross the bypass at the ‘curly wurly bridge’ and then made our way through Lincluden to the Glasgow Road.

We were heading for Holywood, but although there is a footpath along the A76 to the village it’s not a shared-use path and it’s too narrow to make for pleasant cycling when there are lorries bombing along just inches away, so we detoured via Newbridge and the 12 Apostles, to come back and cross the A76 again just at the Holywood turnoff. (Note that this is a really obvious missing link in the cycle path network – it wouldn’t take much to widen the path from Holywood to Newbridge and this would connect the village nicely into the town – and make the primary school much more accessible by bike).

We then followed quiet back roads – dodging puddles from the rain and at one point chasing some deer along the road until they disappeared into the woods.

cycling through puddles
It’s not just the cycle paths that suffer from poor drainage when it rains! Fortunately there was almost no traffic on this road (apart from us and deer).

We then crossed the A76 once more to tackle the climb up Coldside Lane – and enjoy the descent down into Auldgirth where the Hamans Cafe had a warm welcome waiting for us.

climbing the hill
Tackling the hill … we decided to get the hillier part of the route over with before lunch!

This is a new cafe to us and they’ve recently refurbished their dining area and put in a woodburning stove which was extremely welcome after our wet start. The food was plentiful and good value and a bit out of the ordinary (while deep-fried cheese can in no way be described as a health food, it certainly appealed to some after a few miles on the bike).

After lunch, well fed and dried out, we ventured out again for the ride home. Two of our number peeled off to return more directly to Shawhead, while the rest of us crossed the A76 one last time, to ride back on a slightly flatter and more direct route through Dalswinton and Kirkton, cutting across to the Quarry Road and then reaching Dumfries by way of the Caledonian Cycleway, where we could admire the council’s efforts at clearing the path of leaves

(We’re not completely out of the woods yet though – the section at the bottom of the bridge out by the bypass is still pretty slippery).

All in all a good day out and in the end the weather didn’t dampen our enjoyment at all. The next ride is out to Crocketford at the end of February – please join us and don’t be put off by a little rain!

Thanks to John Henry for some of the photographs – you can see more of our day out on our Facebook page.

Path fun continues!

 

shovel transport by bikeJoin us and local residents once more on Sunday 2nd February  for a session working on the Maxwelltown Path – this time we’ll be at the Cargenbridge end (at the ‘zig zags’) cutting back encroaching vegetation before spring gets too advance and we’re at risk of disturbing nesting birds. Join us from 11am for a couple of hours of exercise in the fresh air – probably followed by a pedal down to the Farmers’ Market to replace all the calories burned.

As you may have seen on social media we seem to have been doing more path work than pedalling – but it’s finally starting to prove effective.

After reporting problems, multiple emails, two months of waiting and no response – we took matter into our own hands and cleared the station path ourselves. It’s taken a little longer, but as of yesterday the most problematic section of the Caledonian path – from the Edinburgh Road to the Moffat Road – has been cleared of leaves (it took the wee machine a few goes apparently – they should have tried shovelling).

The work we do on the Maxwelltown Path is a little different, as we’re trying to be proactive in preventive work that will help make this flagship path something everyone can use  – and to work with local residents to keep a huge asset for the town in top condition. So far our efforts have made a huge difference and it’s been a very pleasant way to spend a winter weekend morning too.

people at work
Working on the Maxwelltown Path last year

So please do join us if you can for another session – bring tools (loppers and pruning tools will be handy) and gloves and come along ready to make a difference to our environment!

If you use Facebook, you can sign up and spread the word through our event page – if only so we know how much home baking to bring!

A new cafe stop … and a Burns ride out!

As mentioned, we’re refreshing our winter ride routes this year and the first change comes next Sunday when we return to Auldgirth for the first time in a while to check out The Hamans cafe, which has been recently revamped and extended. Meet us at Devorgilla Bridge on the Whitesands for an 11am start on Sunday 26th, and bring a bit of lunch money for the cafe if you can – we do like to spread the cycling pound. If you use Facebook we have an event set up so you can sign up or use it to spread the word, but you can equally just turn up on the day.

climb out of Auldgirth
Blue skies and distant hills on the climb up out of Auldgirth last time we visited

This is perhaps a slightly more challenging ride than our jaunt out to Ae (although it covers some of the same route). The road from Duncow to Auldgirth is a little busier than our normal single track back roads (although still pretty quiet by most standards) and depending on the route we take back to Dumfries, the climb up and out of Auldgirth can be a trial! But we’ll take it as easy as folk want to and we’re always happy to spend time admiring the view (or catching our breath …) on the way up a climb!

Buddies Burns Bike Ride posterThis ride replaces our old ‘Burns Ride’ out to Brow Well (by popular demand) but if you still feel the need to combine celebrating Scotland’s national poet with bike riding then never fear, because Buddies have got your back. On Wednesday 29th January they’re hosting a led ride from their Bike Barn on the Vennel into Dock Park.

The ride starts at 4 so light up your bike – indeed, there’s a prize for the best lit bike so don’t hold back. You can also dress up as Burns himself and bring along a bike-related poem.

Buddies rides are absolutely for all abilities and they have a range of adaptive bikes to share so get in touch with them if you or someone you know needs a little assistance getting pedalling. The ride is for everyone, though so please do come along if you want a little Burns-and-bikes related fun!

Leaf it to us…

Join us – Friday morning, 10-12 at the Station path for a bit of DIY action on the leaves.

station path with leaves
The state of the station path

While we’ve been working on improving the Maxwelltown Path, you may well be wondering what’s going on with the station path and the Caledonian path, both of which were reported as needed clearing of leaves two months ago.

more clearing
Working on the path last year – this gives you some idea of how wide the path actually is

Despite being told this work was scheduled back in November, since then absolutely nothing has happened. The Castledykes Park path was finally cleared after two follow-ups, but it seems the station path is just too difficult. This causes conflict between cyclists and pedestrians on a busy stretch of path – and it’s also dangerous for anyone cycling after dark (which is most people who commute in winter) who can’t always see where the edge of the path is. It’s even more dangerous on the stretch of the Caledonian up to the Moffatt Road which is both sloping and curving – perfect conditions for causing someone to skid off.

leaf buildup on the Caledonian PathWhile we’re happy to help local residents improve the Maxwelltown Path – we know that the council can’t do everything in these straitened times – we had hoped that they wouldn’t leave safety critical work like this to voluntary action. However, we’ve run out of patience now. It’s extra frustrating that they were out with leaf blowers again along the Edinburgh Road, which is  right next to the path – but the station path has gone beyond leaf blowers now because it’s been left too long. The sweeping machine won’t touch it either, so it’s down to elbow grease and showing willing. If they can’t do it, we’ll show them how.

If you can spare a couple of hours on Friday morning, Jill and Alyson, two Cycling Dumfries members and local residents, will be heading out to see what they can do from 10-12. The best tool will be a shovel but a stiff brush might be helpful if it’s not too wet and stout gloves will be essential. If we’ve enough people we can spread out to both paths.

getting started
Let’s show them how it’s done