Glasgow Road works – an opportunity?!

As you may have seen online or even on the big electronic sign by the road, the Glasgow Road will be completely or partially closed from the 9th to the 19th August for resurfacing

map of road closure
Map of the closure and the diversion (for cars!)

The main closures will not be during rush hour, but this road can get busy and backed up at the best of times – so this might be the perfect opportunity to anyone who normally drives through this part of town to try cycling instead.

The road will also be closed to bikes, but there are alternatives which are much more pleasant, depending on where you’re coming in from.

Route from Lincluden
Cycle route avoiding the Glasgow Road – from Lincluden. Click for more details

Coming from Lincluden, the best bet is probably the ‘curly wurly’ bridge off College Road, which takes you over the bypass and then you can make your way through quiet streets down to the Loreburn Bridge by the rowing club.

Route from Lochside
Route for those coming from Lochside or further west (e.g. along the Irongray Road). Click for more details

If you’re coming from Lochside or further out, then the Cuckoo Bridge over the A76 roundabout might be a better option, again taking you across the river at the rowing club.

Your commute could look like this …

If you’re coming from further afield you could always park and ride – there are parking spaces by the Rhino in Lincluden for instance, and there’s usually plenty of space to park on the Irongray road around the industrial estate.

We’re happy to help if you have a different journey and would like advice on quiet routes. Leave a comment or email us on cyclingdumfries@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to provide you with some options. Not everywhere in Dumfries is bike friendly but there are lots of sneaky routes that don’t involve mixing with heavy traffic even in rush hour – and you may surprise yourself and discover it’s actually quicker than driving.

In fact, you may never want to go back to the car – so why not give it a go?

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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

Winter Maintenance – Two Cheers

A rare beast has been spotted on the cycle paths of Dumfries:

cycle path deicer
Cycle path deicer at work on the Caledonian Cycleway

This is the council’s latest acquisition and we’re really delighted – it’s for treating cycle paths (we’d call it a gritter but it actually uses brine rather than grit and rock salt because that’s more effective on cycle paths where there are no car wheels to help spread it). We’ve long been calling for cycle paths to be treated against ice and snow, just as the roads are. Since the opening of the new hospital, the lack of gritting of the Maxwelltown path has been a real problem because it is now a major commuter route for hospital staff who may be travelling to and from work at all hours.

Maxwelltown path in snow
A reminder of what the Maxwelltown Path used to look like in the ice and snow. Hopefully no more!

Not only that, but the council have also been working to cut back vegetation on some of the paths where it has started to encroach (as well as removing some of the barriers to path entrances, partly to let their little not-a-gritter through) – this has been positively noted by the cyclists of Dumfries, who have gone so far as to describe the Station path as ‘a delight’. A big thanks and well done to the council for organising that!

making a difference
We’ve been known to do our own clearing work when needs must – so it’s great when we don’t have to!

That said – with the icy weather last week, we still saw lots of cyclists coming off their bikes on the ice, particularly on Tuesday, so what’s going on? Partly it’s to do with the limitations of winter path treatment: if the brine goes on before it rains then it can be washed off, or if it’s more than a few degrees below freezing, ice will still form. So please do check the weather forecast and the overnight conditions before setting off, and plan your journey accordingly.

There’s also the fact that not all paths are treated. We know that the station path is too narrow for the de-icing machine to access, so doesn’t get treated. We’re told that the grit bins at path entrances are for the public’s use, so if you’re feeling particularly public spirited and have the time, feel free to treat the worst spots yourself. Other paths also may not get treated (the Maidenbower for instance) so check with the council about whether the ones near you are treated and if not, ask your councillors about getting it added to the route.

The de-icing also doesn’t seem to reach the access paths for the Maxwelltown path (which are probably the most dangerous bits to ride if it’s icy!) and the ‘snail trail’ of brine it leaves is quite narrow – it doesn’t treat the whole path. Hopefully, these are things that can be improved once the system beds in but meanwhile, be cautious when entering and leaving the path and try and keep on the brined strip if you can (random dogs and pedestrians permitting).

If you’re still finding ice a problem on your route, you can get a bit more grip by letting some air out of your tyres (to increase the contact patch with the tarmac) or even fitting ice tyres (like Marathon Winters – other brands are available) which are pretty magic even on black ice.  But the best safety tip of all (whether you’re cycling, walking OR driving) is to allow extra time for your journey – being in a rush is a recipe for danger.

Despite these limitations, we are still very pleased to see the council starting to treat cycling and walking as a year-round means of transport and treating its flagship routes accordingly. We spend a lot of time complaining about things in Cycling Dumfries – and this is an issue that has come up year after year – so thank you, and here’s to safe cycling for everyone for the rest of the winter.

Street Audit …

We had quite a different sort of outing this morning, taking part in the Dumfries town centre community street audit, organised by Living Streets.

rain on the river

Apologies for the lack of any photos – it was just too wet! But this gives a good flavour of the weather (we seem to have a large stock of wet-weather photos on this site, for some reason!)

The aim of the audit was to look at the environment for walking (and cycling, but the emphasis was on the pedestrian experience) in Dumfries town centre, and particularly from the High Street to Dock Park. As well as a couple of Cycling Dumfries members, there were a good dozen participants, including the head teacher and four primary school children from St. Michael’s.

buddies bikes
The wheelchair bike (and friends) on a slightly dryer day!

We had brought along Buddies’ wheelchair transporter bike, because we thought it was a good illustration of the problems that come when you’re trying to get about on a non-standard bike, whether that be a cargo bike, trike or even a mobility scooter. It certainly showed up the difficulty of navigating the crossings at Dock Park, and even more so on the narrow pavements around St Michael’s school and St Michael’s street (note – we wheeled the bike on the pavements, there was no illegal pavement cycling!).

We were already very familiar with the problems of the crossing into Dock Park (which is slated for an upgrade in the next year or so) but it was eye-opening to see (or be reminded) just how poor St Michael street is for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike. As well as very narrow, caged in pavements, heavy traffic, long wait times at crossings, and wide busy streets, what was really striking was the poor air quality at the Loreburne Centre end of the street – even in the pouring rain, you could smell the traffic fumes.

The roundabout on St Michael’s from Google street view- note how this pedestrian has decided the road is a better option than those narrow boxed in pavements

We’re a cycle campaign, but we also recognise that pedestrians should have priority when it comes to our town streets. Today was a good reminder that in many ways, pedestrians can suffer even worse conditions than cyclists, especially where the car has been given priority as in Brooms Road and St Michael’s.

All in all, it was a very interesting morning – even in the rain and the cold. We hope that the audit report produces some bold suggestions as to how to make things better for pedestrians and cyclists – which in the end will benefit everyone, even drivers …

A little leaf clearing …

The forecast for this morning was pretty dire – but that didn’t stop Cycling Dumfries members and supporters from turning out at the station at 10am today to help clear the buildup of leaves that was threatening to overwhelm the station path.

getting started
Getting going. Apologies for the quality of the photograph, but it was a dark November morning and the camera struggled with the lack of light

In fact, we were so keen to get going so the work actually started early!

more clearing

With 8 helpers and a nice assortment of rakes, shovels, brushes and brooms, we were able to make a nice job of it and it was clear that, under the encroaching vegetation, the path was actually quite a bit wider than you might think.

making a difference
It’s very satisfying to make a visible difference after a couple of hours hard work

Quite a few passers-by and dog walkers complimented us on the job we were doing, which was appreciated! Sometimes this path can be a bit problematic, especially if you’re in a hurry for a train, so it was nice to see how much space there actually is, once the path’s been properly cleared.

It being Remembrance Sunday, and the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, we paused at 11 am to observe the two minute’s silence and hear Rhian read a poem from that war – Falling Leaves – that seemed suitable to mark the occasion.

As well as being slippery, wet leaves can be heavy work, so we decided to call it a day after about two hours, with the path much improved along its whole length (although the edges could still be cleared back at the Edinburgh Road end).

path afterwards

All in all, a job worth doing and a job well done. Thanks to everyone who turned out in the rain to help!group photo