Category Archives: Policy

Hospital routes – a site visit

On Saturday a couple of us took a ride out to Cargenbridge to have a look at where the proposed new routes to the hospital will be going. The plans are here (click for the full size version)

proposed routes

Proposed hospital routes – click for full size version

As you can see, the plan is for bikes to go down the Dalbeattie Road, and then dogleg along Hermitage Drive, before crossing where Park Road crosses the New Abbey Road now. There does seem to be an indication of an alternative route up Maxwell Street, which doesn’t quite take into account the fact that Maxwell Street goes vertically up the side of a hill – as cyclists, we’re all for a direct route, but deviating around the worst gradients is generally recommended.

There are some good features. Continuing the shared use pavement from Cargenbridge to the junction between Park Road and Dalbeattie Road avoids a nasty crossing at the moment

current crossing

Current crossing of the Dalbeattie Road to get to the shared use pavement on the other side

On the whole, we’re not fans of shared use pavements, but there is little foot traffic on this stretch of the road, so it’s probably acceptable.

Plans to improve the crossing of the New Abbey Road are also an improvement. At the moment this is such a tricky crossing, we have stopped taking family groups on it.

New Abbey Road crossing point

Where Park Road joins the New Abbey Road. Not at all easy to get across

However, we don’t think that on-road cycle lanes along the rest of the Dalbeattie Road will add anything at all to the cycling experience:

Dalbeattie Road

Lower end of the Dalbeattie Road

Either they will be parked on, in which case they will be pointless, or they will need to remove the parking altogether, in which case there would be room to put in a proper separated cycle track. However it’s possible there could be room here for Dumfries’s first parking-protected cycle lane, if they got rid of the centre line.

We still feel that the best bet would be to continue the current Park Road off-road path to the junction with New Abbey Road. There are fewer pedestrians to contend with and less demand for parking, plus it’s more direct for cyclists who intend to go along Rotchell Road and then down to Suspension Brae, or indeed on to Troqueer.

end of the Park road path

Park Road path, which currently just ends, on a bend.

We would also suggest extending the Park Road path in the other direction, all the way down past the roundabout and Garroch Loaning. This would  then enable cyclists to avoid crossing the Garroch Loaning altogether, if the current pavement on the far side of the road was extended all the way up to the viaduct

other end of the path

The other end of the Park road Path. If the road was a bit narrower here to make room for a wider path, speeds would be slower too.

If that’s all too difficult with land ownership, then we’d suggest closing one end of the Dalbeattie Road off altogether, reducing through traffic, so there would be no need for separate lanes.

If you want to put these or any other points to the council, don’t forget tomorrow’s consultation – pop in to Troqueer Primary School from 2 to 7:30 to have your say.

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If wishes were bicycles …

bike skid roadsignWe Walk, We Cycle, We Vote is asking what people would like to see changed in 2017. We will be starting 2017 off as we mean to go on – but we also hope that there will be improvements in Dumfries’s cycling network in the year to come and beyond.

In all our conversations with people, there’s one theme that emerges time and time again. We all know that having kids cycle to school is a good thing – good for the kids, good for the parents, good for school results (children who cycle or walk to school concentrate better than those who are driven, for example) – even good for drivers, who don’t find the roads clogged up as soon as the schools go back. And most children love the thought of cycling to school if they can, especially if their friends can do it too. In town, a lot of kids already walk to school – but for some the distances are just too far, especially in the outlying villages, where families aren’t entitled to free transport if they live within two miles (three for children over eight) of the school.

Wish for cycling

The problem is that we just don’t have a comprehensive enough safe network of cycle routes that would allow all children to choose cycling for those distances. We know from our summer rides that cycling two or three miles is well within the capabilities of most primary school children – as long as they’re separated from fast, busy traffic. In town they can manage on the pavement (but that’s not ideal for everyone else and is technically illegal even for a small child) but there are many rural roads without even a footpath and where children might be mixing with cars going at 60 mph. That’s stressful even for adult cyclists, let alone a small child (or more to the point the parent of a small child).

waiting for repairs

So here’s what we’d like to see in 2017. We’d like to see the council make a start towards designing a network that makes safe cycling to school possible for every child within the catchment. Safe enough for primary-age children with their parents, and secondary school age ones on their own. It can’t be done in a year, of course, but it would be wonderful if this became the council’s own stated aim – with a plan to make it happen.

What’s your wish for 2017?

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Local Transport Summit – our response

You may remember back in August, that the high heidyins came down from Edinburgh to talk about transport in the region and forgot all about walking and cycling.

Well, the report of the summit is out – and they are at least looking for feedback from those of us who didn’t get an invitation. You have until the end of October to respond – so have a read through and see what you think. You can respond by writing to D&G Transport Summit, Transport Scotland, Buchanan House, 58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow, G4 0HF

Or email to: dandgsummit@transport.gov.scot

For what it’s worth, here’s what we’re saying below. But we’re sure you’ll have things to add yourselves…

Dumfries and Galloway Transport Summit – Cycling Dumfries’ response

– We were disappointed to see that no active travel organisations were invited to the meeting (not even Sustrans who have funded a lot of the existing infrastructure) whereas the ‘Dual the A75’ pressure group were invited.

– Active travel and/or walking and cycling barely get a mention in the report (one mention each) and then only in the context of the council’s Active Travel Strategy which has yet to be implemented.

We believe that active travel (particularly cycling) has a significant role to play in the region’s economy:

Inclusion

The summit noted the difficulties already in the region for those without access to a car. We propose that D&G council work with the Scottish Government to create a network of safe, direct and attractive cycle routes which can be used not just by fit adult cyclists but by those transporting children or using adaptive cycles (including e-bikes). These should prioritise linking all communities within a 5 mile radius to the train stations/major bus routes in the region. We consider safe routes to include lightly trafficked roads (less than 2,000 vehicles a day), separated cycle tracks along busier roads, and traffic-free routes away from roads (as long as they are well-lit and subject to winter maintenance). The evidence from the UK, continental Europe and North America is that where such routes are available, people choose to cycle and these routes particularly benefit women, older cyclists, people with disabilities (including those using mobility scooters) and those needing to transport children. This would make it easier for lower income households and particularly young adults to access work and education opportunities. It would also particularly benefit those who work outside normal office hours, when public transport is not widely available. Finally, more people cycling and walking can help to reduce isolation, especially in villages and towns.

Buses

The summit noted the problems of maintaining a sustainable rural bus service. We feel that cycling has a role to play here – multimodal journeys (e.g. cycling to the bus stop, or on from the bus) open up each bus route to a wider catchment area of passengers. For this to work, however, people need to be able to leave their bikes securely at bus stops, or take their bikes onto the buses. Bus stops could also offer secure charging points for e-bikes, which would attract a wider variety of cyclists. At the moment, only the 500 and the X74 bus routes take bikes. Although EU regulations make the carriage of bikes on rcks on buses complicated, it is not impossible (and most rural buses are empty enough that bikes could potentially be carried inside the bus with a bit of flexibility, especially if the wheelchair space is not in use). Encouraging people to cycle and walk within town centres instead of driving will also cut congestion, enabling more reliable bus services within towns.

The summit also noted the pressure that both the Dumfries Learning Town and the new hospital will put on bus services and the local road network. We believe that creating direct, safe, traffic-free routes between the schools and the learning hub, and to the new hospital (including a safe crossing of Garroch Loaning) will help to reduce private car usage and take pressure off the buses. In particular, there is no reason why most secondary school children could not cycle between education sites within Dumfries as long as the routes between them are safe. This would also have the benefit of increasing their activity rates during the day, with well-understood knock on benefits on learning, behaviour, health and obesity.

Rural economy

Dumfries and Galloway benefits from being on a number of long distance cycle routes, including the main west coast Lands End to John O’Groats route. Its network of quiet rural roads offer very attractive routes to touring cyclists who can spend large amounts of money in the local economy. However, it is not doing enough to maximise the benefit these visitors could bring. Better signposting of routes (including signposting passing cyclists to shops and cafes en route), better routes through towns and villages rather than skirting them, and potentially the conversion of disused railways to cycle routes, could all attract more visitors and encourage them to spend more.

Retail economy

Dumfries and Galloway benefits from a number of towns offering a good variety of specialist shops (Castle Douglas and Wigtown for example) while Dumfries is a major retail destination for the area having to compete with Carlisle and online shopping. We believe that by making these towns more attractive to active travel, retailers will benefit. Customers who cycle, walk or use public transport shop more often, and are more likely to visit independent local retailers rather than national out-of-town stores. This means a greater share of every pound they spend stays in the local economy. With more and more shopping moving online, high streets need to offer an attractive destination and pleasant experience to encourage shoppers to linger and window-shop which also encourages them to visit cafes, pubs and restaurants. By restricting the passage of cars through retail areas (while offering them plenty of free, attractive and convenient parking at the margins), streets automatically become more pleasant places to linger. This also encourages people to cycle and walk for short journeys, as it is less convenient to drive for trips of less than one mile.

Health

Regular active travel has obvious benefits for the health of the population, and those who cycle to work are less likely to take sick days off, with benefits to their employers. Dumfries and Galloway has high levels of poor health outcomes, most of which would be improved if people were more active, reducing pressure on the local NHS and care services. Building exercise into everyday activities, such as cycling to work, is also a more effective way to prevent weight gain, reducing obesity (and related health problems) overall.

The immediate actions we would like to see the area take are:

– The council to implement its Active Travel strategy in full.

– The Scottish Government to investigate ways to ensure that more central government funding for active travel comes down to the region (e.g. improve the scope and quality of the funding applications, and have more plans ready to submit when there are short notice opportunities for funding)

– All parties to ensure that any future considerations of transport issues give equal weight to active travel alongside road, rail and public transport.

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Transport Summit – what’s missing from this list?

You may have heard that the Scottish Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, and the Deputy First Minister John Swinney are coming down to Dumfries & Galloway on Monday for a “transport summit” with councillors, SWESTRANS, and various other organisations. Here’s the agenda – set by the Scottish Government:

  1. Ports / Freight / Roads
  2. Rail
  3. Buses

Given that this is billed as being about the local economy, you might well wonder where active travel is on the agenda. For why wouldn’t the Scottish Government want to discuss with local stakeholders something that boosts tourism, improves health, reduces transport poverty and could even help make the rural bus service more viable? And yet it seems that when it comes to cycling (and walking) we will continue to be a forgotten corner of Scotland.

Cycling through Dock Park

Cycling networks need to be suitable for everyone to use and go where people want to go…

As a rural area, of course cars are going to be an important part of the transport mix, but they shouldn’t be the be all and end all. We have so little rail left in the region that the railways are never going to do much for day to day transport – and trying to serve a scattered rural population by bus is always going to be hard. So cycling offers the only real alternative for a lot of journeys (more than 60%  of all car journeys in the region are less than five kms – a distance that can easily be covered by anyone on a bike, even if you’re not that fit). But that means investing in the cycling network – creating routes that feel safe even for people cycling with their children.

Investments like the new hospital, new schools and other schemes all need to have cycling and walking built in from the start. And yet the council are still refusing to put in a safe crossing to the hospital and are now digging in their heels about putting a crossing at Alloway Road to make it easier for children to get to the new school in Lochside. Elsewhere in Scotland, Edinburgh is investing in a city-wide 20 mph network (contrast with the tiny zone in Dumfries where you’d be hard pressed to get up to 30 anyway unless you floored it), while Glasgow is getting £3.5 million to build a new cycle route into town. Summits like this should be about bringing the best that Scotland has to offer to all areas, not just the central belt. Instead, this one seems to be about perpetuating car dependency in the region.

candidates at the start

Candidates for Holyrood getting on their bikes earlier this year – now that some of them have been elected, it’s time for them to follow up on the warm words we got about cycling that day

There’s still time to write to your MSPs and ask them to raise these and other issues (like the fact that, more than a year after the Active Travel Strategy was put in place, there still hasn’t been any consultation with groups over prioritising routes or investment). Let’s make sure their inbox isn’t only about dual carriageways, but about genuine transport choice …

 

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Two Tier Cycling in Scotland?

Transport minister Humza Yousaf will be visiting Dumfries next week – we hope that he hears not just about roads and more roads, but about investment in the sort of infrastructure that makes cycling possible for everyone.

crossing the KM bridge

Infrastructure like the Kirkpatrick McMillan Bridge works for everyone – but Dumfries and Galloway risks losing out in the future. Photo (c) Jim Craig, 2016

Today, the minister announced the winner of the Community Links PLUS competition to build a ‘game changing’ active travel scheme in Scotland. Congratulations to Glasgow, and the people of the Southside – the South West Cycle Way plans look like they will extend what is already one of the best cycle routes in Scotland, with an exemplar project that other towns and cities can emulate.

But you will notice that Dumfries and Galloway don’t feature in the shortlist, didn’t submit any schemes at all for the competition and indeed, weren’t granted any money at all for cycling schemes this year. We’re in danger of being left behind, while better funded cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh invest in the capacity to develop cycling infrastructure – which means they can win more central government cash and build first-class schemes while we can’t even get a crossing to the hospital.

Waiting for a gap in the traffic

Waiting for a gap in the traffic – is this any way to treat NHS staff who want to cycle to our new hospital?

As long as cycling cash is only handed out to the councils who have the capacity to bid for it, then places like Dumfries and Galloway risk being left behind – and that means a two-tier cycling network for Scotland. Glaswegians will sail into town on their shiny new path, while we are left wheeling our bikes because the main crossing into town is cut for two months for repair work, and there are no reasonable alternatives that children and families can use

bridge detour

Two-tier cycling in Scotland?

If you think this is wrong then please let your MSPs know that you’d like to see investment in cycling and walking spread across the whole of Scotland (and here’s one way it could be done and help boost Scotland’s economy after the Brexit vote). Tell them to tell the Minister that cycling is not just for the Central Belt, for Glasgow and Edinburgh. It should be made accessible to everybody in Scotland.

You can write to your MSPs here.

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Dumfries High School link opens! Well, sort of …

We were doing a bit of a recce for our Candidates’ Cycle Ride next week and went to check out our old friend the half-a-path that connects the Dumfries High School to, well, the back of Dumfries High School:

end of the path

This has been how the Dumfries High School path has ended for years…

Imagine our surprise to find …

new housing

It now leads to some new housing. Hooray! That’s only taken six years since the first half of the path was built at public expense. But could we get to the Caledonian Cycleway? After a brief detour that ended up at the edge of a building site we were directed to another tract of new housing where we were told we would be able to join the cycle path – but it didn’t look good. Had we come to a dead end?

dead end?

End of the road?

Not quite!

gap by the fence

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Once we’d squeezed past the fence (and we clearly weren’t the first to do so) we found a nice piece of ‘filtered permeability’ (that’s ‘a short cut’ in English) that eventually took us to the Caledonian cycle path

shortcut

If you ignore the toppled fence, this is a handy shortcut to the Caledonian cycleway

There’s a lot more building to go, so it’s probably not a sensible route for school kids just yet, but it’s good to know that the path will finally lead somewhere, linking up houses in Heathhall and the surrounding area into the school without kids having to brave the Moffat Road. It’s just a shame a whole generation of High School students will have come and gone while we’ve been waiting.

And on the way home, we found an old friend

I think that traffic cone has now been in situ longer than the bollard it was ‘temporarily’ replacing.  Imagine if they built and maintained roads the way they do cycle paths…

Something for our Scottish Parliament candidates to ponder on their ride on Tuesday.

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Active Travel Survey – our Response

As we’ve mentioned before, the Council are running an online survey into active travel (cycling and walking if you were wondering!). As this will feed into the council’s Active Travel Strategy, we think it’s worth taking the time to respond. We’ve also provided a copy of our response here (at least for the questions where more detailed answers could be provided):

The council lists its proposed objectives for its strategy and invites responses. The objectives are:

  • Objective 1: To promote walking and cycling as alternative ways to travel, particularly for short trips
  • Objective 2: To continue to work with school children, staff and parents to encourage more walking, cycling and scooting to and from school;
  • Objective 3: To work with employers and staff to encourage more walking and cycling to and from work;
  • Objective 4: To improve the safety of walking and cycling in Dumfries and Galloway, and contribute to national road safety targets;
  • Objective 5: To embed active travel opportunities within new developments;
  • Objective 6: To seek and support funding opportunities for active travel;
  • Objective 7: To encourage and facilitate walking and cycling as leisure and tourist activities to provide benefits to health and the local economy; and
  • Objective 8: To develop infrastructure improvements that encourages active travel and seeks to prioritise maintenance of active travel infrastructure.

We have responded:

  1. Put Objective 8 first in priority as without infrastructure all the encouragement in the world won’t make any difference in the long term. We’ve seen from our family rides that there are very few routes that are comfortable and safe to ride with children or novice cyclists
  2. Start by thinking in terms of developing a joined up network of cycle routes, particularly in the towns
  3. Make a commitment not just to seek funding but to set aside a proportion of the transport budget towards walking and cycling (the recommended figure by public health bodies is 10%)
  4. Make a commitment to provide cycling provision for everyone, including the less able-bodied (ensuring that hand cycles, trikes, cargo bikes, trailers and tagalongs can use paths without obstruction
  5. Give ‘maintenance’ an objective of its own rather than leaving it as an afterthought

At the end, it also asks for any further suggestions or comments on improving cycling and walking in the region. We’ve suggested:

  1. Stop putting cycle infrastructure on shared-use pavements within towns; take the space away from cars rather than putting people in conflict with each other.
  2. Build cycle tracks suitable for both children and adults: every child should be able to reach their school safely on a bike.
    There should be a network of direct, safe cycle routes from every village within a five-mile radius of Dumfries, Stranraer, Castle Douglas, Newton Stewart etc.
  3. Reduce traffic by reducing rat-running and making streets one-way for cars and two-way for bikes encouraging more walking and cycling safely along residential streets.
  4. Create a proper 20mph zone in Dumfries and every other town.
  5. Have the courage to remove or reduce parking if it is interfering with active travel. Encourage people to leave their cars and walk.
  6. Signpost the routes you do create – a simple, low cost way of making the infrastructure that already exists more useful

Is there anything we should have omitted or added? If you’ve got any thoughts then please do take a moment to fill in the survey. The more responses they get, then hopefully, the better the resulting strategy is likely to be.

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