Want to see more cycle paths? Let our MSP know!

Emma Harper MSP
Emma Harper, on her bike at last year’s bike breakfast

Here’s a quick simple thing you can do to encourage the powers that be to invest more in cycling infrastructure, especially locally! Emma Harper MSP wants to hear from people about what they’d like to see done in the region, so she can take that to our new Transport Secretary. You can reach Emma easily on her official email address (emma.harper.msp@parliament.scot) and if you’re a bit stuck for words, you can borrow our email below – just add your own examples after ‘For instance’ of where you’d like to see something change. We’ve had a great response to a recent Facebook post about Community Links funding, so we know the demand is out there – but our politicians won’t know themselves unless we tell them, so get writing!

Dear Emma Harper

I’m emailing to ask for your support to bring more high-quality infrastructure for both cycling and walking to our region. As you know, the best way to encourage people to cycle and walk more is to give them safe conditions to do so, preferably away from heavy and fast traffic. This in turn means fewer car journeys, less pollution, a healthier population and also gives children and young people freedom to get about without being dependent on their parents to drive. In our beautiful rural areas, it also has huge potential to increase tourism without putting too much of a strain on our resources and infrastructure.

I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has already announced more money for active travel investment, but progress is painfully slow and Dumfries and Galloway is in danger of missing out. Because of the need to provide match funding, the council is only bidding for a few Community Links projects a year. Even when bids are successful, they are often then held up or even cancelled because of objections from landowners who haven’t been properly consulted.

We already have some great locations for cycling and walking but there are some glaring omissions which mean people who would like to cycle more have no safe alternative to driving – even for some quite short journeys. For instance, ….

Dumfries and Galloway was originally the home of cycling, and it could become a byword for active travel with proper investment, amounting to just a fraction of what a road scheme would cost. If the Scottish government is serious about seeing 10% of journeys by bike, as it has said, then it needs to start investing now in filling these (and other) gaps in the network.

I hope you will pass this message on to the minister and help us make our region one of the healthiest places in Scotland.

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Let’s not just Beat the Streets – let’s improve them

With the Beat the Street game well underway, we were pleased this morning to note that our team were second on the average points leaderboard  – showing just how handy a bike is for getting about Dumfries.

Beat the Streets leaderboard
Go team Cycling Dumfries! We’ve got off to a great start

It’s even better to see so many primary school kids taking part, with Heathhall School topping the leaderboard overall. Given Scotland’s woefully low figures for physical activity among children, this can only be a good thing. We hope that for many people, this game will be the nudge they need to get walking and cycling around town even once the game is over. As our summer rides show, there are plenty of good routes to cycle around the town, if you know where to look!

curly wurly bridge
Using the new dropped curb at the ‘curly wurly bridge’ in Lincluden. For years there wasn’t one, until it got listed on CycleScape.

However we also know that there are plenty of places where Dumfries could be improved for cycling and walking, especially the routes kids take to primary school and beyond. A few years back we listed many of the bigger missing links – and there are plenty of small barriers too (some of them literally barriers like at the new Aldi). As we reported last year, we’re using CycleScape to collate these barriers, and we know that the council are listening, even if they don’t always respond immediately.

Beat the Street map
Beat the Street – where will it take you?

So as you walk, cycle, run or scoot around Dumfries collecting points for Beat the Street – especially if you’re going places where you might not normally walk or cycle – then please do keep note of the things that you would like to see to make it easier not just for ‘hardened’ cyclists but for those who can’t necessarily ride in among the traffic on the road.

You can report things direct onto CycleScape (you’ll need to create an account) or you can email us (cyclingdumfries@gmail.com) and we’ll add them (and take up the issue) on your behalf. Sometimes things can be quite quickly fixed, others take longer – but the better we make walking and cycling in the town, the more likely it is people will keep being active on their own initiative, without any games to do so. And that will benefit us all.

And speaking of games – we still want to make sure we win! Do please join us if you haven’t already, and join us on Tuesday afternoon for a group ‘beat box hunt’ around town before our monthly meeting. Meet on the Whitesands opposite the Coach and Horses at 5:30, followed by the pub at 6:30 having worked up a bit of a thirst …

Insert Loved One Here

The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has launched a new online tool “Insert loved one here” that draws attention to particularly terrifying cycling infrastructure, like the bike lanes at the Morrison’s Roundabout

Insert loved one here
Would you want to see someone you loved on a bike here?

We’re actually fairly fortunate in Dumfries that there isn’t too much of this sort of paint on the road that ends up making things worse for cycling not better (it seems like anyone who’s ever been knocked off their bike in Dumfries has been knocked off at this roundabout – and no wonder as following the lanes around the outside of the roundabout actually puts you in a dangerous position if you’re not turning left).  There are plenty of problems with our existing cycling network – from slow crossings to a lack of joined-up routes – but most of the time the effect is inconvenience rather than outright danger. And there are plenty of scary roads, although they mostly don’t have cycle lanes on them – with the exception of Brooms Road, where the bike lanes take you into the left-turn lane, potentially putting you in conflict with turning traffic

bike lanes on Brooms Road
Brooms Road bike lanes

However, we do need to be vigilant against attempts to ‘cater for cycling’ by simply putting paint on the road that ends up either achieving nothing or actually puts cyclists into a dangerous position. Plans for a route to the hospital along the Dalbeattie Road, for instance, is just an on-road lane which will probably end up underneath parked cars for most of its length.

Every year our summer rides (and remember – the first one is tomorrow!) remind us just how well-designed a cycle route has to be before you can comfortably take a young child on it, or a novice, or even someone who just likes to ride slowly and safely and not have to tangle with traffic. We are all mostly cyclists ourselves, and some of us even go round Morrison’s roundabout (if there’s no alternative), but we also all have families who aren’t so foolhardy (and who sometimes wish we weren’t either) At Cycling Dumfries, we believe cycling should be for everyone, not just the quick and the brave, and we want to see a whole network where all our loved ones can happily cycle.

bike bridge
There are some places where we’d happily see anyone we loved cycle. Let’s have more of them

Where would you love to – or hate to – have your loved ones cycle in Dumfries?

Barriers to entry

Like a lot of people, we’re pretty excited at the imminent opening of the new Aldi just off the bypass tomorrow

New Aldi
Opening 22 June!

We were especially happy when we saw that the shop would have a path up from the Maxwelltown Cyclepath, meaning that cyclists and pedestrians could easily get to the store without having to worry about the A75/A76 roundabout. This is pretty forward-thinking for Dumfries retail stores, when you consider that getting to Cuckoo Bridge Retail park by anything other than a car (which also backs on to the cycle path) involves two sets of lights and then crossing right in front of  the KFC drive thru exit …

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

So we were especially disappointed when we saw these barriers on the path, which are not only completely unnecessary, they also contravene design guidelines.

chicane barriers on the Aldi path

Here’s what Cycling By Design has to say on chicane barriers:

““If staggered (chicane) barriers are used, the arrangement should be designed to slow cyclists rather than force them to dismount. Chicane layouts should provide gaps of at least 3.0 metres between barriers and walls to permit access by tandems, tricycles and child trailers. Tonal contrast banding and night-time reflectivity will normally be required.”  It also goes on to state that “Chicanes should be placed at least 5.0 metres from any bend or junction, so riders can approach from straight on.”

As far as we can see, these barriers meet absolutely none of these requirements.

Buddies trike
Here are the sort of people who will really suffer from having these barriers

This means that less-able users – like those using the Buddies’ trike – will be unable to get to Aldi independently. This could also be a problem for those using wheelchairs and even pushing double buggies. The visually impaired will find them hard to see, and even someone on a normal bike will be squeezed into conflict with other users of the path as they try and negotiate these obstacles

We’ve contacted Aldi to find out what’s going on and they told us that this was a planning requirement from the council. So we asked the council for the reason why they’ve imposed these barriers – they suggested that cyclists would be expected to dismount and walk up and down the path – even though the cycle parking itself is right at the top near the store.

So what’s going on? We are none the wiser because our questions to the council as to why they have required these barriers have gone unanswered.

What’s really frustrating is that the council should be doing everything it can to make access to and from shops like Aldi from the cycle path as easy as possible. Otherwise new stores like this will just generate more congestion – especially on the bypass. Given the new hospital will be opening soon, also on the bypass (and also with a lack of forethought for the needs of cyclists as the council have refused to put in a light to help them cross the Garroch Loaning), we can only hope that the result won’t be further traffic jams and daily gridlock.

Aldi opens tomorrow – and we’ll definitely be giving it a go to see whether cyclists can indeed negotiate these chicanes. If you encounter problems, let us know and we’ll press hard to get the barriers removed or replaced by something accessible by all.

 

Next meeting – and a reminder

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday May 3rd, at 6pm in the Coach and Horses. Please do come along because there’s lots going on!

But first, there are three things you should be doing if you want to see better conditions for cycling in Dumfries

Get along to Pedal on Parliament

Dumfries and Galloway cyclists at Holyrood
Dumfries and Galloway cyclists at POP

This weekend sees the sixth annual Pedal on Parliament and this year it’s in Glasgow as well as Edinburgh, giving you two chances to get along. POP Edinburgh starts at 12 noon on Saturday 22nd April at the Meadows in Edinburgh and there’s usually a good contingent of Dumfries cyclists there. POP Glasgow starts at Glasgow Green on Sunday 23rd at 1pm, and it’s the first time it’s taken place in Glasgow.

Unfortunately, the lack of Sunday morning trains makes getting to Glasgow complicated but the X74 bus takes bikes and the 8:45 service would get you there in plenty of time. Alternatively, you can drive up and either join a feeder ride (there are ones from Paisley and Pollok Park) or just go straight into Glasgow. If you can’t fit your bikes in the car, no problem – nextbike are offering free bike hires to anyone taking part in POP.

Join our candidates’ ride

We’ve got council candidates from pretty much all the parties signed up to join us on our candidates’ ride on Wednesday 26th April – and a few independents – so now’s your chance to hear from and talk to the people who will be making the decisions about our streets and cycle paths for the next five years. With the single transferable vote system, you can rank the candidates all the way down to last place, so even if you decide your vote based on other matters, what they say or do about cycling could well be the tie breaker for some candidates. Join us at Dock Park at 4pm – we should be finished by around 5:30

Politicians on the ride
your chance to make local politicians understand the issues you and your family face on bikes

Tell your candidates you #WalkCycleVote

Whether or not you can make it to the ride, you can find out where your candidates stand on active travel via the We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote candidate finder – and also how to contact them yourselves if they haven’t yet responded. The campaign is asking for candidates to sign up to three simple pledges:

  • Investment: Provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget
  • Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure suitable for people of all ages and abilities
  • Local action: To solve the main local barriers to active travel, as identified by residents and businesses

So far, 19% of candidates in Dumfries and Galloway have responded to the campaign, either partially or fully supporting these asks. Hearing from potential voters might encourage the rest to respond, and keep walking and cycling high on the political agenda, so do get in touch with yours.

Health benefits

We’ve written about why we support this campaign – but we’re sure you have your own reasons to add. If you need facts and figures, the campaign has put together a great briefing with some key evidence as to why investing in walking and cycling will save far more money in terms of health and the local economy than it will cost in the first place.

With the general election just announced, local elections might seem like a sideshow. But remember that it’s councils that make the real difference to your everyday journeys, so make sure we’ve got the best possible councillors in place, come May 4th.

Why we’re Supporting We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote

walk cycle vote

Cycling Dumfries has been a supporter of Walk Cycle Vote since it started before the Holyrood election, but these council elections are even more crucial when it comes to improving conditions for cycling and walking in Dumfries.

The campaign is asking all local authority candidates to sign up to three clear pledges:

  • Investment: Provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget
  • Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure suitable for people of all ages and abilities
  • Local action: To solve the main local barriers to active travel, as identified by residents and businesses

These could be transformative for active travel in Dumfries

Investment

Garroch Loaning

Nationally, the efforts of campaigns like Pedal on Parliament and We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote means that the Scottish Government is investing much more money into cycling – but very little of that is reaching Dumfries. The reason is that schemes like Sustrans’ Community Links and Community Links Plus require councils to put in match funding. Councils like Edinburgh have committed to spending 10% of their transport budget on cycling – but Dumfries and Galloway only spend what is in their (ringfenced) Cycling Walking and Safer Streets fund. This limits the amount of money the area gets compared with the rest of Scotland, despite it having one of the higher cycling rates in the country. Ultimately, the failure of the council to put in a proper crossing at the Garroch Loaning came down to money. That’s why our doctors and nurses will be forced to ‘find a gap in the traffic’ if they want to take the healthy way to get to work when the new hospital opens.

Infrastructure

bike lanes on Brooms Road
We need less of this …

Cycling doesn’t just require investment – it needs the right kind of investment. Bike lanes that leave you vulnerable to cars turning right into the Lidl car park will not make anyone feel like Brooms Road is an inviting place to cycle. Unfortunately, we are seeing too many schemes proposed that simply put paint on the road rather than creating space for people to cycle. When we object, or try and propose more ambitious solutions, we hit obstacles at every turn. Having political commitment to provide the right sort of infrastructure that enables everyone to cycle can help us overcome those barriers – and save the council from wasting time putting in cycle lanes nobody will use

crossing the KM bridge
… and more of this Photo (c) Jim Craig, 2016

Overcoming local barriers

Safe routes

All politics is local – and so is all cycling. It doesn’t help knowing that there’s a shiny new route to Mabie Forest if your route to work involves the Lockerbie Road. We hear a lot from people about why they don’t cycle – and it’s mainly because they don’t feel safe on the roads that they would have to use. We hope that our new councillors will be open to hearing from their constituents about where the barriers are for them – and taking action to get those barriers lifted. Whether it’s gritting paths, building bridges, putting in crossings, or literally removing barriers, the experts in this area are the people who face the problems every day.

blocked viaduct over Garroch Loaning
One actual barrier to cycling – the closed viaduct. Will our new councillors have the political will to open these gates?

It’s easy to be cynical about ‘the cooncil’. But every five years, we get a chance to take our complaints to the people who can make a difference and know that we will be heard. Please tell your candidates about We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote and urge them to sign up to these three pledges – you can find out if they have or not here. And come along if you can do our Candidates’ Cycle Ride and tell them yourself, in person.

Tackling the Polygon of Perplexity

polygon of perplexity
Polygon ready to go…

We had a great time at the Environment Fair last week, playing bike scalectrix, handing out goodies, and getting unsuspecting members of the public to fill in what we’re calling the Polygon of Perplexity.

No, it’s not a piece of string art – it’s a simple engagement tool that allows people to flag up the things that concern them when it comes to walking and cycling – from driver behaviour and safe routes, to maintenance, lighting and personal safety.

It was interesting to see people’s different responses, and a lot depends on age, perspective (whether mainly a pedestrian or a cyclist) and where you live. At the end of the day we had talked to a good cross-section of the local community – and there was a wide variety of opinions on most of the points.

completed polygon
Completed polygon at the end of the fair

Interestingly, one area stood out pretty strongly as either very or quite important to everyone who came and had a go.

Safe routes
Young, old, male, female – everyone agreed that safe routes were a high priority

Perhaps our two veldodrome cyclists might have agreed – certainly they suffered a bit from at the hands of the more reckless Scalectrix players.

running repairs
It wouldn’t be a proper cycling event without a few mechanical issues…

We also had some interest in our trailer which is available to loan if you need to move a load that won’t fit in a pannier bag (we were using it today to deliver a gazebo to the Crichton).

Car, who needs one? Borrow our trailer for those awkward loads

Thanks to everyone who came by for a chat on Saturday.

Rhian at our stall