There were five of us who braved the February weather on Sunday to go on our little ‘safari’ around Georgetown, and the first thing we learned was that five cyclists feels like a lot for Georgetown! There were definitely some curious glances as we made our way around its tangled streets
So what did we find? If you’ve got a map (or a good sense of direction) Georgetown and Calside themselves aren’t that difficult to cycle around – there are plenty of quiet streets and even a few handy little cut throughs where bikes can get through but cars can’t (although none of them are signposted so even our local guide wasn’t aware of one of them!)
Unfortunately, occasionally, the barriers are in the way of bikes, at least those which aren’t standard two wheelers
It’s clear that when the suburb was built, there was no thought given to providing short cuts for pedestrians and cyclists which makes journeys longer and forces bikes onto busier roads. This is probably best illustrated by the access (or lack thereof) from Calside and Georgetown to the Maidenbower Path
As the map shows, there are almost no points of entry onto Craigs Road, other than through people’s back gardens, which they tend to object to. In fact, there is one handy path that cuts up from Calside Road (marked with the middle arrow) but it’s difficult to spot on the ground! There’s no signpost indicating that this might be a short cut to the Maidenbower (and it’s not even on Google maps) but with the help of some local knowledge we found it:
This is yet another example of the council investing in creating cycle routes, which is the expensive bit, and then for the want of a few signs, which are relatively cheap in the great scheme of things, fails to let anyone know they exist (see also, Mabie Forest path).
Still, nice as the Maidenbower is if you’ve got the legs for a one-in-five hill and don’t mind the lack of lighting and gritting, it’s not really a practical route into town. Much of the rest of our visit was spent exploring the options for getting from Georgetown into Dumfries, and this is the real reason why so few people choose to cycle in the area.
As well as being undeniably hilly, Georgetown is cut off on one side by the railway line, while Craigs Road is uninviting for cycling (and also involves climbing up and over a much steeper hill than the rest of the routes in).
Given the nice cycle route that runs alongside St. Joseph’s Playing fields, the most obvious route into town is down Eastfield Road and onto the Brooms Road cycle path. The council have actually signposted an official route which is also reasonably quiet – the wiggly route in brown through Cresswell – but although it’s shown as a cycle route there isn’t a cycle path or even a painted lane, just some directional signs.
Nor is there any sensible way to get from either Eastfield Road or the signposted route onto the Brooms Road path. The signposted route does have a crossing, but it’s for pedestrians only, and if you’re trying to cross at Eastfield Road you’re on your own, with just a bit of dropped kerb to help you. There’s also the problem that the Brooms Road path drops you out at the Morrison’s roundabout, which is a bit of a hotspot for people getting knocked off their bikes.
Perhaps more pleasant is the route down Aldermanhill and the back of St Joes, which has the advantage of being much less steep than Craigs Road. From there you can either go down Glebe Street and cross Brooms Road by the car park (again, there’s a pedestrian crossing but not a bike one) or down Barnslaps and onto St Michael’s Street, which is very unpleasant to cycle on.
Finally, there’s the railway bridge out to the Annan Road which has the disadvantage of taking you to the Annan Road …
There are options here – a route down Milburn Avenue (off to the left) which is a dead end for cars (although it still means ending up on Brooms Road) or to somehow get across to Greenbrae Loaning, if it wasn’t one way at one end, although that just leads to the equally challenging Lockerbie Road. Even so, making these two roads more accessible to bikes would offer some local choices for cyclists and start to form part of a potential network.
In short – Georgetown needn’t be the black hole for cycling it sometimes appears to be! In order of doableness (we’re sure that’s a word) here are some simple and not-so-simple changes that could make a difference:
- Signpost the cut-through to the Maidenbower Path (meanwhile maybe if someone has a laminator this could be done informally) and put in a dropped curb where the path meets Calside Road.
- Remove the chicanes making it harder to access the path alongside the playing fields.
- Signpost more routes into town, particularly down Aldermanhill Road.
- Make the crossing from the Brooms Road path onto the signed cycle route up Barrie Avenue a toucan crossing, and remove the guard rails so that bikes can use that short stretch of pavement to reach Barrie Avenue
- Alternatively (or as well!) create a toucan crossing so that cyclists can get from the Brooms Road path to Eastfield Road.
- Make the whole area (actually, the whole of Dumfries) a 20 mph speed limit, including the bigger roads like Georgetown Road.
- Remove the guard rails from the roundabout that joins the Annan Road and Georgetown Road, widen the pavement and create a cut through from Georgetown Road to Milburn Avenue.
- Consider making Greenbrae Loaning a no through road for cars, but accessible for bikes, to provide a route from Georgetown Road down towards the Lockerbie Road.
- Make Aldermanhill Road a no-through-road for cars, even if only during the school run, to prevent it becoming a rat run for drivers avoiding Craigs Road.
- Convert the crossing from Glebe Street to Cumberland Street into a toucan crossing, giving bikes access into the traffic calmed Queen St area.
- Create a cycle track from where Barnslaps joins St Michael St all the way down to Brooms Road, and continue it along the Dock Park side of Brooms Road down to the Whitesands.
- Create an off-road route along the railway line out to the east, which could ultimately form a route out to Collin.
We’ll be passing these on to the council via Cycle Scape – but what have we missed? What would you do? Let us know in the comments!