John Lamont MSP calls for Borders disused rail lines to be made into bike paths

Dangerous roads putting people off riding, says Scottish politician

by John Stevenson   November 4, 2013  

John Lamont

Showing that it’s not just big cities that need more and better provision for cycling, Scottish parliamentarian John Lamont has called for cycling facilities to be improved in rural areas such as his constituency of Hawick.

According to the Hawick News, he said: “Investment in cycling in the Borders pales into insignificance when compared to more urban areas.”

Mr Lamont is calling for the conversion of the area’s disused railway lines into bike paths.

“There are some great cycling routes including the loops to Newcastleton and Roberton. However, these routes could be made more popular if parts of the A7 road were improved and made safer for cyclists. This could also help many of our local tourism businesses if more cyclists visited the area.”

Cycling’s profile has never been higher, but Mr Lamont points out that surveys show many people won’t get on their bikes because they think the roads are too dangerous.

“We have a unique opportunity at the moment to encourage more people to take up cycling”, he stated. “We cannot allow this opportunity to pass us by and we need to be doing everything we can to encourage cyclists on to our roads. But unfortunately many are being put off by the dangerous environments we currently have on our roads.”

While urban cycling fatalities are the ones that often make the news, RoSPA points out that around half of cyclist fatalities occur on rural roads.

The perceived danger of the roads is why the Borders area needs investment in a cycling network, Mr Lamont said. “By converting old rail lines and building new cycle routes we can help to vastly improve safety and encourage more people to take up this healthy hobby.”

9 user comments

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Or you could sort out the motorist problem, oh but it's easier to just try and ignore the problem it seems.

posted by northstar [898 posts]
4th November 2013 - 17:33

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This might be a bit radical, but you could try turning those disused railway lines into working railways, which would take a lot of heavy traffic off the roads. They could also provide easy access to the borders from the towns and cities of the central belt for people to take their bikes out for day trips.

Also with less heavy traffic it would also be possible to free space for safe cycle routes along the major road routes into and cross the Borders, which follow the course of least resistance. Currently, cyclists are pushed off to the minor roads, which often have far stepper inclines and are not always suitable family cycling (or long distance commuting).

posted by Kim [118 posts]
4th November 2013 - 17:53

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Makes no sense that you can't get from Berwick to Carlisle without having to go through Newcastle or Glasgow(!)

David Bowie agrees with me

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posted by bikeboy76 [1034 posts]
4th November 2013 - 19:54

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northstar wrote:
Or you could sort out the motorist problem, oh but it's easier to just try and ignore the problem it seems.

How do you sort out this 'problem', then? Education? Pricing? Neither has been shown to be very effective where they've been tried.

posted by congokid [80 posts]
4th November 2013 - 22:10

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The introduction of stricter liability, as part of a package of safety measures, would help to ensure that all road users understand the responsibility they have on the road whether in a car or on a bike. Ultimately, this should lead encourage mutual respect, greater awareness and make the roads safer for the more vulnerable road users. Take a look at http://www.cycling-accident-compensation.co.uk/strict-liability.aspx

posted by rodmit [1 posts]
5th November 2013 - 9:55

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I used to live in Dumfriesshire and always really enjoyed riding across through the borders, didn't seem that bad at the time, especially compared to where I now live on the edge of Salisbury, which in my opinion is WAY more dangerous!

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posted by andybnk [86 posts]
5th November 2013 - 11:09

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I ride out north of Carlisle regularly towards Newcastleton and the Borders and encounter very little traffic. Marvellous! The road between Newcastleton and Langholm is a wonderful, largely traffic-free adventure. Great to see the MSP supporting the growth of cycling, and for many new to the sport converted railway lines would be a more enticing environment to get used to its attractions. It is somewhat ironic, though, in the context of the horrors we read about on this website.

Chiswick

posted by Chiswick [45 posts]
5th November 2013 - 12:24

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Difficult to know from the press coverage as we all know that the context and actual wording of his quotes can be quickly lost, but it does strike me that he could be missing something here.

I live in the Borders, and the back roads are fantastic. He mentioned the A7, but that is one of only a small handful of 'main' roads in the borders ... the miles of minor roads are generally deserted.

One problem here though are the hills that are often between main towns, and the old railway network could provide an excellent option for helping avoid these for cyclists, as well as in some cases shortening the journey length a fair bit.

Rather than calling for a blanket upgrade of railways to cycle paths, which with the best will in the world ain't going to go anywhere, perhaps it would be better for Mr Lamont to select a few key sections to champion - sections that would have a large and pretty immediate impact (e.g. Hawick to St Boswells), following which the case for others would be easier to make.

posted by joules1975 [59 posts]
5th November 2013 - 14:29

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Judging by the state of most cycle routes off road I would rather take my chances with the Emma Ways of this world.

posted by Leodis [113 posts]
5th November 2013 - 17:57

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