Safety on the Old Deeside Railway Line


The Deeside Way is a long distance path running from Aberdeen to Ballater. The path is suitable for walkers and cyclists with many sections suitable for horses as well. It is part of the National Cycle Network (Route 195). This paper concerns the initial section of the route which follows the Old Royal Deeside Railway Line from its start at Duthie park in Aberdeen to the AWPR crossing without interruption and then on to Peterculter Station. A large part of the Old Deeside Line (ODL) runs through the Cults, Bieldside and Milltimber suburbs.

This section of the path is a tarmac road on which cars and other motorised vehicles are not normally permitted, although there are no signs at the various entry points to advise on this. The path is popular with:

  • Recreational walkers
  • Dog walkers
  • Joggers
  • Recreational cyclists
  • Commuting cyclists
  • Recreational horseriders
  • Mobility Scooters and Wheelchair users

Surveys show that approximately 40-200 cyclist and 100-200 pedestrians use the ODL every day.

In general users are tolerant and sensitive to the needs of other users of the path, however the Cults Bieldside and Milltimber Community Council receives regular verbal and written complaints about

  • Dogs not under control
  • Cyclists doing high speed ‘timed cycles’
  • Fast commuting cyclists.
  • Cyclists not using or not having a bell
  • Collisions and near misses
  • Horse manure on the road
  • Hazardous entry points due to overgrown vegetation
  • Hazardous road crossings (Milltimber Brae, Pittengullies Brae)


We believe that these issues are on the increase and could well result in serious injurious accidents. This paper is intended to be a first step to introduce positive measures to support road safety on the Old Deeside Line.


What are the potential hazards for traffic on the Old Deeside Line?

  • Collision between cyclist and pedestrian or jogger resulting in possible injury for both.
  • Collision between cyclists resulting in possible injury for both.
  • Collision between cyclist and dog resulting in possible injury for both.
  • Collision between horse and cyclist resulting in possible injury for both.
  • Collision between horse and wheelchair/mobility scooter resulting in possible injury.
  • Collision between cyclist and wheelchair/mobility scooter resulting in possible injury.

In each of these the frequent presence of children and of people with special needs on the path will aggravate the seriousness of any accident.


What are the possible causes of these hazards?

  • Pedestrians, joggers, mobility scooter/wheelchair users not being aware of other traffic due to poor hearing/sight or wearing head/earphones.
  • Cyclists not making others aware of their presence at a safe distance
  • Cyclists moving too fast to prevent a collision
  • Dogs not on the lead
  • Horses not under proper control

Possible Controlling Measures

In this section we list all possible measures the community could think of that would possibly help to control the risk of any of the hazards materialising. They are in no particular order of preference, cost or practicability.

  • Place clear signs at each entry point of the path stating the rules of use in short straight-forward language and simple logos replacing the current polite advisory signs along the way.
  • Introduce a speed limit or introduce a rule that cyclists should limit their speeds to a level appropriate for a shared path i.e. it is not a racing track.
  • Make it compulsory to have dogs on a lead. The Highway Code advises to keep dogs on a short lead on a shared path.
  • Create separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians on the path. This could involve widening some sections or, in one or two, places a separate lane.
  • Require all users to keep to the left enforced by lines and symbols painted on the road surface at all entry points.
  • Introduce (double) speedbumps or chicane barriers at either side of entry points.
  • Make it compulsory for bicycles to have a bell fitted when using the path. Having bell fitted is recommended in The Highway Code and this could be a point in Court in case of a serious accident.
  • Organise bell-fitting actions on the path as done in 2012.
  • Create a wider grass verge kept clear for horses.
  • Require horses to be fitted with a bum bag (manure catcher) or make it compulsory for horse riders to stop and move/kick droppings off the path as per guidance from the British Horse Society.
  • Clear vegetation at entry points
  • Consider possibilities to install a bridge at Pittengullies Brae (Lottery Fund?)

Many of these measures will require agreement and action of the City Council and/or the Police, others require conversations with stakeholders e.g. local livery stables and cycle clubs.   If you wish to comment about any of the above please fill in the Comment box below.  Thank you.

6 thoughts on “Safety on the Old Deeside Railway Line”

  1. An extract from the “Highway Code” regarding pedestrians where there is no pavement is given below.

    Rule 2

    If there is no pavement, keep to the right-hand side of the road so that you can see oncoming traffic.

    Accordingly in my view, pedestrians should keep to the right but cyclists to the left. Cyclists will then not creep up behind you on the same side of the road!

    • Please indicate if you are a resident of: Cults
    • Please indicate your age range: Over 65
  2. I am resident in Peterculter. I would support a speed limit for cycles (I cycle on the path myself occasionally). I believe that dogs should be on leads on the path. A bridge at Pittengullies Brae, if constructed, should still allow access to the path from Pittengullies Brae.

    • Please indicate if you are a resident of: Other
    • Please indicate your age range: 20 - 65
  3. As a Deeside Way user walking and cycling for thirty years I would agree with GP above and suggest a rule for walkers to keep to the right and cyclists to the left.

    Other points:

    Speedy cyclists will be less likely to use the Deeside Way if the “cycle lanes” on N Deeside Rd are given solid lines, meaning driving and parking on them is illegal, rather than the broken line cycle lanes we have at present that are essentially meaningless, and ignored by drivers and parkers.

    Cyclists should ring their bell at least 50 yards before reaching pedestrians, pedestrians should indicate that the bells has been heard.

    The only hazard I have encountered are dogs out of control. Mostly running up and jumping on me as a pedestrian, but also, and usually if a dog owner has multiple dogs off the lead, running about uncontrollably. I suggest the rule should be single dogs can be left off the lead under supervision but multiple dogs on the lead.

    • Please indicate if you are a resident of: Cults
    • Please indicate your age range: 20 - 65
  4. As a regular leisure cyclist I find the problem is dogs running about all over the path and in the bushes, cyclists have no idea how each dog will behave. Some owners call their dogs but often they stop in front of my wheel. Last week I passed a lady in Cults with 3 small dogs running about and when I warned her with my loud Dutch bell, one aggressive dog chased me barking loudly. Another man in Cults let his dog wander between 3 cyclists, who all rang their bells.

    All dogs should be on a short lead by their owner.
    All cyclists ring their bells on approaching people and slow down.
    Walkers/joggers pay attention, listen out for bike bells and don’t have ear/head phones on.
    Cyclists should continue to ride on the left and pedestrians could be on the right.

    • Please indicate if you are a resident of: Bieldside
    • Please indicate your age range: Over 65
  5. I agree with GP that the safest option is that pedestrians should face oncoming cyclists and walk on the right, However, currently with no rule, we have the worst of both worlds, with pedestrians on both sides of the path and criss-crossing when they meet other pedestrians. So the main objective is to have a rule for pedestrians advertised, whatever the rule is, as no rule at all is the main problem.

    By the way, congratulations on your efforts to optimise the use of this wonderful resource.

    • Please indicate if you are a resident of: Cults
    • Please indicate your age range: Over 65
  6. Whilst I understand the need for caution by cyclists whilst using ODRL, cycle frequently I ring bell on bike when within 20 or so feet of any others using line, when cycling always use the lhr of line,more often than not the person is wearing earphones & cannot hear the bell, if volume in earphones was at a reasonable level there would be no issues, it appears that cyclists in particular are being targeted in this a degree of common sense should be applied by all users.

    • Please indicate if you are a resident of: Cults
    • Please indicate your age range: 20 - 65

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