by Colin Campbell
THE chairwoman of the council’s environment and infrastructure committee, Trish Robertson, has tried to explain away the random barrier and bollard strewn mess that is Inverness city centre just now.
She said: “The purpose of the Spaces for People funding from the Scottish Government is for us to be able to put in place active travel interventions that provide safe space for walking, wheeling and cycling.
“It is important to remember that as the city and region recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and businesses reopen with physical distancing measures, our priority is to support people to physically distance in a safe way when visiting places like Inverness city centre. This often means redefining the share of available space between people and vehicles. I certainly have seen a lot more people of all ages cycling and walking around the city and we want to do all what we can to promote sustainable active travel.
“I hope that we can make walking, wheeling and cycling a bigger part of our everyday travel, which will have multiple other benefits to our health, climate and air quality, not to mention reducing congestion.”
First of all, what is wheeling? We know what walking and cycling are, and driving also. But what’s wheeling. I’ve never heard of it. Online directionaries don’t provide much help either. Suggestions include: the act of a person who moves, travels, conveys, etc; a rotating or circular motion: the wheeling of birds; The act where a young female and young male are in a “phase” before dating. Like flirting but a bit more commitment. Includes talking, hugging, kissing, hand holding, flirting etc. Basically another term for dating but less awkward and more teen friendly.
So now we know.
But aren’t things confusing enough just now without Highland Council inventing a new mode of transport – or whatever it is – that no-one’s ever heard of.
Ms Robertson’s claim that she has seen more people cycling around Inverness may be valid, but not anywhere near the city centre. Barriers and bollards snaking everywhere along narrowed roads has made it ten times more dangerous to go there with a bike. In fact it’s a complete impossibility, unless you’re prepared to take your life in your hands and at any moment be struck by a car.
She also focuses on the chaos and mess having “multiple other benefits to our health, climate and air quality, not to mention reducing congestion.”
How loudly and how often does it need to be said that this is the worst possible time to start messing around with untried and untested traffic plans to improve “our health, climate and air quality”. That’s for the long term once shops get back on their feet, if some ever do.
The absolute priority should be making the centre as shopper friendly and welcoming as possible or so many businesses in crisis will go bust that there will be no point in anyone visiting the precinct in any case.
People crave a return to normalty. They don’t want to be pawns in a big new council traffic experiment aimed at somehow improving the climate.
The most obvious example I cited last week of the inexplicable new “barriers and bollards everywhere” frenzy was the narrowing of the Ness Bridge. What was that intended to achieve?
Transport chiefs have at least woken up to the fact that it was achieving absolutely nothing and have now removed these restrictions.
That’s some kind of progress but in the midst of all the random chaos there’s still a long way to go.
Now if we could find out what wheeling is and why they’ve adapted their plans to start catering for it, we might actually start getting somewhere.