SPACED OUT: new traffic notion leaves lanes empty while cars jam up – and of course blame the virus

by Colin Campbell

AT the height of the coronavirus the council made much of its determination to encourage Active Travel, in particular with the creation what it termed “pop up” cycle routes in Inverness.

Lanes empty while traffic queues lengthen.

Having traversed much of the town and city on a bike over the decades I wondered where these new routes would appear.

Now it’s becoming clearer.

They’re intended to be behind barriers scattered around the city centre.

And they’ve also started popping up on main routes into the city.

Their creation didn’t take a great deal of ingenuity or imagination.

Reduce a busy two-lane route into a single lane with barriers and hey presto, that’s a new cycle route popped up.

The fact that huge queues of traffic with long tailbacks have also popped up as a result is no doubt viewed as a slightly unfortunate occurrence by the council’s transport department. But don’t these drivers as they stew and sweat and swear in their cars need to get up to speed with the new normal, namely that we’re in the Active Travel/Spaces for People era now and they just have to accept it?

But some, not surprisingly, are not for accepting it. Indeed, they’ve even had the audacity to complain about it.

Drivers have talked of chaos as a result of the approach to the Millburn roundabout being reduced to a single lane.

One HGV driver said: “Any time I’ve been down Millburn Road I’ve only seen about four bikes using it. It is total traffic chaos for the sake of a few bikes.”

If there were fleets of bike users gliding along beside them jammed up single lane drivers might still find it equally frustrating but would at least see some point in the new arrangement.

But it turns out that the queues and the tailbacks are for no identifiable purpose.

However doing things for no identifiable purpose has been no hindrance to this council in recent months. If they can spend thousands on widening a riverside footpath for social distancing, creating “pop up” cycling space that virtually no one’s using and causing huge traffic jams at the same time must seem the most logical thing in the world.

How much further will they go? As a bike user I find Kenneth Street a bit of an inconvenience.

Can’t they make that one-way as well and give me half the road to cycle on?

But where would the blocked off traffic go? Good question. But does it matter? It would go…somewhere. In the Active Travel/Spaces for People era drivers would just have to get used to it.

Some of the things going on might seem half-baked, halfwitted or downright crazy.

But the council know they can always rely on one declaration ready at hand to face down any critics. It consists of just eight words.

“We are doing this because of the coronavirus.”

That’s all they have to say. End of criticism. End of protests. End of story.

This is an all-powerful tool they’ve never had before.

After months of observing how easy it is to get people to do things that would have caused an uprising in pre-virus days, and how everyone dutifully falls into line at the mere mention of the virus (the face-masked city centre is looking more like downtown Jeddah by the day) they’re exploiting our new subservience to the full.

So it looks like drivers will have to go on enduring their two or five or 10-mile tailbacks on a like it or lump it basis. It doesn’t matter whether the empty lane alongside them is being used by anyone or not. It’s there because of the coronavirus. Even though you could count the number of reported new cases in this area in the past fortnight on the fingers of one hand.

This is a once in a lifetime chance for bureaucrats at council HQ to throw their weight around as never before, in virtually any way they please.

And aren’t they making the most of it.



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