by Colin Campbell
IN May when the volume of traffic in Inverness was reduced to a fraction of what it normally is, plans emerged for “a green transport revolution” in the Highland capital.
Council officials were working on “a network of cycle and walking routes criss-crossing the entire city”. They were catchily called “pop-up” cycle routes. One senior official said: “We have the opportunity here to be transformational in how we use our spaces. It ties in with wider aspirations on climate change and pollution reduction. I guess it is about making the best we possibly can out of the crisis.
“We are proposing a series of green routes through Inverness and a team of officers are now working on the basis of our submission. Although it will start as temporary, we hope it will lead to something more permanent. There is the practical measure to improve physical distancing as we get back to a semblance of normality, but we also want to build on what we’ve seen in Inverness, with so many more people out cycling and walking.”
Whatever happened to that green transport revolution?
Drivers in Inverness have been facing traffic chaos with the latest work underway on the city’s new swing bridge and West Link road.
With the Torvean Swing Bridge closed, some motorists complained of being stuck for up to an hour in tailbacks in both directions on a diversion from the A82 up General Booth Road.
Kenneth Street, Telford Street and Clachnaharry Road were also badly affected.
So it’s back to business as usual.
There previously were furious complaints when a cycle route narrowed traffic on the A96 into the Millburn Roundabout causing long delays.
The wide lane, which drivers had complained was being used by only a tiny handful of bike users, was promptly abandoned, understandably so.
Roadworks elsewhere have been causing the usual motorised frustration and delay, particularly with changes in other arteries leading into the city and the city centre.
After the false lull in traffic usage earlier in the year to the point where it was practically comatose, is there any evidence that the level of car usage has fallen now that we’re heading into “the new normality” with people back on the move?
Not if you’re stuck in an hour long traffic delay, there isn’t.
The “green transport revolution” proposal shouldn’t be rubbished just for the sake of it. It was well intended but was hopelessly mistimed.
Back in May when roads were four-fifths empty it might have seemed possible to “revolutionise” traffic and transport in Inverness, but that was only as long as the roads remained four fifths empty.
Which was never going to be the case.
Inverness is not, as the council likes to proudly proclaim, “a cycling city”.
It’s a car packed and overburdened city from one end the other. Too many people are addicted to their cars and would prefer to drive than walk to the end of the street.
And bikes? They’re for blasting your horn at.
I haven’t driven in Inverness for 15 years and won’t do so again. Swapping the money guzzling four-wheeled whatever-it-was I had for a new bike was the best transport revolution I ever made.
But the Highland capital is a place where, in the busier parts at least, you have to be on maximum alert for the hazards all around you.
Still, the council should be applauded for doing what it can to make the city safer for bike users, although I do wonder about some of the choices made.
One of the most recent innovations was the creation of an unusually wide cycle lane at the Bught Park and along past Eden Court. What was that for? The area around the Bught with very little traffic is so safe you could cycle along it blindfold. It smacked of “doing something” while taking the easiest option.
Whatever other things have changed once this situation is finally over, or at least is in headlong retreat, the arrival of a transport revolution in Inverness isn’t going to be one of them.
More’s the pity, of course. At least it was an optimistic idea to emerge in dark days, before it was shunted clean off the road.