Barriers are not the ramshackle mess they were before

by Colin Campbell

PLANS to make Covid-19 cycling and walking paths permanent in Inverness are being debated. And it’s a controversial issue that will not be easily resolved.

Highland Council confirmed is examining ways of making at least some of the temporary “priority routes” permanent.

Should they stay or should they go?

The initial focus has been on Millburn Road and Academy Street, but a council spokeswoman said this could be subject to change in coming months, with potential for other stretches to be included.

Pro-cycling groups and some businesses have welcomed the council’s plans but other traders oppose the routes, with particular concern over disruption on Bridge Street, Castle Street and Castle Road.

The city centre has changed dramatically since the shops reopened in June. It is much, much busier than it was at the beginning, when in the first week or so the precinct saw little more activity than during lockdown.

That doesn’t mean there are yet enough folk around to help traders recoup lost earnings, but it’s certainly progress.

The barriers still in place look less of a haphazard, ramshackle mess than they did originally. That impression may be partly influenced by the fact that we’re getting used to them, but their placement looks neater and more coherent than it was four months ago.

I don’t have a car and am naturally on the pro-cycling side, although the frustrations of drivers have to be acknowledged.

That’s not just being conciliatory. The last thing the so-called “cycling city” of Inverness needs is a rise in the number of drivers harbouring hostility to people on bikes.

Cycling campaigner John Davidson – who I know to be a voice of good sense and moderation – is sure an agreeable compromise can be reached.

No doubt measures that most drivers and cyclists find reasonable or at least semi-reasonable can be sorted out in one way or another.

All I would say is that riding a bike is not risk free, far from it. And as I recover from injuries sustained in a fall a couple of weeks ago, without any cars being involved, I am still painfully reminded of the fact.

In a traffic packed city like Inverness it can be positively dangerous in parts. It’s stating the obvious but no driver has ever been injured by a cyclist – and if only the reverse were true.

Drivers may be inconvenienced by people on bikes, but that’s the worst that can happen to them. If cycling risks aren’t reduced we should all leave our bikes in the shed, get into cars, add to the congestion, the delays, the frustration, the fumes and the pollution. And if drivers think that’s the best way forward for transport in the city, then they could look forward being stuck in fouled-up traffic jams at peak times for longer than ever.

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