by Colin Campbell
HIGHLAND Council has launched an online consultation for feedback on the current measures for social distancing in place along the riverside area of Inverness.
The Riverside Way survey will “gather feedback on proposed permanent measures to make this popular area of the city safer for walking, wheeling and cycling as part of the Inverness City Active Travel Network”.
I’m all for active travel, and not having a car, do plenty of it myself.
But “Riverside Way” from Inverness Cathedral to Whin Park does not raise any concerns on social distancing that I can think of.
Particularly after thousands of pounds were spent on widening the riverside footpath there by a few inches last year, even though there was grass aplenty for anyone to step on to if they were concerned about the virus risk of being a yard or so away from another pedestrian for about half a second.
And particularly as, with the vaccine in your bloodstream and a breeze ruffling your hair, your chances now of catching the virus while “walking, wheeling or cycling” along there are about one in 100 trillion.
But this online survey for a pleasant mile or so of riverside goes into the most extraordinary level of detail, with questions being asked on changes or improvements for it covering six sections.
Section 1: Cathedral to Hospice area; Section 2: Hospice to Ballifeary Lane; Section 3: Ballifeary Lane to Fishermen’s Car Park; Section 4: Fishermen’s Car Park to Bught Drive; Section 5: Bught Drive to Archive Centre: Section 6: Archive Centre to Whin Park.
Who’d have thought the riverside had so many sections?
And there are selections and options and choices for each and every one, accompanied by designs and drawings of little matchstick images of pedestrians, cyclists and cars, just in case no-one knows what a pedestrian, a cyclist or a car looks like.
It goes on and on and on. The survey seems longer than Riverside Way itself.
And no stone is left unturned.
Question 17: “To help assess the usage of Riverside Way, we are asking for additional personal information regarding respondents. Please select below if you feel comfortable identifying as LGBQTIA+. This information will not be shared further or used to personally identify you.”
If people want to identify as being LGBQTIA+ (what’s the “IA+” bit for, it keeps getting longer, search me, I haven’t a clue) that’s entirely up to them.
But what the hell has it got to do with walking or cycling along the riverside?
I refer to that in particular because it seems the most irrelevant part of a pretty irrelevant survey.
The council fixation with messing about with the riverside seems almost obsessive.
I walk along there regularly. It’s fine as it is, absolutely fine.
I cycle along there regularly. It’s fine, there are no problems at all.
It doesn’t need to be split into sections and analysed with a stackload of questions and little matchstick drawings of cars and pedestrians and questions about gender identity which it’s intended will lead to it being “improved”.
How many people who walk or cycle along the riverside think it needs a full-scale survey and questionnaire from the council about new plans for social distancing and safety?
God only knows there are enough problems – real problems – that need to be addressed a few hundred yards away in the city centre with its bollards and barriers and one-way systems that many people find confusing and hazardous and highly inconvenient and want to get rid off.
I can vouch for the fact that cycling around the city centre is like trying out a showground Wall of Death compared with serenely pedalling along the riverside. Why doesn’t the council tackle people’s genuine concerns rather than messing around at inordinate length with surveys on ways to “improve” the riverside?
And as for the six sections it’s been split into, maybe two more should be added.
Section 7: The Infirmary Bridge, recently closed at huge inconvenience to the public because the council has ruinously neglected it.
And Section 8: The barricaded-off Gathering Place site where a natural beauty spot has been torn up in the face of mass public opposition and is currently a concrete, rubble and dirt strewn shambles with work to install “artwork” at a cost of £300,000 in public money already months behind schedule.
Unsurprisingly, these two dominant concerns and major controversies do not rate a mention in the council’s latest attempts at riverside “improvements”.
They would do better – a lot better – to focus on things that actually matter to people rather than dreaming up ways to fill their spare time with vast and expensive surveys on new ways to mess around with all those sections of “Riverside Way”.