Council has net zero chance of cutting car use in ‘active travel’ danger city

by Colin Campbell

TRISH Robertson, who has the doubtful privilege of representing our Net Zero council at the Cop 26 jamboree in Glasgow, said before she left that she was disillusioned with the progress on reducing carbon emissions so far.

At least she didn’t head there by private jet or in a 20 vehicle motorcade.

Her disillusionment seems to be primarily caused by the failing and futile attempts to reduce the level of car use in Inverness in particular.

She would have been even more disillusioned if she’d cycled home at peak traffic time last Monday night, as I rather foolishly did.

As darkness fell after 5pm I considered delaying leaving the Inverness leisure centre for the two mile ride home. After about 200 yards on traffic swamped streets, I wished I had.

Maybe it had something to do with the clocks changing at the weekend and drivers adapting to driving home in the dark after work for the first time in months.

All I know for certain was that it was risky, perilous and in some parts highly dangerous.

I’ve covered a lot of ground on a bike. But you’d have to be out of your mind to cycle at peak traffic time in the busier parts of Inverness every night.

I used to cycle to and from work, but that was along Shore Road and along the riverside, which was safe enough. But getting around the centre and its environs at that time is like going into a potential deathtrap.

On a bike it can seem like a pandemonium of revving engines and noise, dazzling lights everywhere and the impatience of drivers to get home being fuelled by them having been delayed by traffic hold-ups elsewhere.

They shoot past unnervingly closely, cut across you before traffic lights, and if you hold them up in any way make their impatience clear as they gear up to overtake at the narrowest opportunity.

And there you are on your little bike amid this mass tonnage of fast moving metal all too aware of how intensely vulnerable you are.

And don’t even mention the roundabouts.

I don’t blame drivers. Apart from a few token cycle paths here and there Inverness, a so-called cycling city, is not geared up for bike users at most parts of the day and certainly not at peak times. The volume of traffic is overwhelming.

And talk of reducing car usage at this time seems like COP26 cobblers. I’d like to see some survey data. It certainly seems the number of cars and volume of traffic in Inverness is increasing, not decreasing. That’s scarcely surprising with new houses being built here, there and everywhere.

I know quite a few folk who have gravitated from being one car to two car families. That’s on the increase also.

And these big beasts in the Range Rover category aren’t lining the Longman car showrooms for display purposes. They’re being bought in increasing numbers.

So amid the COP26 Save the Planet frenzy Trish Robertson is right to be disillusioned by the complete failure to reduce the level of car usage in Inverness.

The Net Zero council can try and sound as worshipfully green as it wants to but much of it is a charade.

Inverness has zero chance of separating the huge majority of drivers from their cars. Occasional mutterings about “taking drastic action” never amount to anything. Nor will they.

Their newly minted devotion to reducing carbon emissions means they’ll fiddle about here and there but driving remains sacrosanct.

They promote “active travel” and insist on their commitment to getting more people out of their cars. Safe streets for a greatly increased number of bike users may be somewhere on the horizon – about a million miles away.

As for now, nothing that emerges from Councillor Trish Robertson’s trip to the COP26 shindig is going to change the fact that “environmentally friendly” bike users in Inverness are all too frequently venturing into a high risk danger zone.

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