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Opinion split on Highland Council moves to make Covid-19 routes in Inverness permanent

By Alasdair Fraser

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Plastic barriers and cones in Castle Street have been a focus for dissent, but leading cycle campaigners insist compromise can be reached.
Plastic barriers and cones in Castle Street have been a focus for dissent, but leading cycle campaigners insist compromise can be reached.

Opinion is divided on plans to make controversial Covid-19 cycling and walking paths permanent in Inverness.

Highland Council confirmed this week it was examining ways of making at least some of the temporary ‘priority routes’ permanent.

Officials will present findings and proposals to council committee meetings in February.

The initial focus has been on Millburn Road and Academy Street, but a council spokeswoman confirmed 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 vision but other traders oppose the routes, with particular furore over disruption on Bridge Street, Castle Street and Castle Road.

Highland Cycle Campaign convenor John Davidson is convinced a compromise can be reached.

“Overall, we would welcome moves to keep the best of the temporary measures, but the devil will be in the detail,” Mr Davidson said.

“The main contentious issue seems to be the one-way system and we’ve looked into that a little bit. What there is on Castle Street and Bridge Street doesn’t really do anything for cyclists, but the two-way cycle lane on Castle Road is definitely a benefit.

“We would also prefer two-way cycling on Ness Walk. We’d be keen for officials to look closely at what’s worked and what hasn’t.”

Norman MacDonald, owner of Café 1 in Castle Street, said: “I have serious concerns about safety given the way mixed space is working between bikes moving at high pace, pedestrians and people coming out of shops.

“I also witnessed an ambulance struggling to get along Castle Road last week. Even setting aside economic factors and disruption to business, it’s just not safe.”

David Traill, owner of nearby J Graham & Co angling and shooting store, agreed: “What we have is dangerous, hugely unsightly and it costs every business on Castle Street money. I’d urge councillors, if they do consider this in February, to see sense.”

But Colin Lyon, owner of Craigdon Mountain Sports in Academy Street, said: “We need to realise we are a tourist destination and still will be after Covid. We need to make it more attractive for folk getting about our streets, not least by reducing pollution.”

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