Calls for the Spaces for People initiative in Inverness city centre to be made permanent
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Supporters of social distancing measures in Inverness city centre want to see then remain in place.
The Spaces for People project uses temporary barriers to provide more space along priority routes for pedestrians and cyclists to let them travel safely and socially distance.
It was funded following a successful bid by Highland Council for £752,954 from the Scottish Government.
The scheme has attracted some criticism from motorists and local businesses but Brendan Dougan, the Inverness-based senior development officer for Cycling UK, feels the initiative is essential for ensuring proper physical distancing for people travelling actively.
He said people who used mobility aids, or lived with disabilities and impairment, also benefited from the scheme.
He added: “I think that Inverness has needed the remodelling of urban spaces and active travel corridors for some time.
“The infrastructure for people walking, wheeling, or cycling is not too user-friendly in places – this often prevents certain locations from being attractive destinations and inhibits passing trade in the city centre. So, I think that Spaces for People is meeting the needs of local people and doing work that is long overdue.”
The 37-year-old, who also runs the WheelNess project, said he had seen first-hand how people with disabilities and impairments had benefited in helping them to travel more freely.
He said: “Getting where they need to go, with adequate space for them and their mobility aids, has been brilliant for people’s wellbeing. This is an incredibly positive outcome of the scheme and it makes providing my support that much easier.
“Personally, I have benefited from having more space while walking in the city centre to socially distance from others. It has also been helpful to be separated from traffic on my bike.
“In addition, on the occasions where I have needed to drive, it’s been good to know that a more proportionate amount of space is allocated for people travelling actively and it’s made sure I only drive when I really need to.”
Mr Dougan said the previous layout would not allow for social distancing and added: “The Academy Street area was very unpleasant to walk or cycle along, with the pavements being so narrow and the usable bits of the road being in such poor condition.
“There were also numerous other areas where the infrastructure posed difficulties for those walking, wheeling, or cycling which has a negative impact on the wellbeing of local people.
“I think that many of the changes should be made permanent as they are. Others require a little refinement before becoming permanent and perhaps others need redesigning.
“With such a rapid implementation at a time of great duress, these measures were always going to need some continuing work and required a trial to see how well they worked.”
Jim Densham, Cycling UK’s policy manager for Scotland, said: “It’s excellent that the Scottish Government provided funding and that the Highland Council have grabbed this opportunity to make 22 improvements including pop-up cycle lanes and widened pavements, helping people stay safe as they travel throughout Inverness.
“We want the council to learn from people’s experiences, improve the measures where needed, and make what works permanent so that it encourages more people to live active and healthy lifestyles well into the future.”