'End one-way traffic chaos in city centre', argue Inverness figures following road congestion
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BUSINESS leaders have joined the growing chorus of demands for a controversial one-way traffic system in Inverness to be scrapped less than two weeks after it was introduced.
Although the new measures were implemented around Inverness Castle to support the city’s recovery after coronavirus, fears are growing they pose a danger to pedestrians and cyclists and could hamper emergency vehicles.
Since the introduction of the new system – part of the Spaces for People project to make it easier to get around while ensuring social distancing – a member of the public had to direct traffic in Bridge Street to help an ambulance caught in queuing vehicles.
In another incident, there was traffic chaos after a double-decker bus got stuck at the junction of Castle Road/Haugh Road and View Place after the driver made a wrong turn.
Inverness Business Improvement District (BID) is now backing calls by retailers for the one-way system to be aborted.
BID manager Mike Smith said: “The fabric of the street is not suitable for the new arrangements and therefore we think it should revert to two-way traffic in Castle Street, Bridge Street and Bridge Road.
“It isn’t suitable even at the present reduced levels of traffic.
“As the economy recovers and more people return to the city centre, we particularly believe that Castle Road will be overwhelmed.”
Norman MacDonald, co-owner of Café One, claimed newly-created spaces for cyclists and pedestrians were dangerous as there were no signs warning pedestrians to watch out for cyclists, and no signals for cyclists crossing traffic.
“They have taken a safe zone and made it dangerous,” he said.
He added the loading bays were not clearly marked and posed dangers for council refuse collectors, who he has witnessed having to cross Bridge Street to collect rubbish bins.
“Frankly, the administration of this system has been done on an ad hoc basis,” he said.
“If it had been done on the back of a cigarette packet, it would have been better.”
Rev Fiona Smith, of Ness Bank Church, was concerned emergency vehicles might struggle.
“The real danger point is turning right into Castle Road after you come down View Place,” she said.
“I think that is hugely problematic. In terms of fire engines and ambulances, that is very tight.”
A Highland Council spokesman said the Spaces For People project had been set up in a short space of time.
“The temporary measures are intended to provide more physical space within our urban areas and to promote the wider use of active travel in and around the places we live and work,” he said.
“As the timescale for these interventions has been short, the priority has been to re-allocate existing road space by providing temporary traffic management.
“This has meant adjustments to traffic patterns within Inverness but at each stage these traffic movements have been monitored and the traffic management has been improved to provide the best performance possible.
“This continues to be the case and as individual issues are raised, plans are revised and solutions found.”
In an online consultation, 962 comments were submitted. An overwhelming 68.8 per cent said they were in support of the interventions proposed, while a petition urging the council to go further was signed by more than 2400 people.
Following consultation with emergency services, measures in Castle Road were adjusted following feedback from the ambulance service and a proposed measure at Inshes overbridge was withdrawn after a response from police.
The fire service had no specific objections.
Dr Katie Walter, of the Cairn Medical Practice and a member of Highland Cycle Campaign, was delighted to see changes starting to take place.
“The city centre needs to evolve to one which gives space to people not cars,” she said. “The evidence is there: businesses do not suffer from having fewer cars in city centres, quite the opposite.”