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Have your say on Inverness roads revolution


By Alasdair Fraser

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Scenes like this in Academy Street could be a thing of the past after 6pm if plans to redraw the city's roads system go ahead.
Scenes like this in Academy Street could be a thing of the past after 6pm if plans to redraw the city's roads system go ahead.

A radical plan to shut down a large swathe of Inverness city centre to traffic every evening forms part of Highland Council’s ambitious vision to redraw the road system while aiding social distancing.

The local authority is submitting a detailed bid for a minimum £600,000 share of £10 million on offer from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund.

As part of a new network of temporary cycle and walking paths criss-crossing Inverness, council officials envisage a night-time pedestrianisation system to boost the “evening economy” during the recovery period from Covid-19.

Active travel has grown in popularity during lockdown.
Picture: Callum Mackay
Active travel has grown in popularity during lockdown. Picture: Callum Mackay

The proposals are at an early stage, but the local authority is keen to know what the public thinks and has set up an online consultation portal.

During the day, Church Street, Fraser Street, Union Street and Queensgate would operate as normal, but after 6pm old town restaurants, bars, cafés and other outlets would be able to spill into outdoor zones.

One option also proposes Academy Street joining the evening “open streets” pedestrianisation.

The idea is to increase capacity while lockdown restrictions ease, allowing businesses to trade more profitably, while also keeping social distancing in place.

Changes will benefit cyclists.
Picture: Gary Anthony
Changes will benefit cyclists. Picture: Gary Anthony

The document, obtained exclusively by the Inverness Courier, proposes a significant narrowing of Academy Street and Millburn Road, and a one-way system along Ness Walk on the west bank of the River Ness.

It also features a one-way system on roads near Inverness Castle, again aimed at creating broader pavements and safe passage for non-motorists, while offering businesses the chance to expand outdoors.

In its entirety, the green “pop-up” path network – devised in close co-operation with NHS Highland – would take active travellers across the city from the east district nurse base in Culloden to New Craigs Psychiatric Hospital in the west.

Pavements may be widened to make it safer for walkers and runners to pass each other while physically distancing.
Picture: Gary Anthony
Pavements may be widened to make it safer for walkers and runners to pass each other while physically distancing. Picture: Gary Anthony

Linking key worker hubs, health centres and other public buildings of importance during the Covid-19 pandemic, a total of 22 “interventions” are proposed.

These are aimed at ensuring a smooth and safe flow of cyclists, walkers and wheelers through previously dangerous or poorly-surfaced route sections.

While the masterplan is temporary, officials have indicated the new network could provide a “transformational” template for a future reduction in pollution and traffic congestion in Inverness.

Crucially though, the council is seeking to encourage public debate on the proposals through a new online consultation portal before finalising how the Spaces for People initiative will look.

It can be found at https://consult.highland.gov.uk/kse/

The initial £600,000 bid will form the basis of talks with Sustrans, the national charity supporting sustainable travel, with further funding to be sought where necessary.

An even more ambitious plan contained within the document, but not currently part of the bid, envisages a complete pedestrianisation of the old town, with road access limited to public transport, blue badge holders and deliveries.

No exact timetable is in place for changes, but the council wants to roll out the new network as soon as possible.

More detail on the proposals:

Highland Council’s 53-page Spaces for People funding bid document details 22 temporary changes to Inverness roads.

It seeks to provide safe active travel to major healthcare facilities and other destinations by enabling social distancing during exercise and essential journeys. It also seeks to promote local economic recovery.

Academy Street, named Scotland’s fourth worst-polluted, would retain two-way traffic but with pavements widened to three metres and a 10mph speed limit imposed.

Another option would bar traffic after 6pm. A more controversial third idea, not currently part of the bid, would pedestrianise it completely.

Millburn Road would also lose two traffic lanes to bike lanes made safe by water-filled barriers.

Ness Walk would only have south-moving traffic, while streets like Caulfield Road North, Culloden Road, Culcabock Road, Kingsmills Road, Culduthel Road, Glenurquhart Road and others would also be altered.

Along the green route, there would be surface improvements, temporary lights at roundabouts, new signage, road markings, barriers, traffic calming and 20mph zones.

Full details are on Highland Council’s website.

Related article: Legacy of Covid-19 could be greener Inverness

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