Highland Council proposes network of safe walking and cycling routes in response to Coronavirus pandemic

The Highland Council and NHS Highland have submitted an ambitious bid to the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund seeking support to deliver rapid active travel interventions. If successful, towns across Highland and the city of Inverness will see a roll-out of temporary walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure over the coming weeks and months. The measures will include footpath widening, temporary bike lanes and other works that seek to ensure people can walk, wheel and cycle safely on essential journeys and taking daily exercise.

By delivering safe active travel connections across settlements to link major healthcare facilities and other destinations, the proposals aim to maximise opportunities for social distancing. Importantly they will also provide a necessary springboard for town and city centre recovery and regeneration as lockdown measures are eased and places need to be adapted to be safe for work, business and leisure.

Whilst a rapid programme of work has been undertaken to submit the initial funding bid, the Council considers this as only the start of the conversation and will continue to review, monitor and evaluate schemes and proposals as they emerge.

Communities, businesses and other stakeholders are being encouraged by the Council to get involved. To ensure the council responds appropriately it has set up a consultation (https://consult.highland.gov.uk/kse/) so that people can share their views on the proposed interventions now and as they are implemented. This will enable Highland Council to maximise the impact of measures and respond to the evolving needs of our communities as the current pandemic situation changes.

Councillor Trish Robertson, Chair of The Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee said: “I am delighted to be promoting this bid to the Spaces for People Fund.  A number of key interventions have been identified to assist essential workers on their journey to work as well as assisting with people being able to maintain physical distancing.  The temporary measures proposed will enable more active travel in a safer environment and promote opportunities for the re-imagining of our streets, town and city centres as we emerge from this crisis.  The Council is committed to ensuring a healthy and safe environment is a central to the response to the Climate and Ecological emergency, and this remains a key focus of our work.”

Provost of the City of Inverness, Cllr Helen Carmichael added: “The Highland region is facing unprecedented challenges due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. As we consider the ways that people are able to move around we look to active travel for the answers. The Spaces for People funding bid represents a great opportunity to bring positive change for the City in otherwise difficult times. I would encourage everyone to get behind this positive opportunity and join in the conversation through our consultation portal.”

Dan Jenkins of NHS Highland’s Health Improvement Team said: “Personal safety along key routes of travel is a major concern and a real danger where adequate provision and segregation is not in place for cyclists and pedestrians. Those who cannot afford or cannot access a car are additionally disadvantaged at this time.  With current social distancing and movement restrictions, active travel may be the only opportunity some people have to be physically active to remain healthy. This application is an excellent example of how a range of immediate benefits for mitigation of COVID-19 will be achieved through improved infrastructure.”

The Council wishes to stress that the bid submitted jointly with NHS Highland is an initial bid. It welcomes comment through the portal both on the proposed measures but also on any other locations where additional measures could be introduced.  Any further opportunities in towns across the Highlands would be the subject of additional bids for funding.

The Consultation Portal will become live at 5pm tonight (Friday 15 May) and has been designed to be very interactive and simple to use. To take part and to view all the details visit https://consult.highland.gov.uk/kse

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Over the current school closure, please contact your child’s class teacher by email if you have any queries about online learning. If you have any other concerns, please contact Meg Snedden, Acting Head Teacher, using the following email: meg.snedden@highland.gov.uk

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