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Dingwall traffic calming measures spark anger as Highland Council officials ponder u-turn; Questions raised over use of Covid-19 funding for active travel 'intervention' in county town

By Hector MacKenzie

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The Back Road traffic island,located close to a turn in the road.
The Back Road traffic island,located close to a turn in the road.

A COUNCIL scheme designed to encourage active travel and social distancing in response to the coronavirus crisis has sparked outrage in Ross-shire's county town.

The introduction of traffic islands at two busy sections of road - one close to a corner - has angered many in Dingwall and already forced an embarrassing u-turn from Highland Council, with further discussions now pending.

Pressure is mounting for a complete rethink of how Scottish Government funding through its Covid-19 Spaces for People initiative is being spent amid fears of peak-time gridlock and a potential knock-on impact on emergency services.

As well as the introduction of 20mph speed zones, traffic islands on Back Road – a key access to the town's primary and secondary schools - and opposite the police station on Brigaid Road, have triggered an angry response.

Ward councillor Graham MacKenzie has been "inundated" with complaints about the officer-led interventions and admits he also has concerns.

After a site meeting on Back Road this week, he said engineers had agreed to move a newly placed traffic island. He said: "Officials have taken a look and agreed to move it nine metres further down the hill toward the Strathpeffer Road junction. There's definitely a line of sight issue. They have heard the public outrage."

Cllr Mackenzie believes speed bumps would be preferable.The former Dingwall Academy rector admitted concerns over "chaotic" traffic as schools return in August.

The island on Back Road was subject to another review meeting yesterday. Officers will now produce a "background and justification paper "while further discussions take place about how a final decision will be reached.

As it stands, Dingwall will be stuck with the "temporary" measures for 18 months – though there are signs the local authority could bend to public pressure.

Cllr Graham Mackenzie is uneasy about the traffic calming measure and has prompted a review by Highland Council.
Cllr Graham Mackenzie is uneasy about the traffic calming measure and has prompted a review by Highland Council.

Karen Forsyth summed up the feeling of many on a local online noticeboard: "If there is information that shows how this assists social distancing it would be very interesting to be able to see it. It feels like the council are spending money for the sake of using up a budget rather than putting any thought into how to use it to make a real difference."

Steven Walken fears the island at the police station could impede emergency services saying speed bumps work just as well and allow safe manoeuvre to the side to allow emergency services safe passage. Shona Dryburgh said: "Come on council, admit you got it wrong."

Fellow Dingwall resident Andrew Macivor said: "It's an accident waiting to happen. It looks like it was thought up on the back of a fag packet in the pub. We're already seeing articulated lorries have to mount the pavements to get by. How does that help safety? It feels like they are playing Russian roulette with our lives. They say it's temporary for 18 months but let's nip it in the bud now for the sake of road safety."

A council spokeswoman said: “The Spaces for People fund is a rapid and proportionate response to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are seeing such temporary measures rolled out across all of Scotland It seeks to address a number of issues and includes provisionto allow physical distancing, and also allows and encourages active travel provision so that people have choices about their journeys."

She added: "It should be stressed that these interventions are temporary and we have the ability to rapidly amend and change the proposals up to and including their removal.The council will monitor the intervention and consider all comments and views during its use, and this will inform what happens to the intervention in the short to medium term.We do recognise that on roll out it will take the traveling public some time to become accustomed to these changes – much like traffic management during construction – so it is proposed to review these measures following a two-week bedding in period.”

More on the plans here.

Related: Highland Council secures £750,000 for active travel interventions

Push to get Peffery Way path on active travel radar

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