Swapping eyes, shoes and wheels… towards Putting Inverness Streets Ahead?

By Dr Katie Walter, Highland Cycle Campaign

​When I think back to memorable days of 2019, May 18th already stands out. On an overcast Saturday morning, I made my way down to the Spectrum Centre for the first of a series of national events organised by Walk Cycle Vote around different people’s needs for safe streets and roads.

The idea is simple: get a bunch of people with different needs around a table, and then onto the streets, and help them to experience each other’s perspective and them get them to reflect on what makes a fair and safe streetscape. 

It was a cracking day: I was guided round Academy Street and the High Street area wearing a pair of goggles that simulate common visual impairments and got a pretty immediate sense of how vulnerable you can feel and what hazards abound. Crossing the road at Strothers Lane stood out as a particularly fearsome challenge, particularly for a wheelchair user, with narrow pavements and fast cars.

In a hierarchy of vulnerability, as a cyclist I am in the middle of the food chain, and the day made me realise how vital carriageway segregation is for safe moving around the city. It also made me highly aware of how vital controlled crossings can be.

As a cyclist, the day opened my mind to the need for designs that address the needs of all. This is a current Hot Topic – particularly with final designs for projects such as Accessing Inverness under scrutiny.

Nationally, there is work going on reviewing what is now out of date as best practice: the old framework of reference, particularly for cycling (Cycling by Design), which is still being referenced, is obsolete and recognised as no longer fit for purpose. A review has been commissioned but won’t report before projects such as Accessing Inverness are decided.

Locally, there is a more coordinated approach from different groups coming together under a single banner to campaign for safer better streets: Putting Inverness Streets Ahead is lobbying hard to get the needs of all addressed in local projects.

So what came out of the Walk Cycle Vote event in Inverness on the 18th?

A heightened awareness and a commitment to work better together across groups, with input from organisations as diverse as the RNIB, Sight Action, Spinal Injuries Scotland, Cycling without Age, Cycling UK and of course the Highland Cycle Campaign. Together, we were able to reflect on what we had learned from the day and came up with the following list that we could agree on:

  • We want fewer cars in urban centres.
  • We want an adequate number of button controlled crossings in busier traffic areas, and they should be accessible.
  • Give us a fast response to button pressing.
  • Tactile paving should be wider at crossings and extend from kerb edge to inside edge at buildings/walls.
  • Pavements should be better maintained.
  • We want level pavements.
  • We want wider pavements for pedestrians.
  • We want less cluttered pavements.
  • We want a raised kerb between footway and carriageway or cycletrack, except at crossings.
  • We want separation between cyclists and pedestrians in urban areas.
  • We want safe pedestrian access to bus stops.

Maybe the one or two things we didn’t add, but should have, are:

  • We want a separation between cyclists and cars in urban areas
  • We want better public transport provisions.

Quite some wishlist. A first great step – or spin – in the right direction! And a big thank you to Walk Cycle Vote for organising a great day…

It has firmed up a commitment that we should, as the Highland Cycle Campaign, work in close partnership with other local campaigners to give shared feedback on local issues.