The public consultation phase of Accessing Inverness project has closed. It is now at the stage of going past the councillors in the Inverness area committee.
This is one of the projects which gets part of its funding nationally from Sustrans, so it is quite complicated in terms of the hoops that the project has to get through – the local Council hoop is the first level, but any final designs will have to be acceptable to Sustrans in order to meet their funding terms.
Locally there is a sense that a project of this scale is long overdue, and there is a general positivity about the concept of making Academy street more cycle and walk friendly, and a more agreeable environment to be in. Overall, the proposals are a great step forwards.
As ever however, there is a range of views on the designs, which highlight the lack of an agreed national standard for design of streetscapes (something that is being worked on at the moment, but may not be delivered within the time frame of this project).
Balancing the needs of car drivers versus cyclists versus pedestrians is always at the core of many debates in these sorts of projects, and everyone will have different views.
Currently, Academy Street is car-centric. The proposed designs redress that balance towards pedestrians and cyclists, but do represent a compromise as they are not proposing segregated areas, and there is a question mark about how traffic will be reduced to Academy street.
The RNIB have campaigned hard locally to voice their concerns about the lack of provisions for signalled crossings: the local councillors have heard those concerns and asked for a further assessment to be done, and will look back at proposals again in the coming month.
There will be a range of views, and there are limited options in terms of solutions, and some compromise needs to be reached. Do we want to see Academy Street transformed? Absolutely yes. Do we want to see the needs of cars continue to dominate? Absolutely no.
But the debate is not over yet as to what that compromise might look like. Once there is a nationally agreed set of standards, it will be much easier as all submitted applications for funding will have to comply with those standards. But this is an “in between” project, and we have more to hear yet.