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Council to roll out network of safe walking and cycling routes in response to Covid-19


By David G Scott

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WICK is among the places earmarked to benefit from a Highland-wide initiative to create safe walking and cycling pathways as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Highland Council has been awarded £752,954 from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund, administered by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans Scotland, to deliver rapid active travel interventions.

The council intends to develop cycle and walking paths in Wick as a response to the coronavirus crisis.Picture: DGS
The council intends to develop cycle and walking paths in Wick as a response to the coronavirus crisis.Picture: DGS

Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay welcomed the announcement and said: "I want to see these measures rolled out safely for all. I am delighted the royal burgh has been included in the initial talks but would like to think we could go further and include rural Caithness as well."

Over the coming weeks towns across the Highland Council area, along with Inverness, will see a roll-out of temporary walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure along priority routes.

A map of Wick that Highland Council has highlighted proposed cycle and walking routes.
A map of Wick that Highland Council has highlighted proposed cycle and walking routes.

These measures will ensure that people can move safely on essential journeys and while taking daily exercise. They are also seen as a key component of village, town and city centre "recovery strategies".

The council invited comments on its website to initiate dialogue on the matter with 85 per cent of those who responded supporting the interventions proposed.

Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay would like to see rural areas have similar initiatives put in place.
Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay would like to see rural areas have similar initiatives put in place.

The first phase of measures will be implemented this week, with more planned over the coming weeks, depending on the delivery of materials, plant and further engagement and design work.

Wick and East Caithness councillor Nicola Sinclair said: "It's great to see Wick included in the council's bid for the Spaces for People fund.

"The project will hopefully help people feel confident to get out and about safely as lockdown eases and support our local high street to get back on its feet."

Councillor Sinclair noted, however, that the proposals for Wick "are draft only" at this stage.

"We have already asked to meet with officers and discuss what would work best for the town. The final plans will reflect what the community needs," she added.

Councillor Sinclair also expressed her delight that the project is to be taken forward locally by Sustrans Scotland, which has been helping with the regeneration of Wick town centre.

"Sustrans is already working on our street design project, so we can ensure the two things link up, as well as plans for cycle routes via HiTrans [Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership].

"Hopefully these projects will be something positive to look forward to and support the town to recover post-Covid."

Councillor Nicola Sinclair has welcomed the initiative which 'will hopefully help people feel confident to get out and about safely'. Picture: DGS
Councillor Nicola Sinclair has welcomed the initiative which 'will hopefully help people feel confident to get out and about safely'. Picture: DGS

Karen McGregor, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “It’s clear that people across Scotland want to do the right thing during coronavirus. They want to look after their physical and mental health.

“They also want to make sure that they are keeping to physical distancing guidelines while still being safe on our streets.

“Providing funding support to Highland Council through our Spaces for People programme will make it easier and safer for people to travel around towns across the Highlands for essential travel and exercise.”

Councillor Mackay said that he hoped constituents would give feedback on the proposals for Wick but also wished to see similar developments in rural Caithness.

"I have seen a fantastic, very well drawn up plan for a walk outside Watten village which would be a great boost in the ability for users to move safely while on daily exercise," he said.

The possibility of further bids into the fund are being looked at, so the council is inviting members of the public to comment on issues being experienced in their communities where further measures may be considered.

The temporary interventions proposed are available for review at the Highland Council’s website at consult.highland.gov.uk/kse



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