‘Opportunity’ to build on positive lockdown travel changes

The time is right to review transport policy in Shetland following the coronavirus pandemic, according to ZetTrans.

The transport partnership is looking to build on positive changes in travel behaviour brought about by lockdown.

ZetTrans met on Thursday to discuss a comprehensive review and redevelopment of Shetland’s transport strategy in the wake of Covid-19.

Chairman Ryan Thomson said it was the “right time” and that the “situation we find ourselves in at the moment” was a “prime opportunity to look at how we can see any way to do that comprehensive review”.

Transport policy and projects officer Robina Barton told councillors momentum had been building over the last 12 months, with growing efforts to tackle climate change and a change in the national agenda. 

This had been “exacerbated by the Covid-19 situation” and changes to travel behaviour over the last few months, including an increase in walking and cycling.

The timescale involved in Scotland’s move to ‘recovery and renewal’ remained “unavoidably fluid”, according to the report brought before councillors, but a 12-18 month window has been identified “to capitalise on positive changes in travel behaviour that have resulted from the lockdown”.

This would also “provide transport solutions that tackle inequalities, support economic recovery and contribute to carbon reduction”. 

Continuing active travel habits was also on the agenda when it came to the partnership’s £200,000 application for Scottish government funding, which Ms Barton confirmed ZetTrans had been awarded.

The money comes from the Spaces for People Fund, which is managed by Sustrans Scotland, to help “implement measures focused on protecting public health, supporting physical distancing and preventing a second wave of the Coronavirus outbreak”.

Potential ZetTrans plans include creating a “low traffic neighbourhood in the heart of Lerwick” with a combination of street closures and improved crossing, alongside working with Living Lerwick on covered and heated outdoor seating for cafes and restaurants on Commercial Street to increase capacity for businesses with social distancing requirements.

There would be a “more joined up approach to Lerwick generally”, said Ms Barton.

Road space could also be reallocated along Westerloch drive in the town to improve safety for people accessing the Clickimin path from the main road.

Outside of Lerwick, improving the safety of walking and cycling in Voe and access to schools across Shetland were identified as top priorities.

Mr Thomson welcomed potential improvements to cycling, saying that he was surprised there had not been more accidents in Shetland, with cars going past too close being a “real issue”.

“I should be out on my bike far more often than I am,” said Mr Thomson, but added even he had “had close encounters”.

A lack of footpaths and narrow verges were the most common barriers cited in a public engagement exercise that took place in March this year.

Councillors were keen to congratulate Ms Barton and her team on successfully applying for the £200,000 funding in such a short space of time.

They were also quick to highlight that most of the proposed changes were focused on Lerwick.

Shetland Central councillor Davie Sandison pointed out that a “significant amount” was targeted at the town and that the funding was an opportunity for different parts of Shetland.

Mr Thomson said it was “important to see some of this funding go outside Lerwick”.

Ms Barton said that they would “ensure some of this money does go beyond Lerwick town centre”.


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