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Community / Outdoor seating area for cafes and restaurants could be explored if funding bid is successful

Lerwick's Commercial Street. Photo: Shetland News

THE IDEA of a covered outdoor seating area for cafes and restaurants on or near Lerwick’s Commercial Street to increase capacity for businesses while maintaining social distancing has been floated as part of bid for government funding.

It is one of four strands of a £200,000 bid led by transport partnership ZetTrans to the Scottish Government’s Spaces of People fund, which aims to support the development of projects which make it safer for people walk, cycle or wheel during Covid-19 while protecting public health.

A report which will be presented to members of ZetTrans on Thursday states that a covered and heated area for cafes and restaurants forms part of the bid, which is entitled ‘Support for safer, sustainable travel in Shetland’’.

“This could be beneficial to the economy of Shetland, and to public health and wellbeing, by providing people with more opportunities to get out and socialise in a post-lockdown world,” the report says.

It could also include facilities such as bike parking.

The report adds that Living Lerwick would be involved in exploring the idea.

Other parts of the project include creating a “low traffic neighbourhood in the heart of Lerwick” to encourage more people to engage in active travel – such as walking and cycling – in town.

This could encompass measures like street closures, improved crossings and modal filters, which are items like bollards.

One suggestion is segregated cycling on King Harald Street.

There is also a focus on reallocating road space to walking and cycling along Westerloch Drive in Lerwick to improve safety for people accessing the Clickimin walking and cycling path from the A970.

The final strand of the bid is around improving safety for walking and safety in areas outside of Lerwick, with Voe highlighted as a particular area of concern.

The report, from transport policy and projects officer Robina Barton, says that a lack of footpaths and/or narrow verges were the “most common barriers to active travel” cited in a public engagement exercise which took place in March.

Members of ZetTrans will be asked to approve “in principle the creation of temporary interventions including, but not limited to, road space reallocation and traffic restrictions to support the continuation of active travel habits developed under the coronavirus lockdown”.

They will also be asked to support the development of a strategic multi-agency approach to mobility and access in Lerwick.

The government’s Spaces of People fund is being managed by Sustrans Scotland.

Barton adds that Shetland has seen an increase in active travel, as well as a reduction in car use, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey conducted in May showed that since lockdown 42 per cent of respondents said they walked more than before, with eight in ten folk saying they used their car less.

A local multi-agency active travel group – which includes the council, NHS Shetland, Shetland Recreational Trust and and the police among others – previously secured £60,000 in Sustrans funding to develop an active travel strategy, with this work currently underway.