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Council / Levenwick road upgrade plans ‘wide of the mark’

The Shetland branch of the Scottish Greens say rather than widening the road the council needs to ensure that island roads are safe for all road users

The A970 at Levenwick. Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

THE LOCAL Greens are calling for a fresh approach on transport investments in the isles after Shetland Islands Council unanimously backed plans in principle to invest £3.3 million into upgrading an accident-prone stretch of the A970 above Levenwick.

Following Tuesday’s council decision the party said the single most important measure to reduce road danger was to slow down cars rather than build wider roads.

The party, which has plans to put forward candidates at next year’s council election, said major investment needs to be made into the local transport infrastructure to allow islanders to become more active and less reliant on cars.

Shetland Greens’ co-convenor Debra Nicolson said the party wholeheartedly supports robust measures to reduce road danger.

“Whilst we recognise that there are topographical features of this stretch of road that make it less safe, it is important to state that the overwhelming reason why vehicles crash here is because of excessive speed,” she said.

“In the last five years there have been four road deaths in Shetland and many more life-changing injuries. The principal reason for these tragedies is speed, an issue that has been completely overlooked here. The best strategies for reducing road danger work by slowing cars down.

“This is an expensive project that could end up having the unintended consequence of tempting even more drivers to put their foot on the accelerator.

She added that speed reduction measures could be installed at a fraction of the cost of the current plans.

Local party activist Alex Armitage meanwhile said the plans “were wide off the mark”.

The proposals for upgrading the road still need to go through a number of stages before they come to fruition.

“We do need significant investment in our transport infrastructure but it must have a wider focus,” Armitage said.

“I’m disappointed that this multimillion pound investment has made no provision for pedestrians or cyclists.

“With the advent of e-bikes, new infrastructure for walking and cycling could spark a boom in sustainable tourism in Shetland, as well as making it easier for us to build physical activity into our day-to-day lives, with huge benefits for health and the climate.”

Levenwick GP Dr Deepa Shah added: “I frequently run and walk along this stretch of road and vehicles simply travel too fast.

“In the last three years there have been three serious road traffic collisions on the A970 in the South Mainland. Our priority should be reducing speed and making our roads safe for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.”