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Community / Community meeting demands footpath and speed limit for dangerous Hillswick road

There is no footpath along the Hillswick road. Photo: Alex Purbrick

ROAD safety has become a topical issue throughout communities in Shetland as many people find it unsafe to walk or cycle through their local area, writes Alex Purbrick.

Hillswick residents have campaigned over 16 years ago to have a footpath and a reduced speed limit on the A970 road from Valladale to the Hillswick shop but to no avail.

Following an online community meeting on Friday they hope that finally their voices may be heard, and a very hazardous road may be improved.

The meeting was set up by SYSTRA, a transport consultant company who carried out a walking tour of the Hillswick and Urafirth area in October 2022 as part of an audit to propose road network improvements.

They are working alongside ZetTrans as part of the Active Travel Shetland strategy examining walking/cycling routes in the North Mainland including Voe and Mossbank.

Council convener and member for the Shetland North ward Andrea Manson had been concerned that there were very few people in the community that actually knew the online meeting was happening and asked Urafirth head teacher Wendy Fraser to distribute an online survey through the primary school’s Facebook page.

Manson said: “We’re probably worse off here in Hillswick than some other areas because there’s no street lighting, no pavements. It’s a single-track road with widening, no official passing places.

“Most folk that walk on the road are the bairns walking/cycling to the school.

“We had really good contributions from folk and I was able to share the survey with Alastair Hunter who is leading the issue as part of transport planning for SIC.

“The audit should be completed within the next couple months. I’m hoping that after the audit we can have a public meeting with SYSTRA rather than being online.”

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Thirteen parents responded to the school survey with all requesting a footpath from Valladale to Hillswick while highlighting that the road is extremely dangerous for bairns.

The school bus only operates in the winter term which Hillswick resident and mother of two Cat Duncan said needs to change.

“School encourages you to walk with your child. If the SIC does not provide a bus in the summer term, then they need to make it safe for your child to walk/cycle to school.

“The road is not wide enough; the sides of the road are not even and have potholes. It’s really difficult walking with a dog and a buggy and a child.

“It’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy living here due to not having easy walks to places. This discourages me from wanting to stay.”

One of the short-term solutions proposed at the meeting was to introduce a temporary speed restriction. The current speed limit is 60mph and with proposed restrictions down to 40mph or 30mph many feel this would be a first step in making safe a road used by cyclists, dog walkers, horse riders and pedestrians.

Shetland North councillor Tom Morton added the SIC could put in a temporary speed restriction as it has done already at Tresta.

“There have been illuminated warning signs at the clave in Valladale previously but apparently it had little effect in reducing traffic speed,” he said.

“If there was a footpath that would be a tremendous thing.  I think it might have to go through parks as there are bits where it couldn’t run along the road.

“To define the route is the first step. It’s a project NCDC (Northmavine Community Development Company) could hopefully take on especially as they are an existing community group and can facilitate funding that may be available to take the project further.”

See also:

Footpath group wins funding

Action group set up in Voe to tackle road safety issues

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