A council officer, responding to criticism and concerns from drivers about the quality of local roads at a time when the local authority is progressing with a project to build five new cycle lanes, has told councillors and constituents that "the new hierarchy is pedestrians first, cyclists, buses and everything else" and "cars are last".
Invercycle Council officer Gordon Leitch responded to questions about the perceived disparity between the number, and quality, of cycle lanes being built in the area compared with the quality of roads in the district by insisting "cars are last in the list unfortunately".
The Greenock Telegraph has reported discontent at the latest active travel project which will see Sustrans work alongside the council, led by a Labour minority administration, to deliver cycling infrastructure, in this case five new bike lanes.
Last week, local councillor David Wilson accused the Scottish Government of prioritising "cycling and walking over cars", before it was today reported that Conservative councillor Graeme Brooks had told the local authority's environment and regeneration committee about concerns from constituents who did not believe the same efforts were being made to improve the area's roads as were being made to introduce active travel infrastructure.
In reply, council officer Gordon Leitch explained that full plans would be shared shortly, but: "The only thing I'd point out about the road and the cycle network is that the new hierarchy is pedestrians first, cyclists, buses and everything else and I think that cars are last in the list unfortunately. That's the route we're going down now."
Council leader Stephen McCabe added that the funding for such projects is "ring-fenced" as "part of a national strategy where the government is keen to improve cycling and walking routes and safer streets", and so "the money that we're getting for this cannot be spent on renewing our pavements and our carriageways" anyway.
"We either take this funding and we design these schemes in line with the national strategy to make our streets safer for pedestrians and for cyclists, or we turn the money down and say we're not going to do that," he attempted to clarify. "We're not going to get the money to spend on resurfacing our roads and pavements."
However, McCabe did express a desire to see a council debate on the cycle lanes, despite agreeing to the project "in principle", as he also suggested it could "impact on the efficiency of the bus service".
"I think SPT's (Strathclyde Partnership for Transport) view is we're spending too much money on cycling routes and not enough money supporting bus services and bus routes," he said.
Last week, councillor Wilson argued: "I don't think these things should be a priority. That money could be better used on road building to improve the road system in Inverclyde. We have enough cycle tracks, and I don't think the ones we have are getting used.
"This SNP government budget on roads in Scotland is being cut, due to the influence of the Greens, who are completely against cars and road expenditure. It means there is not going to be money for major road improvements such as the signals on the A8 to help with the general flow of traffic. It is a question of priorities, and seems to be cycling and walking over cars."
Defending talk of a hierarchy on the roads, and in planning for how people use the roads, SNP councillor for Inverclyde Chris Curley said proper design means the "top of the pyramid of the hierarchy flows freely" and "that includes people walking, cycling and taking public transport".
"I've seen stuff that's been designed in other areas – public transport is ingrained within that streetscape and moves freely," he said, raising doubt about whether active travel infrastructure necessitates negatively impacting bus services.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.