An Aberdeenshire councillor has appealed for the north-east to “build back better” and make certain country roads safer for cyclists, walkers and horse-riding after lockdown is lifted.
East Garioch councillor Martin Ford wants the local authority to adopt the “green routes” approach introduced by Perth and Kinross Council.
Under the scheme, selected minor rural roads that don’t typically have a lot of traffic are given lower speed limits of just 40mph or 30mph.
Signs are also erected to warn motorists they could encounter those on foot, bike, or horseback.
The Democratic Independent and Green Group member said a similar project in Aberdeenshire would help to fill a “suppressed demand” for more cycling-friendly groups.
The council is currently considering the idea, after the Garioch Area Committee agreed earlier that the potential scheme should be looked into.
Mr Ford said that with a reduced number vehicles currently on the roads due to the coronavirus lockdown, many people are enjoying getting about without motorised transport.
He argues there should be a “permanent shift” to support people leaving their cars at home.
Mr Ford said: “It is very obvious that there has been a huge increase in cycling and walking on rural Aberdeenshire roads during lockdown, as people get their exercise in accordance with government advice.
“People are using roads for exercise that would normally not be pleasant or safe for pedestrians or cyclists, because of busy and speeding traffic.
“The experience during lockdown suggests a real suppressed demand exists for active travel on our rural roads.
“Given the huge benefits of cycling and walking, we must not simply go back to allowing motorised traffic to effectively exclude many people from using their local road for travelling by alternative means.
“We need a permanent shift in support of active travel.”
Mr Ford added: “Aberdeenshire Council has a formal proposal to consider introducing ‘cycle-friendly roads’ along the lines brought in by the Perth and Kinross Council a few years ago.
“The council already has strong policy commitments to support active travel.
“It now needs to recognise the changed circumstances and the new evidence of latent demand for active travel on our rural roads.
“There really is an opportunity to build back better by changing roads policy to designate cycle-friendly roads across Aberdeenshire.”
Ewan Wallace, head of transportation at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “The matter will be considered in line with our due processes alongside other related areas of work, with elected members at area and policy committees receiving appropriate reports.
“Our current focus has to be on continuing to deal with the response to the Covid-19 emergency, and then what we have to do is to ensure social distancing can be achieved in locations with significant and essential pedestrian movements.”