A £1.2m windfall will see a second phase of temporary changes to enable safe walking and wheeling on Highland streets during the coronavirus pandemic.
The cash, from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund, follows more than £750k already handed to Highland Council to implement traffic interventions in Aviemore, Dingwall, Fort William, Inverness, Nairn, Wick and Portree.
Paths have been reclaimed and barriers have been put in place to make road space available to pedestrians and wheelers, and 20mph restrictions are being implemented.
The new cash will permit the council to bring Thurso into the scheme, and increase the measures being put into place in Aviemore, Fort William, Portree and Wick.
The interventions are temporary, expected to remain in place for 18 months.
Lochaber councillor Andrew Baxter said the scheme had proved a success in Fort William, where it had brought together people to talk about changing their communities.
He said: “Some communities have been pushing for 20mph speed zones for years, but funding was limited in the past.
“Now we have the opportunity to move quickly and implement 20mph zones easily.”
Councillor Trish Robertson, chairwoman of economy and infrastructure, said sustainable travel had never been so popular.
“Spaces for People will, I am sure, encourage more individuals and families to continue to enjoy the benefits of walking and cycling.”
Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans said collecting feedback and empirical data from the project was vital for future planning.
“These temporary measures provide a unique opportunity to evaluate what adjustments would be beneficial on a permanent basis.
“There has been relatively good engagement and some great ideas from a broad range of interest groups and individuals.”
Public consultation through a Highland Council portal shows 73% of 854 comments in support of the interventions, the council said, with 2,400 people signing a petition urging it to go further than the current proposals.
Mrs Robertson, who also chairs the council’s climate change panel, said: “This period of lockdown has given us all, no matter where we live, a different understanding and appreciation of space.
“I hope that we can learn from this experience and make walking, wheeling and cycling a bigger part of our everyday travel, which will have multiple other benefits to our health, climate and air quality, not to mention reducing congestion.
“Already we have seen a reduction in traffic and an increase in active travel during the pandemic which we want to encourage and build upon.
“It is crucial that we keep momentum going to maximise the public health benefits of this project.”
Key stakeholders, like Inverness BID, emergency services and local businesses have been involved in the process.
The council says the measures being delivered are flexible and through its consultation portal it can monitor and respond quickly to any issues arising from the interventions.