Iochdar Community Council want to encourage the local Community to shape their neighbourhood and take a lead in making their local area both a safer and better place to walk, wheel, cycle - and live.
We are working to create a pathway to link the primary school, Care Unit, village hall, post office and Crofters Store with the areas where people live. Through surveys, meetings, consultations and emails, we have gathered ideas and feedback from people who know and use the area.
The main challenge of the project is creating new opportunities for people to adopt happy and healthy lifestyles and to do this safely and with less risk of contracting Covid-19.
Like many villages in the Western Isles (Isle of South Uist), the road is single track with no pavement and very little verge in places making it unsafe for people and hazardous for vehicles.
The route is very exposed in places. Where crossing, the verges are extremely narrow with water on both sides of the road.
There are no safe places to wait for buses, Pupils stand on the road waiting for the bus and get off the bus straight on to the road.
In places the route has tight corners and blind summits with poor visibility
Accidents and near-misses are a recurring issue on the road.
The Hebridean Way, a long-distance, scenic cycle route (formerly NCN 780), passes through Iochdar and there is no safe crossing place for users of the Way or regular local users. We hope the pathway we propose will illuminate all these issues mentioned above.
Demand for this project has been identified though our close connection with the local community and consultations we have held whilst developing our pathway project.
In 2017 we took ownership of the problem by enlisting the help of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Access Officer (Local Council) to undertake a preliminary consultation exercise in the local (Iochdar) Primary School. This exercise involved exploring the experience of children growing up by such a dangerous road and revealed the limited opportunities for local children to undertake active travel.
We followed this work by designing and undertaking a Community Survey in 2018. In doing so we reached out to our community in a variety of ways and achieved as wide a coverage as possible. The community survey results showed that 100% of our community are in favour of improving active travel opportunities and road safety in our village.
We then accessed Sustrans funding for a feasibility study into developing a shared-use pathway and embarked on delivering this project. This involved a community consultation in 2019 which again showed overwhelming support from residents, business owners and crofters.
The Covid lockdowns slowed the progress of the project in 2020 but we have continued to develop the designs and quickly realised that from a Covid-19 perspective, it is even more important for people to have opportunities to use active travel options and meet, socialise and exercise safely outdoors. Albeit both physically and mentally beneficial to everyone.
We are the final stage of the design phase of the project and hope to start construction in early 2022 if we can raise enough money.
Through developing this active travel route, we want to achieve the following for the community of Iochdar and the wider area:
- To provide a safer route to walk, use buggies, wheelchairs,
- mobility scooters, and cycle around the whole community
- and its facilities;
- To provide an inclusive all-abilities segregated walking,
- wheeling, and cycling route;
- To provide connectivity to the wider area through the Hebridean Way;
- To encourage people to partake in more physical activity;
- To help people who want to improve their health by becoming
- more active;
- To encourage cycling amongst the younger generation,
- helping them gain independence and confidence;
- To provide a safe route for children cycling to school
- To provide children access to a safe route to carry out their
- “mile a day” exercise.
- To help parents and guardians have confidence in a child's
- ability to use a bicycle and travel safely;
- To improve community spaces; and
- To reduce traffic, improving air quality and reducing pressure on parking.
So far we have achieved match funding from Sustrans for this project. Although this is a great achievement in itself we still need to raise the rest of the total. ie £200000.
This is hopefully the start of something bigger as we aim to complete the circular route of the area where we have meet all our aims mentioned above and where post covid-19, people of all ages and abilities can meet, walk and talk whilst looking after their health and wellbeing. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our way of living and being socially distanced and out in the fresh outdoors has proven a life line.