A WORRIED Inverness community wants urgent changes to a road accident hotspot near two primary schools amid fears it is a tragedy waiting to happen.
The local councillor has warned that the opening of the West Link route will exacerbate the danger to pedestrians and drivers because it will add vehicles to an already established five-mile "rat run" that people use to avoid the Inshes roundabout.
Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans has had "countless" complaints from residents who have witnessed or experienced accidents on the route between the eagle roundabout on the distributor road that passes Inshes and Milton of Leys primary schools, on the south-west side of the city, and the A9.
Council transport chiefs insisted that traffic reviews mean regular monitoring of such concerns. That failed to appease Councillor Gowans.
He said: "There’s already significant volumes of traffic using the route because it’s the route a lot of lorry sat-navs promote. I’ve raised this with council officers and asked for it to be investigated so we can come up with a design solution to help mitigate some of the risks.
"I’ve been told signage will help tackle it, but it won’t. People regularly using the route won’t look at signage."
He said a roads official had acknowledged the concerns and confirmed that chicanes and barriers on either side of Inshes Park had been replaced on the route on a number of occasions after being wrecked by vehicles that failed to navigate them.
Although no serious injuries have been reported, dozens of vehicles have been badly damaged in recent months.
"If this is happening on a regular basis, you have to ask questions about the road design," said Cllr Gowans. "When the West Link opens, the volume of traffic is going to increase significantly.
"We need to address this as a serious issue because of people’s very real safety concerns. We’ve already installed traffic calming measures outside the schools. There are chicanes but people keep crashing into them."
Tracy Beauchamp, a data analyst with NHS Highland, has lived in Kincraig Drive for almost three years and seen the aftermath of six crashes during that time at nearby traffic islands and other "traffic calming" fixtures.
She said: "They’re wiping out the little traffic islands. If anybody was on them there would certainly be fatalities. There haven’t been yet, luckily, but it’s the only way the kids can get across the road to go to school.
"The last crash, involving a van hitting the barriers, was outside my back fence. My nine-year-old daughter Lucy’s trampoline was at the end of the garden. I’ve moved it to the back door now.
"The roads are too narrow and a low sun that comes up over the hill doesn’t help visibility.
"Last week I saw a coach full of holidaymakers going up the hill. I know there are lovely views from the top of Milton of Leys but they’re obviously going on to the A9 and coming up through that section to avoid the Inshes roundabout and the campus."
Highland Council roads committee chairman Allan Henderson said: "It would surprise me if drivers perceive an advantage that they don’t take, that’s perfectly logical.
"As far as reviewing goes, all good business practitioners – and the council is one of these – do it on a regular basis.
"Once the West Link opens I’d expect the traffic to increase. That’s what the road was planned and intended for, and will serve Inverness well."
A spokesman for the police said: "Anyone who has concerns about road safety in their area should call us on 101.
"Road safety is a priority for the police and drivers should be mindful of their speed, drive appropriately for the road conditions and take extra care when driving in built-up areas and around schools."