Streets in Edinburgh were given over to people on bikes and on foot as Scotland’s capital today became the first city in the UK to join the global Open Streets movement.
The city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was closed to motor vehicles, enabling people to enjoy a traffic-free Canongate, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street, among other roads in the historic centre.
City of Edinburgh Council’s transport and environment committee gave the go-ahead in February, to an 18-month Open Streets initiative that will see a gradual building of closed streets on the first Sunday of each month in the Old Town.
The city’s transport and environment convener, councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “I’m delighted that Edinburgh will very soon be joining cities around the world to reap the benefits of Open Streets.
“We’ve seen how successful similar schemes internationally have proved by encouraging active travel, improving air quality and creating a safer, more relaxed atmosphere so I can’t wait to see this take shape in the capital.
“Climate change is a real threat to society, it’s clear that we have to act, and Open Streets is undoubtedly a step in the right direction,” she added.
Grace Martin, deputy director of Sustrans Scotland, added: “The Open Streets scheme showcases Edinburgh as a city that puts people first. Helping make the city centre more accessible to users of all abilities to walk, wheel, cycle, relax and connect.
“Evidence is very clear that vehicle dominance of our urban environment is a major cause of air pollution.
“In areas where pollution exceeds legal limits, 80% of harmful nitrous oxide gas comes from transport.
“Closing streets to traffic does have a big and positive impact. As an example, last year’s London Marathon, which includes road closures across the city, coincided with an 89% drop in air pollution in central London,” she continued.
“Open Streets is a great initiative to make our city centres healthier, greener and safer places for everyone.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.