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Edinburgh plans monthly car-free Sundays

Proposal forms part of wider plan to restrict motor traffic and improve city for future generations

Edinburgh City Council plans to close streets in parts of the Scottish capital to motor vehicles on the first Sunday of each month in what it says will provide “a legacy for future generations.”

Areas of the city centre and town centres in the suburbs will be closed to motor traffic from 10am to 5pm during the days the scheme – the first in Scotland, and initially run as a pilot – is in operation.

The Open Streets scheme was approved in principle last week by Edinburgh City Council’s transport committee, and forms part of plans to restrict traffic more generally in the city, including through the creation of low emission zones.

Those proposals, including the Open Streets scheme, will now form part of an eight-week consultation opening next month called Edinburgh: connecting our city, transforming our places.

The initiative aims to mirror the success of the Paris Breathes scheme in France, also held on the first Sunday of each month, and New York City’s Summer Streets programme.

It follows the city’s two-day Summer Summit in June which included a parade down the Mound and the closure of parts of George Street to motor vehicles.

According to the SNP and Labour-run council’s proposals,  “Open Streets Edinburgh would help citizens experience the city in a quieter, more people-focused environment and enable the council to monitor air quality, congestion, and travel behaviours to inform future plans for the city."

It added: “To determine which streets to close and ensuring suitable diversions are in place, engagement with residents, businesses, and emergency services would be required.”

The city’s transport convenor, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: "This prospectus is a truly ambitious document which is bound to generate some lively debate right across the city about what kind of place we want Edinburgh to be.

“It's a powerful opportunity to make some really transformational changes to our city centre and town centres for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in or visits them.

"Frankly, the status quo is just not an option anymore. As a council we are serious about tackling poor air quality, reducing congestion and making it as easy as possible to get around Edinburgh, especially by walking, cycling and public transport."

Daisy Narayanan, Open Streets project director, saisd the planned monthly road closures will enable the city to discover what happens when areas are blocked to motor vehicles.

“All these ideas have to be tested for when we come back with a more concrete package,” she explained.

“Where we are today is hugely exciting and we are ready to go to the public with some bold and realistic ideas.

“This is something that’s essentially a trial that could allow people to get used to what the city could be like. It will be a legacy for future generations.”

Simon joined 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.

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