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 has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.