Council looks to extend initiative

Edinburgh’s silent streets may lead to wider car ban

Chris Inglis in Cockburn Street

Chris Inglis with daughter Nina in Cockburn Street (pic: Terry Murden)


Edinburgh’s old town fell silent yesterday – or at least the area which was closed to traffic as the city became the first in the UK to join the Open Streets movement.

The initiative – which aims to reduce pollution – may herald a wider ban on traffic as councillors consider extending the “low emission zone” in the city centre to the entire capital.

Only vehicles with the cleanest engines would be permitted under plans due to be unveiled by the city council on Friday. Aberdeen and Dundee will also join the scheme following Glasgow which became Scotland’s first LEZ in January.

In Edinburgh yesterday, Canongate, Cockburn Street, Grassmarket and Victoria Street, were closed between midday and 5pm in a bid to reduce air pollution and give greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists.

Rio on Royal Mile

Dog walkers took advantage of Canongate’s open spaces (pic: Terry Murden)


The City council said it would repeat the exercise on the first Sunday of every month as part of an 18-month trial. The free-to-hire cycle scheme will be free all week to encourage people to ditch their vehicles.

As the streets were turned over to entertainers, dog walkers and even an impromptu game of badminton, the roar of cars, vans and buses was replaced by the gentler sound of people walking and talking.

Lesley Macinnes, the councils’s transport and environment convener, said: “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.

Badminton on Royal Mile

A game of Badminton in the Royal Mile (pic: Terry Murden)


“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.”

Chris Inglis of Morningside, an asset manager at Walter Scott and Partners, brought his daughter Nina with him to ride his mountain bike around the closed cities. “I came in to the city just to see what it was like, It’s just great,” he said.

Bubbles in Royal Mile

Bubbles filled the air in the High Street (pic: Terry Murden)

Edinburgh follows Bogota, New York and Paris in giving its streets over to non-motorised traffic. The council said it is keen that it is not an events-led programme, but one that is shaped by the community, especially residents and businesses.

The Open Streets team is looking to work with residents, communities, interest groups, and businesses that are keen to be involved.

See also:

Rio Recommends: a dog walk around the traffic-free streets

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