Edinburgh takes huge step towards a car free capital with clean-air pledge

SCOTLAND’S capital city could stage regular vehicle free days on Edinburgh’s streets as part of a bid to clean-up air quality.

City of Edinburgh Council Transport Convener Lesley Macinnes announced the plans as it celebrated its first Clean Air Day.

But she stopped short of saying whether or not that – with fact based monitoring – could eventually result in an outright car ban in the future too.

She said the aim was to host open-street events under the  Edinburgh Summer Summit  umbrella, targeted at improving conditions and prioritising sustainable transport and space for the communities in the city centre.

The announcement forms part of the Central Edinburgh Transformation project, the City of Edinburgh Council’s ambition to return space to pedestrians and encourage active travel.

Councillor Macinnes said there was a growing need to improve the air quality in Edinburgh.

She said that would improve public health and allow residents to enjoy a better quality of life in the city through improved public spaces.

She added that the open street events would be underpinned by robust monitoring of air quality, congestion and travel behaviours.

That could help inform any further plans for the city.

She said: “The aim of today’s summit is to demonstrate that Edinburgh can be a city that puts people and public spaces first and does not need to be dominated by vehicles.

“As we have seen in other European capitals such as Oslo, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, active travel and car-free city centre streets improve the quality of the air that we breath, the safety of the streets, and encourage people to use and enjoy the public realm more freely.”

She added:“Our ambition is to work toward implementing regular vehicle-free occasions in Edinburgh’s centre which reflect this aspiration.

“We will work with residential and business communities and elected members to ensure that it is planned and undertaken in a collaborative manner.

“This can be a wonderful opportunity for people to enjoy parts of Edinburgh in a different way to our current expectations and to see the benefits of a more people-oriented city.”

The event saw George Street closed off in part to traffic along with the Mound which saw a procession led by the transport minister.

The showcases has also made additional space made available to the public. Activities included free yoga classes and the use of E-bikes on The Mound, cycling workshops, and temporary landscaping and seating provided a place for people to sit, relax and enjoy Edinburgh in a completely novel way.

On George Street, an urban garden has been created, along with space for stalls, and different activities such as Pedal Powered Scalextric.

A speech about the importance of placemaking was also given by City of Edinburgh Council Leader Adam McVey .

John Bynorth, Policy and Communications Officer at Environmental Protection Scotland, which was co-ordinating Clean Air Day in Scotland, said: “The Edinburgh Summer Summit has been very successful in bringing people together and has put the capital at the forefront of efforts to improve air quality in Scotland.

“It has set a hugely positive example and showcases what can be achieved by focusing on the people who live here.”

Funding for the event was provided by the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Programme, administered by Paths for All on behalf of Transport Scotland.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: Meadows to George Street: Streets for People project 

IMAGE CREDITS: EPS/ECC/Big Partnership 

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