As Covid lockdown eases, increased road traffic may be ruining al fresco experience for outdoor diners – Alastair Dalton

There’s a bright, fresh look to the main street in my part of Glasgow.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 4:45 pm

Cafes and restaurants which had been closed to all but takeaways for months have been given an exterior makeover, with bright orange parasols shielding expanded outdoor tables giving the road something of a Continental air.

For at least the next few weeks, those starved of eating and drinking out may turn to the open air in record numbers, if the weather is kind.

Many may sample the al fresco experience for the first time, and for locals, it can provide a totally different perspective to familiar surroundings.

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A pavement cafe table is the classic vantage point from which to watch the world go by while visiting an unfamiliar city – and so it can be too in your own locale.

It is, unfortunately, also an opportunity to experience at first hand how much our streets have been taken over and remain dominated by cars.

The sight, sound and smells that vehicles create make a significant impression on the attractiveness of a street as a place to linger by sitting outside a cafe or bar.

If you’re not deafened by the traffic, you may find yourself breathing in the fumes.

Outdoor tables are popping up at bars and cafes across Scotland (Picture: Matt Donlan)

You may also soon see how few people are getting about on cycles, even on streets like mine that have bike lanes.

It doesn’t help, of course, that some drivers also see no one cycling, so park across those lanes, some regularly and for long periods, which in turn puts more people off cycling.

With this week’s latest easing of Covid restrictions, the level of traffic has bounced back to a far greater extent than bus and train passenger numbers.

Congestion in Edinburgh and Glasgow increased by between 50 and 80 per cent on Monday compared to the week before, according to traffic information firm TomTom.

The latest available Transport Scotland figures, for two weeks ago, showed car journeys down by only 25 per cent on the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.

By contrast, rail journeys were still down by 80 per cent, and officials have since reported this has only recovered to around 70 per cent this week.

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But with the weather getting warmer, this is an opportunity people should take to break the driving habit and switch to walking and cycling, especially for shorter journeys such as those less than a mile.

A shockingly high proportion of people make those behind the wheel at the expense of their own health, pocket, road safety and the environment.

Some restaurant owners in Edinburgh have won awards for taking a stand against would-be customers parking in cycle lanes, by refusing to serve them.

Perhaps we need to go further and incentivise neighbourhood cafes to offer discounts to their customers who walk or cycle – or even add a premium to the bills of those who drive.

We should all have the right to enjoy a meal and a drink outside without having the post-lockdown ambience that’s been painstakingly created by proprietors ruined by the motoring hordes and the environmental evils they bring.

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