Will you be having a ball on Open Streets day? – Kevin Buckle

Tomorrow is the first Open Streets event, in which a number of city centre streets will be closed to cars from noon to 5pm.

Saturday, 4th May 2019, 6:00 am
Boys play football in a virtually car-free Orwell Place in Dalry in 1966. Will we see a return to such scenes tomorrow?

To quote from the website: “Edinburgh will be the first city in the UK to join the Open Streets movement, joining Paris, Bogota, New York and many others with a programme of people-friendly routes around the Old Town. Open Streets are programmes that temporarily open streets to people by closing them to cars.”

It will be interesting to see who takes advantage of this new initiative. The organisers are keen for local residents and businesses to be involved but of course the streets will be full of tourists who may or may not understand what is going on. Again to quote from the website: “In summary, the programme aims are:

– To promote a healthy, active and inclusive city;

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There are question marks about how the new St James will be filled

– To celebrate and add to the culture of the city; 

– To contribute to the city’s economy; and

– To inform future initiatives for the city.”

If I’m honest this does sound a bit woolly and I particularly note that it intends to contribute to the city’s economy. I hope that is measured properly and there isn’t just some generalisation that businesses saw an improvement. Clearly anything that helps businesses will be a good thing but you have to hope that if there are improvements it extends to more than people just buying food and drink.

Sadly, in the past organisers of these sort of things are so keen to say they are successful that truth goes out of the window and they are declared a huge success with little to no proof.

There will need to be an objective analysis that includes those that were actually irritated in some way by the closures as well as those who enjoyed the experience.

I have no idea whether people will find this something that they enjoy or whether it will just be seen as a bunch of hippies “living the dream” for a few hours. I am working on Sunday but will try to nip out and see if the streets are full of kids playing football in the streets just like the good old days or whether there are just lots of earnest older folk revelling in the fact they can walk down the middle of the road. I do suspect there will be a lot of visitors unsure of what is going on. I assume that there will be signage of some description or otherwise there will be much confusion when folk are suddenly confronted by traffic again.

Certainly it will be interesting to see how this new initiative is viewed by all those involved and where the benefits and problems are seen to lie. If nothing else, it will leave more room for the silent discos.

You can contact the Open Streets team on [email protected]

Brand awareness remains the centre of attention

My plan to have the small Greggs and cavernous Superdry swap places at Waverley Mall have fallen on deaf ears so I was pleased to see Born in the Borders opposite my shop has started serving food.

I’ll no doubt eventually work my way through the menu, though I did have to google nduja and will probably give that a miss, However, it looks like it could be useful in a game of Scrabble.

All in all, though, it will be a great addition to the mall, adding to their already strong support for many products from the Borders.

Speaking of shopping centres, though of course nobody calls them shopping centres any more, last week’s column about Edinburgh St James and whether there were 50 brands left to move there received several comments, some saying that there would indeed be even more non-food units.

There seems to be some confusion between restaurants and food-related units but whatever the case there will be at least 50 non-food shops and if indeed there are more then that only compounds the problem about how the centre can be filled.

This is, of course, no criticism of the Edinburgh St James, which I’m sure will be wonderful, but more a comment on the state of the high street. There will no doubt be many twists and turns before the centre opens.

The road to inaction is paved with good intentions

For those of us who ever hope to get Edinburgh Council to do anything there was bad news when Chas Booth asked at Thursday’s full council meeting why 43 of the 53 active travel projects currently to be implemented by the council have been delayed or have no completion date.

Now obviously some people will be surprised there are 53 projects at all but that is the power of the active travel lobby and in particular the cycling lobby for you. Having said that, if they are seeing these kind of delays then there is little hope for the rest of us.

This is by no means a one-off, of course, and the Royal Mile Action Plan for 2013 to 2018 never saw any action at all. Once you start listing the number of things that went through extensive consultation but then never happened it is hard to stop – so I won’t start!

The next thing, of course, is that once a plan is executed very rarely is the outcome made public despite all the good intentions because often the results are not what was hoped for.

With the City Centre Transformation plan announced this month, which will indeed involve many plans, it has to be hoped that the council’s hit rate improves.