'The days of the car being king are over' says Edinburgh transport convener as calls for no new roads intensify

Conservative councillor brands comments as "divisive".

Monday, 6th January 2020, 7:09 am
Updated Monday, 6th January 2020, 9:52 am

Calls for a halt to the construction of new roads and improvements to public transport have intensified after a survey found nearly three quarters of people would prefer to make most of their every day journeys by public transport.

The survey, run by YouGov, also showed that 70 per cent of people think that it should be possible for everyone to undertake their most frequent journeys without a car.

Reacting to the survey, transport charity Sustrans called on cities including the Capital to stop building new roads.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lesley Macinnes said the "days of the car being king are over"
Lesley Macinnes said the "days of the car being king are over"

Edinburgh City Council’s transport and economy convener, Lesley Macinnes, said the days of the car being “king” are over and added council plans due to be released will provide a framework for better sustainable transport options in the Capital.

Her comments follow news of a potential return to the prospect of a city-wide congestion charge for the city, to be used to help increase the use of public rather than private transport in Edinburgh.

However, Conservative transport spokesman, councillor Nick Cook, slammed Cllr Macinnes’ use of “divisive language” aimed at car users.

Build fewer new roads and improve public transport

Mum Insani Soleha said she wished she could give up her car (Photo: Sustrans)

The research found nearly 50 per cent of people support the reallocation of road space from cars to areas for walking, cycling and socialising while only 28 per cent opposed.

Significant sections of the city centre are due to undergo a similar transformation as part of the council’s City Centre Transformation strategy which was unveiled earlier this year.

Reacting to the research, Sustrans Scotland director Grace Martin said that cities should be focusing on healthy, low carbon neighbourhoods with people able to live within a 20 minute walk of everyday services.

She said: “Too many neighbourhoods in Scotland have been planned around car travel at the expense of providing the local jobs and services that a community needs to thrive.

“We should be taking bigger steps to ensure that walking, cycling and public transport are the most attractive, convenient and cheapest ways to get around our towns and cities. In fact, it should be a no-brainer.

“This includes putting a stop building new roads when other options exist to improve public transport, along with walking and cycling.”

The survey comes alongside news that bus travel in the UK has sunk to the lowest point on record, however, Edinburgh has seen stable bus usage in the last few years.

Days of the car 'being king' are over

Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said the days of the car being “king” are now over, with plans afoot to radically alter the way Edinburgh gets around.

She said: “We absolutely recognise the need to make sustainable travel an accessible, attractive means of getting from A to B – both in response to climate change and our own commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030, but also in terms of creating a healthier environment, a better quality of life and building resilience to the challenges facing a modern capital.

“The days of the car being king are over, and it’s particularly heartening that the vast majority of respondents to this survey agree. What we need to do now is give them suitable, viable alternatives and we’re already well on our way.

“In the coming year we will make great strides with major projects including the City Centre West to East Link, creating an active travel corridor from one side of the city to the other, City Centre Transformation and the West Edinburgh Link, which will deliver major cycling and walking improvements in the west of the city.

“It’s these kinds of initiatives, in tandem with our award-winning and growing, integrated public transport network, which will offer the best standard of living, without needing a car, for generations to come.”

Cllr Nick Cook said the council’s schemes were “fantastical” and called on them to support, rather than “hamper” Lothian buses.

He said: “The Council’s transport convener might want to use the new year to park the divisive language her administration directs at car users, not just in Edinburgh, but now right across the east of Scotland.

“It is clear that most folk are willing to use public transport where practical to do so. Rather than dreaming up fantastical schemes to further tax people when driving, the Council should invest time supporting, rather than hampering, Lothian buses’ offering.”

'I would love to give up my car but it is too convenient'

One Edinburgh mum, Insani Soleha, said she wished she could give up her car if possible but current provision is not good enough to allow her to do so.

She said: “I started college in August and getting there by bus is a nightmare.

“The bus times don’t work for me and the journey takes forever and on top of that, I need to pick up my youngest from childcare in the evenings at a particular time.

“Having a car makes everything just so much handier

“I want to walk more as you get to be more active and it’s really good for you, but with small children it’s really hard.

“Once my kids have left home, I would love to give up my car but for now, it is just too convenient.”

She added that the transport system in Edinburgh is not good enough for public transport or cycling to be a genuine option.

Ms Soleha said: “I tend to walk whenever possible, especially if my destination is close by. Or I’ll take a bus, if it’s going the right way at the right time.

“I do have a bike and cycle from time to time too. But my youngest is too big now to fit on the back and she gets tired if we go too far. I then end up having to carry her and her bike, which isn’t ideal"