City centre streets are set to have their pavements widened and have bus gates installed as part of the next stage of active travel measures to help with social distancing in Edinburgh.
The plans, which will come into place by the end of next week and then be extended from 15 June, will see major streets such as North Bridge and George IV Bridge altered to help walkers and cyclists.
Edinburgh City Council say this next stage of their active travel plans will “focus on supporting economic recovery, as and when businesses begin to reopen” and are being introduced ahead of potential further easing of lockdown by the Scottish Government.
They follow more than 1,500 suggestions to the council for active travel measures across the city, which the council say are being used to develop the final designs of any measures.
Changes include the partial closure of Waverley Bridge at the junction with East Market Street, footway widening at junctions and bus, cycle and taxi gates on North Bridge, and footway widening and bus gates on East Princes Street and South St David Street, all to be introduced by 12 June.
Other changes, including widened footways and segregated cycleways for George IV Bridge, South Bridge, the Mound and Bank Street are set to start being implemented from 15 June.
Then, stakeholders including ward councillors will be informed of plans to transform local high streets across Edinburgh into walking and cycling friendly streets.
The areas which are likely to see changes include Morningside, Bruntsfield, Tollcross, Gorgie/Dalry, Newington/Southside, Portobello, Corstorphine High Street and Queensferry High Street.
From today (5 June), segregated cycle lanes will be installed on Crewe Road South and Old Dalkeith Road, aiming to provide “safer routes” for NHS workers to the city’s main two hospitals, the Western General and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Transport and environment convener, the SNP’s Lesley Macinnes, said: “We’re working quickly to deliver an ambitious package of measures to help people continue to walk, cycle, wheel and use public transport as we navigate our way out of this unprecedented situation.
“Of course, we want to get these interventions on the ground as quickly as possible and there’s a lot of work going on to deliver temporary changes within tight timescales. But we’re also involving stakeholders in that process, including active travel and equality groups, to get designs for local schemes right, which takes a little bit of time.
“It’s clear that there’s a lot of interest in and support for our plans, demonstrated by the many suggestions we’ve received via email and the Commonplace tool. I’d like to thank everyone who has had their say so far - our dedicated team will continue to work through these ideas, building on them where we can.”
The transport vice-convener, Labour’s Karen Doran, added: “We’ve had a fantastic response to the measures we’ve already implemented across the city, which have made residents and their families feel safer strolling or cycling from their homes.
“Today we begin installing two segregated cycle lanes to help essential workers cycle safely to our main hospitals. Next up, we’ll be implementing significant changes in our key shopping streets to encourage people to spend time there on foot, bike or wheelchair as businesses begin to reopen.
“These interventions, paired with our Paths for Everyone campaign encouraging physical distancing on off-road paths, are essential to help encourage active travel as we return to a sense of normality.”
Claire Miller, Green councillor and transport spokesperson called for more to be done to improve the availability of space and said the schemes needed to be delivered faster.
She said: "People all over Edinburgh have been in touch with me, providing their local knowledge and experience, and asking the council to make safe space available on our streets. The schemes that have been implemented so far are welcome, but it’s not enough and it’s certainly not being delivered fast enough.
"We need wider pavements and segregated lanes for people on bikes immediately. These are emergency powers, but you’d never know that from the glacial pace of change.”