Poll: Almost half of Edinburgh residents back car free city centre

Almost half of respondents backed the move amid growing concern over the human health impacts of heavy traffic and vehicle emissions.
Almost half of respondents backed the move amid growing concern over the human health impacts of heavy traffic and vehicle emissions.
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Nearly half of Edinburgh residents support a ban on cars entering the city centre, according to a new poll.

Almost half of respondents backed the move amid growing concern over the human health impacts of heavy traffic and vehicle emissions.

Edinburgh is poised to join the car-free movement, in which city centres become car-free zones for a day a month, to try to curb emissions and make it safer for people to walk and cycle.

A Panelbase survey of 1,024 adults in Scotland commissioned by the Sunday Times indicates that similar schemes would find favour in the nation’s other six cities.

READ MORE: Air pollution prevents asthmatic woman from entering Edinburgh city centre

It also reveals strong support for a ban on begging, apathy on the merits of elected mayors and overall optimism for the future of Scotland’s urban centres.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents approved of a city-centre car ban while 37 per cent thought it would be “bad”; 14 per cent did not express an opinion. At city level, 48 per cent supported the move in Edinburgh and Glasgow, although opposition was higher in the capital (40 per cent) than in Scotland’s largest city (36 per cent).

READ MORE: Cars face ban from parts of Edinburgh’s city centre in major shake-up

In Aberdeen, people were evenly split at 43 per cent. Only in Perth were more people against a ban with 51 per cent opposing while 45 per cent were for it.

The findings led to warnings this weekend that car bans would have to go hand in hand with better public transport to avoid harm to shops and businesses. One motoring organisation stated that blanket bans were impossible.

However, Professor David Begg, a former UK government transport adviser, insisted that bans were the “right move”.

He said blocking cars from Scottish cities would encounter resistance but pointed to Europe where several capitals had opted for frequent bans to encourage support.

Several parts of Paris become car-free zones on the first Sunday of each month to help improve air quality and share public spaces fairly.

Oslo also plans to permanently ban all cars from its city centre by 2019.

“By introducing car-free days, the mayor of Paris has given citizens a feel for what it is like, to have them experience traffic-free pedestrian access and cleaner air in the city centre,” said Begg.

“If Edinburgh and others are going down that route they can build huge public support for the idea. Anything like this will be regarded as contentious but it is the right approach.”

In Edinburgh, key roads will be shut to motor traffic between 10am and 5pm on the first Sunday of each month so that the city’s heritage, shops, cafes, restaurants and culture can be enjoyed free of traffic jams and air pollution.

The poll also found 62 per cent of Edinburgh residents were optimistic for the future of Scottish cities. Jamie Greene, transport spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “In theory traffic-free cities sound like a dream but sadly much of our antiquated city infrastructure is less than geared for it.

“If there is widespread support and the city is adequately equipped to ensure movement of people and goods, then there is merit in the possibility.”