CYCLING campaigners have urged Edinburgh’s planners to “be brave” and move to completely pedestrianise Princes Street and George Street.
The call follows plans to ban cars from two of London’s busiest roads to make way for growing numbers of pedestrians by 2018.
Campaigners believe Edinburgh should follow suit and can seize the opportunity while plans are being drawn up for the future of the city centre.
Kim Harding, spokesman for campaign group Pedal on Parliament, said: “We need to be brave [and copy London]. I’ve recently been away in Europe to France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria and the contrast between there and here is quite dramatic. You go into city centres and you find large areas of pedestrianised space. They’re very nice places to live. Why can’t we do that here?
“Other cities show there isn’t a great loss of high-end retailers. It would make sense to reduce the traffic on say George Street as much as possible. If you go there presently, it’s quite noisy, crowded, the pavements are relatively narrow. But if you go there during the festival with the big tent in the middle the shops don’t all collapse or shut down. There’s loads of people there and a really nice atmosphere.”
The council earlier this year unveiled a proposal to create a one-way traffic loop on the New Town’s two main thoroughfares in efforts to free up more space for pedestrians and cyclists and create a “living city centre”.
Revised plans are due to go before the city’s transport committee on October 29.
Campaigners have proposed having transport interchanges for people to switch between buses and trams at either end of the city centre.
Buses would be channelled along Queen Street to speed up journeys rather than being gridlocked along Princes Street. Ian Maxwell, spokesman for pro-cycle body Spokes, said the group would also support a move towards a city centre with only bikes, pedestrians and trams. “We feel that this is a major opportunity to make a change,” he said.
Green transport spokesman Councillor Nigel Bagshaw said the move must happen quickly rather than being a long-term goal, but warned: “As far as the council administration is concerned, they’re frightened of upsetting anybody.”
A scheme to shut at least two of the roads in London’s historic Square Mile financial centre to traffic to cater for pedestrians has been announced.
City transport leader, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “How to balance the needs of all modes of traffic and change the priority for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users must be our priority to ensure the city centre is vibrant and dynamic, and that people come back to it.”