The council’s roads chief is “kept awake” by nightmares that summer festival-goers will be hit by a bus if nothing is done to tackle the Capital’s crowded pavements.
Council officers are concerned about a “growing tendency for pedestrians to spill onto roadways” and “increasing the potential for conflict with vehicles and accidents” during August in the city centre. The authority’s culture and communities committee discussed a report on how the council will manage next year’s summer festivals – with Conservative councillors demanding that the full council debate the issue next week.
Conservative Cllr Phil Doggart said: “Obviously Hunter Square gets very full with the street performers. You are forcing people around the other side of the Tron.
“Given it’s a very narrow footpath, given it’s a very popular location for buses, it wouldn’t take very much for someone to inadvertently be pushed onto the road. I think that is another major safety area that we have to look at.”
The council’s executive director of place, Paul Lawrence, spoke out about his fears that pedestrians are at risk of colliding with a bus on South Bridge.
He said: “I’m constantly talking to officers about the concerns we have around public safety.
“This is an amazing one-off global event but I am kept awake by the potential of people being pushed into busy bus lanes. We might have to look at different forms of traffic management to try and address exactly that issue.”
The authority will bring forward detailed proposals early next year to extend the festival space around the Royal Mile up to the junction with North Bridge for 2019, including Hunter Square.
But Liberal Democrat Cllr Hal Osler raised fears that by extending the managed festival area would just “expand the pain even further”. She also called for avenues to be put in place for pedestrians to move about the Royal Mile easier.
She said: “It’s virtually impossible to walk down the high street – there’s absolutely no space whatsoever.
“It’s a wonderful event but we don’t want to prevent people from actually being able to get there. It’s extremely difficult for people to get in or out of that areas. We need avenues clearly marked for people to get in and out and people not to stand in.”
A councillor also called for the Summer Session concerts, which are held in Princes Street Gardens, to be moved outside of the festival period.
Conservative Cllr Max Mitchell said: “Would it be possible to move the time of these concerts? We are trying to have quite large events at the busiest time in Edinburgh.
“Would it not be possible to move them just after the festival or just before the festival? So often it feels like we need to look after the visitors before the residents.”
But council officers said the promoter wanted the events to tie-in with the festival season.
Karl Chapman, the council’s cultural venues manager, said: “The promoter is keen that it happens during August. It’s 5,000 or 6,000 people – it’s not Glastonbury.
“It’s not an enormous amount of people and it does not feel that it’s a big impact on the city.”
‘Julia Amour, director of Festivals Edinburgh said: “We are continuously working in partnership with the city council and others to improve the look and feel of our world leading festival city, for both residents and visitors, and welcome proposals that help us achieve that goal.”