Edinburgh vision of car-free city centre backed by public, council claims

COUNCIL chiefs in the Capital have claimed the public supports their vision of a largely car-free city centre and mass bike commuting on key routes.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 7:00 am
An empty Princes Street during lockdown

A consultation carried out by the city council found 66 per cent backing for the plans to overhaul Edinburgh’s transport system outlined in the City Mobility Plan.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes hailed the results as “extremely encouraging” but the Tories voiced scepticism about whether the consultation was a true reflection of public opinion.

The plan includes potentially extending the tram network; four more park-and-ride interchanges to the west of the city; a strategic network of cycle and walking routes; and seamless pricing, ticketing and accessibility to allow passengers to move between buses and trams.

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The consultation prompted 1,355 responses from members of the public, 19 from key agencies and 138 from other stakeholders.

The council said there were “overwhelmingly positive responses” to a range of measures proposed as part of the plan, including 83 per cent support for co-ordinating bus, tram and bike hire operations, 78 per cent approval for introducing transport hubs in new developments and 72 per cent in favour of reducing on-street parking.

Two-thirds of respondents supported the vision for 2030, which says: “Arterial routes will be being used for mass commuting by bike. The city centre will be largely car-free.”

On a range of key issues, 65 per cent supported expand the tram network in the city and potentially into the wider region; 89 per cent backed Introducing smart contactless payment options across all public transport and operators; 75 per cent were in favour of direct, segregated cycling routes along main arterial roads; and 78 per cent wanted a comprehensive network of electric vehicle charging points.

The council also claimed 53 per cent support for exploring the introduction of road user charging within the city to reduce the number of vehicles.

Cllr Macinnes said: “As a city we are making real headway in tackling the manifold challenges posed by climate change, poor air quality and congestion, to name a few, but there is always more to be done. It is extremely encouraging that the vast majority of respondents to our draft City Mobility Plan consultation support our vision for sustainable, affordable and joined-up transport in the Capital.”

Tory transport spokeswoman Susan Webber said she did not believe the responses were really representative of the public’s views.

She said: “It’s always the same with a council consultation – a low response rate across the city and you can be sure it’s most vocal that have taken part on this one about the City Mobility Plan in particular.”

She also pointed to recent reaction to temporary traffic measures brought in during the Covid crisis and said it was often only when people saw changes on their doorstep that they spoke up.

"Given the last few months in terms of engagement or lack of it on Spaces for People, it’s only when people realise what is actually happening around them that we get to start hearing their voices."

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “The responses are very encouraging for those of us who know the only future for Edinburgh, as for every other European city, is the change the balance between private cars towards public transport cycling and walking.”

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