COUNCIL chiefs said today they want to have regular car-free days and “open street” events in the city centre as part of a policy to promote walking and cycling.
As The Mound, part of Hanover Street and the eastern end of George Street closed to traffic to mark Clean Air Day, transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes said the aim was to demonstrate that Edinburgh could be a city that put people and public spaces first and did not need to be dominated by vehicles.
Temporary landscaping and seating was installed as part of today’s programme, entitled the Edinburgh Summer Summit. And there was street art, stalls, cycling workshops and opportunities to try outdoor yoga classes or electric bikes.
Councillor Macinnes said: “As we have seen in other European capitals such as Oslo, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, active travel and car-free city centre streets improve the quality of the air that we breathe, the safety of the streets, and encourage people to use and enjoy the public realm more freely.
“Our ambition is to work toward implementing regular vehicle-free occasions in Edinburgh’s centre which reflect this aspiration. We will work with residential and business communities and elected members to ensure that it is planned and undertaken in a collaborative manner.
“This can be a wonderful opportunity for people to enjoy parts of Edinburgh in a different way to our current expectations and to see the benefits of a more people-oriented city.”
Cllr Macinnes said there was a growing need to improve Edinburgh’s air quality to boost public health and quality of life.
Air pollution is linked to a wide range of diseases, such as strokes, heart attacks and dementia, and causes an estimated 200 premature deaths in Edinburgh each year.
It is understood no date has yet been set for the next car-free day and it is not clear how regular they might be, how extensive road closures would be or what the open-street events would involve.
But Cllr Macinnes said vehicle-free occasions would be underpinned by “robust monitoring” of air quality, congestion and travel behaviours to help inform any further plans for the city.
John Bynorth, of Environmental Protection Scotland, which co-ordinated Clean Air Day in Scotland, said the Edinburgh event had been very successful in bringing people together and had put the capital at the forefront of efforts to improve air quality in Scotland.
He said: “It has set a hugely positive example and showcases what can be achieved by focusing on the people who live here.”
The Mound and Hanover Street were only closed to traffic for this morning, but the east of George Street will remain shut until noon tomorrow.