Thousands back at George Street after roads revamp

George Street has seen a rise in footfall but business chiefs say more needs to be done. Picture: Gordon Fraser
George Street has seen a rise in footfall but business chiefs say more needs to be done. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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THE new-look George Street is attracting an extra 20,000 pedestrians a week, with nine out of ten saying the revamp has made the area more ­attractive.

The partial pedestrianisation of the street and the bid to ­create a new “cafe quarter” for the Capital saw footfall for the last two months increase by 8.7 per cent on the same period last year.

But city centre business leaders said more still needed to be done to make those on foot feel like the street was for them.

Average weekly footfall in George Street during ­September and October was up from 222,707 to 242,088.

Measures set up during the Festival, including a one-way system, cycle lanes and decking and marquees for outdoor ­eating and drinking, were kept in place afterwards as a year-long pilot was launched.

Earlier this week, the Evening News revealed how cycle lanes introduced on one side of the street had been branded “useless” because cyclists still faced dangerous junctions and a lack of signs meant motorists were using them by mistake. Shops also complained the new arrangements had made it difficult for delivery drivers to unload their goods.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which manages the city centre ­business improvement district, said footfall was up, but the increase was concentrated at the east end of George Street, near St Andrew Square, and began to fall off further west.

He said: “Overall the figure is positive, but if you look at it a bit deeper there are places where I would like to see ­footfall numbers a bit higher.

“We are still trying to get it right. We have still not ­created places which pedestrians can feel have been set aside for them.”

He said businesses had invested in decking and marquees and there was a common look.

“But in the spaces in between, there is nothing – not a single bench,” he added.

“Cyclists may not be happy, but a lot has been done to create the cycle lanes – what’s the equivalent for pedestrians? That’s where we need a bit of effort now.”

A council survey, involving 100 on-street interviews a month, found that 90 per cent consider George Street more attractive since the changes were implemented; 79 per cent think the changes mean an improved pedestrian experience; and 78 per cent think the changes encourage people to spend more time in George Street.

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said the revamp had followed ­consultation with the public, businesses and local groups.

She said: “It’s great to see the changes are having a ­positive effect. However, the purpose of this trial is to help develop a longer term plan for the street, that takes account of the existing World Heritage Site setting and the range of proposed new developments in Edinburgh’s dynamic city centre.”