Work underway to introduce more Open Streets days

Cllr Lesley Macinnes shares her views ahead of World Car Day on Saturday.

Tomorrow [Sat 22 Sept 2018] is World Car Free Day. Cities all over the globe will be embracing this opportunity to encourage people to leave their cars at home and travel on foot, by bike or by public transport instead.

Here in the Capital, work is under way to introduce a programme of new Open Streets days on the first Sunday of every month (10am to 5pm) in key parts of the city centre and town centres around the city.

We’re looking to emulate the success of places like Paris and New York City, whose regular car-free events (Paris Breathes and New York Summer Streets) revolutionise their cities, with spaces usually dominated by vehicles instead becoming the backdrop for people walking, scooting, cycling or simply spending time enjoying cleaner, quieter, calmer streets.

As well as bringing a buzz to public spaces, vehicle-free days are about cutting harmful air pollution and allowing residents and visitors of all ages to congregate and enjoy their city in different way.

Just last weekend, for example, Brussels’ car-free day [16 Sept] saw black carbon levels plummet by an incredible 80%, and NO2 down by around 30% compared with a normal Sunday.

Our Open Streets events will help the Council monitor air quality, congestion and travel behaviours to gather invaluable data for future plans for transforming our city centre. It’s all part of a wider commitment to improve the experience of walking, riding bikes and using public transport in the Capital.

But before we can start running these Open Streets days, we really need to hear from residents and businesses.

Take part in our Open Streets consultation – launching 22 Sept on our Consultation Hub – and help us plan the what, when, where and how of Open Streets days will work in the Capital.

To give people a flavour of what Open Streets could be like, in June, Edinburgh held a two-day Summer Summit to mark Clean Air Day. Featuring a parade down the Mound, this vibrant and enjoyable event transformed parts of George Street into vehicle-free public space, demonstrating how our streets can be transformed and brought to life when people and active travel are put centre-stage.

This article originally appeared as a letter to the Edinburgh Evening News.

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