One of Edinburgh’s main thoroughfares has been transformed to create a welcoming atmosphere for pedestrians, cyclists and visitors.
A new look George Street was officially opened today by local staff and commuters who use the area on a daily basis.
Changes, aimed to make the area more attractive to shoppers, residents and tourists, include the introduction of a dedicated two-way cycle lane and a one-way system for general traffic and buses.
The resulting increase in pedestrian space will allow for outdoor dining facilities, exhibitions and public art, supporting an emerging café culture and encouraging footfall to the city centre, while the cycle route will connect the National Cycle network at the east and west end of the City Centre.
George Street’s development follows successful Festival periods this summer and last, when pedestrian areas were increased to allow outdoor seating for cafes and restaurants, in addition to Fringe venues.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “As we have seen over the Festival, opening up George Street for pedestrians and cyclists can result in a much more relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere for everyone.
“We want to create an inviting city centre, showing off what local businesses have to offer as well as creating an accessible space for residents, visitors and commuters. However, we will continue to cooperate with stakeholders to ensure this works for all those involved.”
Andy Neal, Chief Executive of Essential Edinburgh, added: “We are delighted that the Council has agreed to go ahead with this one-year trial, as we had advocated. The aim of the part-pedestrianisation is to create a space that attracts even more people to enjoy all that the city centre has to offer – its shops, bars, restaurants, attractions and public spaces.
“A shorter pilot last year returned very encouraging figures. We are confident that a year-long pilot will show even more reasons for encouragement – and will undoubtedly illustrate ways in which we can bring about further improvements in the future.”
Proposals to develop George Street were first agreed as part of a wider city centre vision at October’s Transport and Environment Committee
and built on a review of city centre public spaces by Gehl Architects, which identified traffic-dominated streets and the quality of the pedestrian experience amongst the challenges faced.
Final designs were drawn up after a six-week consultation held with stakeholders and the public. Planners have ensured minimal changes to parking for residents and visitors, with spaces in the centre of the street, separated from new cycle lanes by rubber kerbs and decorative planters, and residents’ parking maintained in the design.
The adaptation of George Street will take the form of a 12-month trial, overseen by a monitoring and evaluation group, allowing the Council to review the impact on residents, visitors, business and movement in and around the city centre before considering a more permanent solution. More than 1000 people will be interviewed on George Street throughout the trial, seeking to find out what the public would like to see happen with the street in the long term.