Council announces ambition for regular 'open street' events

Edinburgh's Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, has announced plans to work toward regular, vehicle-free days in the capital’s city centre.

Clean air day procession
Clean Air Day 2018 procession

The aim to host open-street events is in line with the aspirations of yesterday's (Thursday) Edinburgh Summer Summit of improving conditions and prioritising sustainable transport and space for the communities in the city centre.

The announcement forms part of the Central Edinburgh Transformation project, the City of Edinburgh Council’s ambition to return space to pedestrians and encourage active travel. 

In her speech at the Summit, Councillor Macinnes said there is a growing need to improve the air quality in Edinburgh. She said doing so would improve public health and allow residents to enjoy a better quality of life in the city through improved public spaces. Councillor Macinnes added that open street events would be underpinned by robust monitoring of air quality, congestion and travel behaviours to help inform any further plans for the city.

Councillor Macinnes said: “The aim of today's summit is to demonstrate that Edinburgh can be a city that puts people and public spaces first and does not need to be dominated by vehicles. 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 breath, 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.” 

As well as marking Clean Air Day, the Edinburgh Summer Summit showcased how the additional space made available to members of the public can be used. Numerous activities took place, including free yoga classes and the use of E-bikes on The Mound and cycling workshops, while temporary landscaping and seating provided a place for people to sit, relax and enjoy Edinburgh in a completely novel way. On George Street, an urban garden was created, along with space for stalls and different activities such as Pedal Powered Scalextric. 

A speech about the importance of placemaking was also given by City of Edinburgh Council Leader Adam McVey from The Mound, which was closed to vehicles during the morning to mark Clean Air Day as part the Edinburgh Summer Summit.

John Bynorth, Policy and Communications Officer at Environmental Protection Scotland, which is co-ordinating Clean Air Day in Scotland, said: “The Edinburgh Summer Summit has been very successful in bringing people together and has put the capital at the forefront of efforts to improve air quality in Scotland. It has set a hugely positive example and showcases what can be achieved by focusing on the people who live here.” 

The Council also recently launched its initial engagement on the ‘Meadows to George Street: Streets for People project’, which is a Community Links PLUS project funded by the Scottish Government through Sustrans Scotland. The Meadows to George Street delivery team were out on Thursday talking to people on the streets and listening to their views about current conditions and improvements they would like to see. People can find out about further engagement taking place on the project webpage.

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