Edinburgh streets shut to traffic in move to cut air pollution | UK News

Several streets in the centre of Edinburgh are closed to cars, vans, motorbikes and buses this afternoon as part of plans to cut air pollution.

The city is the first in the UK to join the Open Streets movement, following in the footsteps of Paris, Bogota and New York.

The aim is to create a “people-friendly” route around the Old Town, where the public are able to enjoy the historic area on foot or by bike.

The Open Streets team will make sure people with a disability will be able to access the traffic-free roads safely.

Organisers also want to “promote a healthy, active and inclusive city”, celebrate its culture and boost the economy.

Streets, including the Canongate, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street, are shut from midday until 5pm.

The initiative will take place on the first Sunday of every month as part of an 18-month trial.

To celebrate the occasion, a number of events have been organised, including jazz performances, Tai Chi and electronic bike trials.

Open Streets Edinburgh
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A number of roads are temporarily shut as part of the scheme. Pic: City of Edinburgh Council

Transport and environment convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “We’ve seen how successful similar schemes internationally have proved by encouraging active travel, improving air quality and creating a safer, more relaxed atmosphere so I can’t wait to see this take shape in the capital.

“Climate change is a real threat to society, it’s clear that we have to act, and Open Streets is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

“We are wholeheartedly committed to creating an accessible, sustainable and people-friendly city and I look forward to seeing lots of residents and visitors enjoying all that’s on offer on Sunday against a cleaner, more welcoming traffic-free backdrop.”

But opponents have warned the event may hit local business trade and push polluting traffic to other parts of Edinburgh.

Conservative Councillor Scott Douglas said: “The Open Streets initiative has the potential to have a hugely negative impact on our city centre. Not only will it make it harder for residents to access local shops, it will also likely lead to an increase in congestion elsewhere in the city.

“That’s why it is important that the SNP-Labour administration carefully and truthfully analyse all of the consequences of these closures.

“Unfortunately it seems as if they are ready to call it a success regardless of the impact it has on local businesses and the increased congestion and pollution that it pushes elsewhere.”

The following roads are closed to vehicle traffic this afternoon until 5pm:

:: Grassmarket (pedestrian zone between West Bow and King’s Stables Road)
:: West Bow
:: Victoria Street
:: Lawnmarket
:: High Street
:: St Giles’ Street
:: Cockburn Street
:: Niddry Street
:: Blackfriars Street (between High Street and New Skinner’s Close)
:: Canongate (between St Mary/Jeffrey Street and the west side of Reid’s Close)
:: Cranston Street
:: New Street
:: Old Tolbooth Wynd

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