The City of Edinburgh has been led the way on projects giving vulnerable road users street priority. The City was one of the first to create “no-go” exclusionary areas around schools for vehicular traffic while kids traversed to school. This program banned cars from being in zones several blocks around six schools from one hour before to one hour after school. Of course there was vehicular pushback, but the program has been very successful, changed driver behaviour and encouraging children to walk and bike to school.
Now Edinburgh City Council is considering banning vehicular traffic in some downtown areas and radically throttling back vehicular movement on other routes, to create walkable places and plazas. A free “city hopper bus” would provide necessary linkage for residents and visitors during the first part of a pilot project commencing in May.
This project will ban vehicular traffic from a series of streets around the Royal Mile and Holyrood once a month every Sunday for 18 months. Like ciclovia it is expected that residents will enjoy the opportunity to explore the city in a different way.
While trialling this closure in a densifying city that needs more walkable connections, it is also allows citizens to discover the city by foot. The concept came out of consultations with over 5,000 respondents, half of whom wanted street closures for enhanced walkability. Seventy-five percent of residents also supported traffic reduction measures.
In the Scotland Herald Edinburgh’s Transport and Traffic Convenor stated “We must plan effectively and test radical options if we are to get the right balance in the future that will provide a high quality of life and access to opportunities for all residents, in particular those that experience inequality. No city can stay still. No city can accept that the status quo is the only option from now until forever.”
Edinburgh has been growing and expects a 2040 population of nearly 600,000. The trial closures have attracted international interest from other major cities and the World Heritage Organization. As one official stated “It’s about a stepping stone. I mean, you’ve seen this in European cities all over the place – it’s about bringing a different perspective to the city centre.”
In the space of only four years, a similar scheme introduced in Paris that started with a temporary vehicular ban on one street has expanded into a walkable landscape of 25 square kilometers. That network of permanently closed streets and streets closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays has become very popular in Paris and is now listed as one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
Here’s a YouTube video of what it is like to walk up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, of course with bagpipes in the background playing “Scotland the Brave”.