City of Edinburgh council has said that it is considering plans to implement regular ‘vehicle-free days’ in the centre of the city, as part of efforts to improve the Scottish capital’s air quality.
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, the council’s transport and environment convener, announced the plans during her speech at the city’s Summer Summit, held on Thursday (21 June), which coincided with the second annual Clean Air Day.
The Summit saw a series of activities staged around the Mound, Hanover Street and George Street in the city’s historic centre, with some roads closed to traffic for the duration of the two-day event.
In the wake of the Summit, the council has said it will consider closing roads to traffic on a more regular basis.
The announcement forms part of the Central Edinburgh Transformation project, the City of Edinburgh council’s ambition to provide more space for pedestrians and encourage active travel.
Speaking at the Summit last week, Councillor Macinnes said that there is a ‘growing need’ to improve air quality in the city, and that future 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.
She 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 breathe, 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.â€?
John Bynorth, policy and communications officer at the Environmental Protection Scotland charity, which coordinated efforts to mark 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.â€?
Plans are currently being considered for the establishment of a Low Emission Zone in Edinburgh that would seek to place a restriction on certain polluting vehicles from driving in some parts of the city.
Edinburgh is one of four Scottish cities required to implement a Low Emission Zone by 2020, in order to address exceedances of the 40µg/m3 legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions.
Initial plans were outlined last month revealing that ‘combinations of LEZ options are being explored’, based around ‘geographic limits and vehicle types’.