Edinburgh traffic-free pilot begins in bid to cut air pollution

The streets of central Edinburgh were vehicle-free on Sunday (May 5), as they became the first city in the UK to join the ‘Open Streets’ initiative to help cut air pollution.

Traffic was banned in several streets in the Old Town including the Canongate, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street from 12 pm to 5 pm, and there was a series of events have been organised to celebrate the launch, including jazz performances, Tai Chi on the High Street, electronic bike trials on Victoria Street and the free use of Just Eat hire bikes.

Open Streets in Edinburgh will take place on the first Sunday of every month as part of an 18-month trial, with closures based on a loop of streets in the Old Town, beginning with a short section of the loop and gradually building in scale over time.

Transport and Environment Convener, Cllr 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.’

Grace Martin, deputy director, Sustrans Scotland, added: ‘The Open Streets scheme showcases Edinburgh as a city that puts people first. Helping make the city centre more accessible to users of all abilities to walk, wheel, cycle, relax and connect.

‘Evidence is very clear that vehicle dominance of our urban environment is a major cause of air pollution. In areas where pollution exceeds legal limits, 80% of harmful nitrous oxide gas comes from transport.

‘Closing streets to traffic does have a big and positive impact. As an example, last year’s London Marathon, which includes road closures across the city, coincided with an 89% drop in air pollution in central London.

‘Open Streets is a great initiative to make our city centres healthier, greener and safer places for everyone.’

Earlier this year, Edinburgh’s Queensferry Road was named the worst in Scotland for particulate matter pollution. The road, which is not part of the Open Streets initiative, is a key arterial road for Edinburgh, carrying heavy traffic all day every day.

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.

Photo credit – Pixabay