Car-free days for Edinburgh

Air quality concerns have led another European city – this time Edinburgh – to move to restrict motor traffic and switch commuter behaviour away from cars.

The city will trial an Open Streets program that will close city centre streets, and streets in suburban town centres, once a month as part of a campaign to reduce air pollution in Edinburgh and improve the environment for pedestrians and bike riders.

The trial closures will go ahead on the first Sunday of each month between 10:00am and 5:00pm.

If it goes ahead, Edinburgh will become the first city in Scotland to implement such a program.

A public consultation on the plans could also lead to permanent pedestrianisation of the city’s main shopping streets and those in outlying districts.

Another ideas being examined is for vehicles to be able to “go to, but not through” the centre of the city, and the creation of low emission zones.

The proposals form part of a wider strategy to dial back traffic in the city.

The initiative aims to mirror the success of the Paris Breathes scheme in France, also held on the first Sunday of each month.

According to the proposals, “Open Streets Edinburgh would help citizens experience the city in a quieter, more people-focused environment and enable the council to monitor air quality, congestion, and travel behaviours to inform future plans for the city.”

“To determine which streets to close and ensuring suitable diversions are in place, engagement with residents, businesses, and emergency services would be required.”

The city’s transport convenor, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “It’s a powerful opportunity to make some really transformational changes to our city centre and town centres for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in or visits them.

"Frankly, the status quo is just not an option anymore. As a council we are serious about tackling poor air quality, reducing congestion and making it as easy as possible to get around Edinburgh, especially by walking, cycling and public transport."