The Scottish Government has awarded the City of Edinburgh Council £5m – half of the initial £10m budget – from the Places for Everyone fund to introduce roadspace reallocation measures to help with Covid-19 social distancing.
The Government this week announced that the budget for the fund was being increased to £30m.
Edinburgh’s plans include restricting through traffic in the city centre.
A report presented to councillors presents a programme of traffic changes across the city to be delivered in the short-term (by end of May); medium-term (by end of June); and longer term (July or later).
“Enabling physical distancing to be practiced in the city centre, on local high streets and around neighbourhood shops is a major challenge, given that most pavements are less than three metres wide, and many are around two metres and sometimes less,” said Paul Lawrence, Edinburgh’s executive director of place, in a report to councillors.
He said that, in the city centre, the aim would be to reduce the overall amount of road traffic by closing selected cross-centre routes to through traffic. Some restrictions were already being planned as part of the city centre transformation plan but are being accelerated.
“The intention would be to accelerate a suite of proposals from the Edinburgh city centre transformation development plan on an emergency basis and to supplement these proposals by introducing restrictions on The Bridges,” said Lawrence. The North and South Bridge form part of the north-south corridor that crosses Waverley station.
Key proposals are the closure to through car traffic of: Bank Street on the north-south corridor at the top of the Mound (LTT 17 Apr); North Bridge (or potentially another point on the same route); East Market Street; and East Princes Street.
Also in the city centre, Victoria Street and Cockburn Street could be closed to through traffic and have parking provision reduced. Waverley Bridge – from where tour buses normally depart – may be closed too.
“The resulting reduction in through traffic will enable reallocation of carriageway space to pedestrians on key high streets including South Bridge, Minto Street and George IV Bridge,” said Lawrence.
Elsewhere, footways could be widened and segregated cycleways installed in high streets including: Morningside Road, Easter Road, Gorgie/Dalry, Great Junction Street, and The Shore.
Automatic green man faciilties were installed at 150 junctions this week, removing the need for pedestrians to push a button to trigger a green man.
“There is a risk of infection from people pressing the pedestrian call button at traffic signals,” officers explained. Push button control will be retained between 11pm and 7am to minimise noise.
Traffic light settings could also be changed to cut pedestrian wait times and reduce pedestrians congregating at crossings.
The above changes to traffic signals are particularly likely to be made to the 200 of the 600 signals controlled by the council’s urban traffic control system.
A programme of guardrail removal will also be accelerated to give pedestrians more space.
Protected cycle lanes could be installed on roads in the city’s suburbs such as Old Dalkeith Road, Crewe Road South, Gilmerton Road. Some form of segregation for bikes is also being explored at roundabouts close to the Western General Hospital.
Speed limits are to be reduced. The council plans to bring forward the implementation of 30mph speed limits on all suburban main roads that currently have a 40mph limit; and is to review the limit on those streets currently with a 30mph limit if a 20mph limit could complement other measures being introduced.
To give pedestrians and cyclists more space for exercise, the council proposes to install bus gates and segregated cycleways on Dundee Street at Fountainbridge and to close Viewforth to provide an alternative to the busy Union Canal towpath.
Part of Braid Hills Road/Drive could be closed and the speed limit could be cut on the remaining section.
Warriston Road will be closed to through traffic. Other road closures being explored include East Fettes Avenue, Stanley Street/Hope Lane, Arboretum Place, Curriehill Road, Ravelston Terrrace, and Cairnmuir Road.
The council is to extend its contract with Turner and Townsend and Anturas Consulting for programme management support until May next year at a cost of £374,925.
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