Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) strongly supports the concept of ‘summertime streets’; ie closing streets to motor traffic during the festival to create more space for people to walk in safety to enjoy Edinburgh, its sights, shows, shops, bars etc and to make a better environment for local residents. LSEG first called for such measures in 2015: https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2015/11/16/car-free-edinburgh-for-festival-for-2016/. We have the following observations to make on specific locations.
Cockburn Street, Victoria Street
These streets were well stewarded and in our view worked best. However, we are not clear why there were so many cars parked in Cockburn Street in particular. The ugly metal barriers used block off the streets to vehicles should be replaced by ones which are more ‘people-friendly’ and show clearly that walking is permitted (and indeed encouraged!)
Our feedback was generally positive on this street. However, many tour coaches ignored the ban with apparent impunity and this requires better management.
Summertime Streets was not a success in the Cowgate. As was amply demonstrated on social media, the ban on motor traffic was completely ignored by many drivers, including licensed private hire cars and taxis. There was usually little if any staff present to manage the restrictions. Pavement parking was rife (as in previous years) and the police appeared to show no appetite to deal with the frequent ‘moving vehicle offences’. The restrictions in our view should start from 12.00 midday or 14.00, with all servicing of bars, restaurants etc taking place before then. Appropriate access to courts, the mortuary etc could be provided through special arrangements, use of Guthrie Street etc.
This was also unsatisfactory. Taxis and many tourist coaches use the roundabout at the foot of Castle Hill to turn, completely undermining the ‘car-free’ environment of the Lawnmarket. Stewards, who had the difficult job of managing this conflict, were frequently observed shouting at pedestrians to get out of the way of vehicles. Vehicles should therefore be banned entirely from Johnston Terrace during the traffic restriction period.
High Street/South Bridge
We were pleased to see barriers providing wider walking space on the west side of South Bridge near the Tron – a high-risk space for pedestrians. We note the problems reported by residents about diversion of bus routes on the Canongate and would not object to buses (but not general traffic, including taxis) continuing to use the street during the festival. At the other end of the High Street, the police appeared to be prioritising vehicles exiting from St Giles Street over pedestrians – this section of the High Street (to Bank St/George IV St) needs to be improved. There should be no vehicle access to Parliament Square during the festival, allowing this grossly under-valued space to be better used by people on foot.
We welcome the Council’s introduction of traffic restrictions in 2019. However, we want to see the idea improved and extended in 2020 particularly by:
- extending the hours of traffic closures;
- extending the traffic closures to more streets; and
- improving enforcement/staffing of traffic restrictions.