Edinburgh cycle routes: top academic Devi Sridhar backs plan to continue controversial Spaces for People scheme

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The Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route, introduced under the Spaces for People program during the pandemic, involves not cycle lanes but sections of road closed temporarily to through traffic to give more space for cyclists and pedestrians, which has been welcomed by parents at James Gillespie’s Primary School and others, but not by some residents.

The city’s transport and environment committee will be asked on Thursday to approve progress towards continuing the scheme for another 18 months under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO).

And Professor Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, tweeted her support: “More and more research on health benefits of walking and cycling including for children. Cities should be built around this. Building safe car-free journeys to school and work hugely important. Please write to your councilors supporting routes such as the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route.”

A report by council officials on the initial public engagement about the proposed ETROs said the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route received a total of 130 responses and the highest number of supportive representations out of all 34 schemes.

But Tory transport spokeswoman Marie-Clair Munro said the scheme was nevertheless “very controversial” and many local people were unhappy about the road closures.

She said: “I’ve been inundated with emails from residents saying their voice is not being heard. Nobody is saying there shouldn’t be areas for people to go on bike or by foot on this route but it has been done without consultation with residents, many of whom are deeply unhappy.

Professor Devi Sridhar says safe. car-free routes to school and work are ‘hugely important’.

“The traffic is being diverted into all the tight little side streets and residents are seeing large vehicles who didn’t know about the closures having to try and turn in their streets.” It also increased traffic on the already-busy Comiston Road.

She said residents would be happy to have strict measures around schools, such as banning cars at certain hours around drop-offs or pick-ups. “What they’re not happy about is the whole road being closed for people to walk and cycle.”

The Tories will call at the meeting for the Greenbank to Meadows scheme to be ended, along with a list of others which they say do not have public support.

The minority Labor administration is proposing a community workshop attended by residents and ward councilors on the issue, which would consider a more clearly defined cycle route and how if interfaced with Comiston Road.

Labor transport convener Scott Arthur said: “We want a workshop where people can come along and talk about the options. Of all the Spaces for People schemes, the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route is one of the ones that is better used, so the administration is very much focused on protecting and improving it in partnership with local residents.”

Chris Hill, of the City Cycling Edinburgh Forum, said he was really pleased to see Professor Sridhar’s tweet and noted that Councilor Arthur had recently said he hoped to accelerate work on improving active travel routes to schools. “Perhaps Edinburgh can look forward to some significant measures to get even more people cycling. Many want to, but need to see better infrastructure for cycling, and walking, to persuade them to leave their cars at home more often.”

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