Plans to open up Edinburgh’s George Street to pedestrians, bikes, and outdoor seating areas are set to be finalised by council bosses.
The historic street, which often faces severe gridlock as drivers try to find on-street parking spaces, will be closed to motorists and given a ‘European boulevard feel’ to better accentuate the A-listed buildings that adorn it.
Bus stops will be located at either end of the city centre, and car parking will remain for blue badge holders and for loading access for businesses.
The plans form part of Edinburgh City Council’s ten-year transformation project, which will see the city centre become largely car-free by 2030.
Some of the design aspects are set to be finalised at a meeting of the council’s transport committee on Thursday.
These include wider pavements on both sides of George Street, ‘greening’ and landscaping sensitive to the area’s heritage and the creation of a ‘cycling street’.
Fundamental design elements also encompass the removal of buses and all other non-essential traffic from George Street as well as a reduction in parking bays to free up space for walking, cycling and wheeling.
The statue of James Clerk Maxwell will be relocated to the gateway to George Street, close to the statue’s current location.
A series of proposed operational changes would support the area’s transformation and will form the basis of the development of the statutory notice process which is required to enable construction of the scheme.
Key principles of the operational plan cover the delivery of pedestrian and cycling priority, the prioritisation of blue badge parking and removing all but essential motor traffic from George Street, amongst other operational changes.
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, the council’s SNP Transport and Environment Convener, said: “We’ve reached a key stage as we move forward with this major project to transform George Street and the surrounding areas.
“These fundamental elements for the design and operation of the scheme will be central to its realisation over the coming years.
“This is exactly the kind of transformational change we want to effect in Edinburgh. Not only will wider pavements, significantly improved cycling infrastructure and relaxed, landscaped areas in-keeping with the historic surroundings create a safer, welcoming environment for people to spend time in, but it will support travel by foot, bike or wheel.
“Facilitating sustainable transport is crucial if we are to meet our zero carbon goals and improve air quality for future generations.”
Councillor Karen Doran, the council’s Labour Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said: “We’ve worked hard to involve the community, businesses and active travel, accessibility and heritage groups in the development of these plans, and their feedback has been essential.
“Now, as we progress further, we want to continue to bring all those who have contributed with us, and we’ll continue to engage with them as we take the next, exciting steps towards the project’s delivery.”
Reporting by Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Anderson