CARS and lorries would be banned from a main route into Scotland’s capital in a radical proposal to increase the number of people cycling.
Under the plan championed by politicians and green transport groups, a “car-free corridor” into Edinburgh city centre would be established to help cut pollution and boost fitness.
The proposal comes as some campaigners believe the city council must work harder to encourage cycling, despite improvements which have increased rates to among the highest in Scotland.
The proposal also follows the second annual Pedal on Parliament two weeks ago, when 4,000 cyclists, led by former world champion Graeme Obree, rode from the Meadows to Holyrood to campaign for better cycle safety.
Last year, cycling deaths hit a five-year high, with 122 riders killed on Britain’s roads, including three in Edinburgh.
One potential route would connect residential areas around the Meadows on the south side with Waverley Station.
The plan could involve prohibiting all traffic from busy streets such as George IV Bridge, apart from cycles, buses and taxis. Cars, vans and lorries would be diverted via other routes such as South Bridge or Lothian Road.
Cycling now accounts for nearly 7 per cent of commuting trips in the capital – three times the Scottish average.
The figure is also four times greater than two decades ago and it has increased by one quarter in two years. But it remains significantly lower than those in other European cities, including Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Across Scotland, only 2 per cent of journeys are made by bike and the Scottish Government’s cycling action plan includes a “vision” of increasing this fourfold to 10 per cent by 2020.
Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie is among those calling for “bold” action to further boost cycling rates in the capital. He said: “Edinburgh is already well ahead of other cities in the UK but the time is right to build on this success.
“That’s why I’m calling for bold action on this issue with a sustainable transport corridor that will revolutionise our city centre, reduce pollution and increase footfall vital to our shops, bars and cafes. Safety is the single most significant reason why people don’t cycle more in Scotland.
“Proposals that encourage people to leave their cars at home and limit traffic in the city centre will not only improve cyclist safety, but also help Edinburgh become a greener and more pleasant place to live for everyone.”
However, motoring groups said the “simplistic” move would just anger drivers. Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “Simply creating a car- free corridor where vulnerable cyclists will still have to dodge large buses and taxis is far too simple an answer to Edinburgh’s traffic problems.”
The city council said it would consider the proposal. Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “If Jim Eadie has proposals, I’m sure Jim Orr, our lead member for cycling, would be happy to look at them with the Cycle Forum, which includes all the interested parties and is where consultation happens.”