A BOLD vision to overhaul traffic on Princes Street has been praised by city residents, amidst concerns that the radical shake-up should not come at the expense of George Street and the West End.
The Evening News yesterday revealed plans by city chiefs to create a one-way traffic loop on the New Town’s two main thoroughfares in a bid to free up more space for pedestrians and cyclists and create a “living city centre”.
Princes Street would also be transformed into a leisure destination under the changes, with planners keen to allow bars and restaurants to breathe new life into the route.
Business advocacy bodies threw their support behind the masterplan yesterday, but said the overhaul should not be allowed to jam up other traffic “pinch points”.
Gordon Henderson, senior development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I like that Princes Street would not just be zoned for retail, and given the national conversation about looking for alternative uses for towns centres, Princes Street fits into that category.
“George Street and Rose Street have an interesting night life – why shouldn’t Princes Street?”
However, Mr Henderson questioned whether George Street would be suited to a one-way traffic system, saying: “[It] is beautiful, but if you put every bus in the city on it, you will get nose-to-tail buses.”
George Street Association chairman Josh Miller welcomed the council’s vision, but he said: “We have to be careful that we don’t damage what we have created in George Street in the process.”
Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, was more pessimistic, saying chaos had resulted from the previous major traffic shake-up in 2005.
He questioned whether the one-way loop would have a knock-on effect by funnelling more traffic into other locations. He said: “How traffic’s coming through access points like Lothian Road, Shandwick Place and the West Approach Road isn’t clear.
“Queen Street from the north and Picardy Place in the past have been other pinch points. Those access points were the problem areas last time.”
Ian Maxwell, chairman of cycle campaign group Spokes, lodged a petition in January urging transport chiefs to review a 2010 report by architects Jan Gehl that championed pedestrianising the district.
He yesterday labelled the central city masterplan as “bold thinking”, but said the group would still push for parking to be removed from George Street.
Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi described a 12-month trial of the traffic changes as a smart move.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone said pedestrians and cyclists deserved a much better deal on Princes Street when the tram works were over.
She said: “This is a positive plan, but I’ll be looking for real ambition in the design for a dedicated cycle path.”