Edinburgh city-centre roads to close for Clean Air Day

TWO key roads in the centre of Edinburgh will shut to traffic for festivities to celebrate Clean Air Day.

The National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy viewed from The Mound
The National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy viewed from The Mound

The Mound will be closed for the morning of Thursday, June 21, with temporary landscaping and park benches set out for people to enjoy the summer solstice and an opportunity to try out electric bikes or join a yoga class. And traffic will be barred from the eastern section of George Street for most of Thursday and up until noon on Friday, with a whole host of activities including school pupils putting their own stamp on a piece of street art reflecting the history of the Capital.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf will lead a procession of residents, local business owners and school children from the top of the Mound to George Street to mark the start of the two-day, council-organised event, called the Edinburgh Summer Summit. It is intended to highlight the social and health benefits of a reduction in congestion and pollution and raise awareness for the need to improve the city’s air quality. The council intends to monitor the impact of these closures - particularly on air pollution and noise - as it weighs up plans to reshape the city centre.

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The programme for the day also includes cycle-related activities, including balance bikes for pre-schoolers, a pedal-powered Scalextric, a walking challenge, talks by experts and Edinbop dance group will be performing a mass Lindy Hop. It’s the first time the Capital has marked Clean Air Day on such a scale.

The National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy viewed from The Mound

City Transport leader Councillor Lesley Macinnes said: “Improving the quality of the air that we breathe is a top priority for the Capital. The fun and engaging activities we’ve planned for Clean Air Day will highlight the simple steps that can be taken to help reduce emissions and make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone. Over the two days we will be monitoring the impact the road closures have on the environment, in particular air quality and noise. We’re also looking forward to raising awareness of the wider City Centre Transformation project, which is about creating an action plan for an Edinburgh that is sustainable, healthy and safe for our future generations.”

The council is drawing up plans to introduce a Low Emission Zone by the end of 2019.

John Lauder, director of walking and cycle charity Sustrans Scotland, said: “Clean air has never been more important, and the need for action never more urgent. Poor quality air has been shown to cause a whole range of health problems. The best and easiest way to deal with air pollution in cities is to reduce the number of cars in congested urban spaces.”

Tory transport spokesman Councillor Nick Cook said it was positive to see the city mark Clean Air Day, but added: “Set against the council’s recent posturing on a Low Emissions Zone which would ban vehicles from our city centre, some might see these road closures as little more than a smokescreen to test such a scheme.”