Cities introduce new measures for public physical distancing

Scotland’s two largest cities are introducing new measures to support physical distancing for people walking and cycling.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are creating temporary footpaths and cycle ways as a means to thwart the spread of coronavirus. The moves follow concerns about ability to follow the 2-metre physical distance rule in areas that are heavily used for daily exercise.

The Scottish Government has announced a £10m package of support for such measures.

In Glasgow, Kelvin Way has been closed to traffic to allow greater space for people undertaking daily exercise in and around Kelvingrove Park. Plans to modify Clyde Street and Broomielaw to ensure pedestrians, cyclists and wheel chair users can be physically distant safely at all times are also at an advanced staged.

City of Edinburgh Council has implemented road closures in Greenbank, Leith and Silverknowes. Councillors on the Policy and Sustainability Committee are being asked to consider an action plan for further measures and to approve the submission of an application for funding from the Scottish Government’s £10m ‘Spaces for People’ scheme.

Additional improvements are proposed for other ‘pinch points’ across the city, such as road closures, the introduction of bus gates and temporary cycle lanes.

Both councils see additional public space for physical distancing as a key component in the economic recovery of the cities. Wider pavements and paths will help to enable safe access to shops and business premises in the city centre.

Glasgow City Council has identified several other areas with high pedestrian footfall where the temporary measures can be introduced.

In Edinburgh, further changes to facilitate safe movement are likely to include pedestrian priority at signalised road crossings, extended bus lane hours, widened pavements and a review of speed limits.

Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, sees the additional space for physical distancing as a way to build confidence that the city can emerge from the current crisis.

Councillor Aitken said: "When lockdown begins to ease, it is vital that we do everything we can as a city to keep the coronavirus at bay. We want to ensure that people are confident that they can move safely around the city, and access workplaces, shops, pubs, restaurants and other business when they begin to reopen. This is crucial not only for the health of our citizens, but also the health of our economy.

"Rethinking road space to allow for wider footways will be essential for people accessing businesses, public transport and other facilities, and these types of measures will be an important tool in getting the city up and running again."

City of Edinburgh Council Leader, Adam McVey, said: “We’ve received a huge amount of support for our plans to create more room for pedestrians and cyclists. It’s clear that people want and need to make essential journeys and take daily exercise by foot or bike safely and we need to give them the space to do so.

“It’s no secret that we face many months of upheaval as we work to emerge from this crisis, and this will no doubt impact on the way we move around the city. As we return to a ‘new normal’, our citywide strategy will support people to make journeys by foot, bike or public transport while continuing to observe physical distancing.”