New physical distancing measures to make city centre safe

Lucy Johnston2020, News

Press release from Aberdeen City Council:

As part of the Council’s response to Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s Route Map for easing COVID-19 restrictions, we are working with partners, including NHS Grampian, to allow activity to safely resume in the city centre.

Work is starting tomorrow (Saturday 30 May) on widening pavements to allow for better physical distancing for pedestrians.

Aberdeen City Council was awarded a £1.76 million grant on Monday (25 May) from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund to carry out the temporary works which helps to ensure the safe emergence from the coronavirus lockdown and in turn the NHS.

The grant will pay for a roll out of temporary measures to allow people to walk, cycle, and queue for buses and shopping while adhering to physical distancing guidance. Measures taking place include pedestrianisation, pavement widening, temporary bike lanes, and one-way walking.

The city centre, and Union Street in particular, faces challenges because pavements are not wide enough to accommodate the current 2-metre level of physical distancing.

The first stage of work includes pedestrianisation of the section of Union Street between Bridge Street and Market Street, pedestrianisation of the section of Schoolhill between Harriet Street and Flourmill Lane, pedestrianisation of Bon Accord Street between Union Street and Langstane Place, and pedestrianisation of Summer Street and Chapel Street both from Union Street to Thistle Street.

The first stage of the work will mean the reallocation of bus lanes on Union Street for queuing and relocation of some bus stops to more appropriate locations, re-routing of bus services around Bridge St, Guild St, Market Street, buses only at the top of Market Street turning onto Union Street, and the taxi rank on Back Wynd relocated to Flourmill Lane and Bath Street.

It is anticipated the works for the first stage will be completed within the next two to three weeks.

Traffic around the centre is being re-routed to free up carriageway space for businesses, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Access will still be provided to the city centre car parks as well as for residents and businesses. Access to the carparks at Bon Accord Centre and M&S/Marischal Square will also be maintained.

The next stages of the works which are due to start in the coming weeks will see temporary changes to the road layout and on-street parking to widen pavements will also take place on Rosemount, Victoria Road in Torry, Peterculter, Cults, North Deeside Road, and George Street. The high volumes of people visiting our parks will see additional signage and management put in place to support physical distancing.

Again in later stages of the easing of lockdown, further changes such as reducing parking spaces may also be required at local shopping centres to ensure there is enough space for pedestrians to physically distance and to ensure the number so people visiting the centres and the city centre is manageable.

Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “I’m delighted work is starting so soon after the grant application was approved only on Monday.

“The temporary active travel measures will help to help to look after health and wellbeing needs of residents to allow people walk and cycle during this public health emergency whilst physically distancing and keeping safe from traffic.

“These temporary interventions will also allow people to move safely around the city centre which will help to start the social and economic recovery of the city and the wider region.”

The program was developed with NHS Grampian, transport organisation NESTRANS, and Business Improvement District operator Aberdeen Inspired, and organisations which have been consulted include city centre businesses, bus companies, taxi firms, Police Scotland, the Disability Equity Partnership, and other local groups.

Susan Webb, Director of Public Health with NHS Grampian, said: “News of this funding is hugely welcome. It will allow our community who have increased their level of exercise through walking and cycling to continue to do so safely as we emerge from lockdown and in the longer term will contribute to improving our climate.”

Chair of Nestrans, Councillor Sandra Macdonald, said: “I’m pleased to see how swiftly the council has acted to implement changes on Union Street and Schoolhill to get the city centre moving again, safely. Our city will look and feel quite different for some time to come, and these actions provide the safest way to support those who live, work and shop in the city centre.

“Working with key partners and feedback from the public, the impact and effectiveness of the interventions will be monitored and evaluated. This will allow us to adapt, where needed, to ensure we have the right solution for our area, particularly as we move through Phase 1 and beyond.”

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “Aberdeen Inspired is delighted to see Aberdeen City Council take these proactive steps in creating increased safe space for people returning to the city centre.

“Our businesses understand that these measures are not only essential if we are to get up and running but present opportunities to look at things differently, for instance, enhancing an outdoor café culture. Moreover, it will give us all an opportunity over a period to see how these re-purposed areas play through, with potential to develop the concept into a more lasting legacy, no less than our city centre deserves.”

Given the timeframe it was not possible to engage with the public and businesses in advance of introducing these measures. However, the Council is carrying out a consultation throughout the temporary interventions, along with monitoring of user/traffic numbers, and will look to make amendments to improve any of the interventions.

The measures aim also to increase capacity at community pinch points and along popular arterial business and leisure walking and cycling routes, as well as near health facilities, parks, schools and other public buildings.

Aberdeen City Council will continue to review, monitor, and evaluate the interventions while discussions are held with stakeholders, and when the measures are in place. The continual reviewing may mean changes to the interventions, and it is also a requirement of the fund, which is being administered by sustainable transport body Sustrans Scotland.

The length of time the temporary measures will be in place will be determined by NHS and Government guidance.

More information about the city centre measures and other actions being taken by the Council in response to Phase 1 of the Route Map can be found here.