Social distancing plans for city streets to support the NHS are given the go-ahead

Lucy Johnston 2020, News

From Aberdeen City Council:

An ambitious plan by Aberdeen City Council to allow for social distancing in city streets to help ensure the safe emergence from the coronavirus lockdown was today awarded a £1.76million grant from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund.

The grant will pay/go towards a roll out of temporary measures to allow people to walk, cycle, and queue for buses and shopping while adhering to social distancing guidance. Measures taking place include pedestrianisation, pavement widening, temporary bike lanes, and one-way walking systems and work will start on installation these within the next few weeks.

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

Traffic around the centre is to be 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.

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 social distancing.

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 socially 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: “We welcome the grant funding which will be used to implement temporary active travel measures, helping to ensure people can walk and cycle during this public health emergency whilst physically distancing and keeping safe from traffic.

“These temporary interventions will help us meet the health and wellbeing needs of residents during this difficult time and will allow people to move safely around Aberdeen which will in turn start the social and economic recovery of the city and the wider region.”

The proposed outline program was developed with NHS Grampian, transport organisation Nestrans, and Business Improvement District operator Aberdeen Inspired.

NHS Grampian Director of Public Health Susan Web said: “This is great news. We were happy to support this bid for funding and see it be successful; it will help make it as easy as possible for people to take exercise and access key services while observing physical distancing.”

Chair of Nestrans, Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “These measures are very much welcomed as local authorities and their partners plan ahead to keep people safe and healthy coming out of lockdown. They are consistent with existing and emerging transport and planning policies, including our proposed Regional Transport Strategy, Nestrans 2040.

“With less traffic on the roads and an increased demand for active travel, this approach of prioritising certain carriageways for pedestrians and cyclists will ensure that we support people to travel safely by giving them the space for social distancing and alleviating pinch points. Importantly, the plans also set out interventions to ease pressures on bus stop queuing areas, helping to reinforce bus services and protect those who still rely on public transport. Nestrans looks forward to supporting the proposals as they are designed and delivered.”

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “I am delighted to find that Aberdeen City Council have been successful in their ‘Spaces for People’ funding application. It is to their credit they worked constructively with Aberdeen Inspired and other partners in proactively bringing a plan together that will allow us to open up our great city centre in a safe and pragmatic fashion, and in so doing open up further opportunities for re-visioning the space as we moved forward.”

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.

Karen McGregor, Director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “It’s clear that people across Scotland want to do the right thing during Coronavirus. They want to look after their physical and mental health.

“They also want to make sure that they are keeping to physical distancing guidelines while still being safe on our streets.

“Providing funding support to Aberdeen City Council through our Spaces for People programme will make it easier and safer for people to travel around their city for essential travel and exercise.”

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