Residents have raised concerns over access to Aberdeen’s beach after work started on a controversial scheme to install cycle lanes on the road.
New cycle routes are being created on the beachfront along the length of the Esplanade to encourage people to social distance as part of the Spaces for People initiative.
The road will also be one-way from its junction with the Beach Boulevard south to the roundabout.
Parking in front of cafes and the Codonas leisure park will remain and it will still be possible to park along the majority of the stretch of road.
However, concerns have been raised about parking spaces being removed at the Bridge of Don end, as well as the impact of the one-way system making it more difficult to get access to the beach.
And now beachgoers have expressed concerns the temporary measures could limit accessibility for those unable to walk or cycle.
Dyce resident Gillian Grant, 56, is a regular visitor to the beach with her father Brian, 85.
She said: “Walking at the beach has kept my dad going through the pandemic and it’s his favourite place. I bring him here a lot because there’s not many other places which are easy for him to walk.
“I am really worried about the lack of consultation. We don’t know what’s being done.
“If we aren’t able to drive here my dad won’t be able to come because he can’t manage the walk from town.
“It would be life-changing for him.”
Brian added: “I have lived in Aberdeen for all of my 85 years and I love coming to the beach, but I wouldn’t be able to get here without the car.
“If it’s harder for people to drive here people like myself won’t be able to come and other people will stay away.”
Wheelchair user Garry Smith, 60, had travelled from Inverurie with his 23-year-old son Mitchell for a day at the seaside.
But he fears he will be left unable to visit if the measures go ahead.
He said: “Some people could walk or cycle from town but others like myself couldn’t. Me and my family have no choice but to bring the car down.
“If it’s more difficult to do that I can’t visit the beach – it’s as simple as that.
“We haven’t seen a single bit of information about what’s happening apart from a few cones which have all been moved off the road anyway.”
New parents Adam and Marie O’Connor, aged 32 and 30, were visiting with their two-week-old daughter Willow.
Adam, from Bucksburn, said: “It’s already quite difficult to get down here with the car, especially on busy days. Some people have no choice if they find walking difficult or have wheelchairs or pushchairs.
“People on bikes use the promenade without any problems.
“The council should be encouraging people to visit rather than pushing them away.”
The Esplanade has proved extremely popular with walkers and cyclists since the pandemic began.
In August, the average number of cyclists using the route every day was 368 – more than three times the number for the same month last year, which was 125.
And the average number of pedestrians, 824, is also well above last year’s figure of 460.
Some traders who work in the area have met with council officials in recent weeks following reports they were not told when work was going to start.
Aniko Palyov, who works at LA Sunny Foods at the Footdee end of the Esplanade, said: “Most people drive to the beach so if it’s more difficult to do that they won’t come. That means me and all the other businesses will struggle.
“People who live far away come for a day out, and this might make them less likely to come.
“We just don’t know what is going on.”
Aberdeen City Council transport spokeswoman Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “Those who need to access Aberdeen’s beautiful beach area by car will still be able to do so.
“Parking will remain along the majority of the length of the Beach Esplanade from Ellon Road to Footdee, and on the Beach Boulevard.
“The spaces in front of the cafes on the beachfront will remain as they were before but will only be accessible south-bound.
“The beach area has proved to be extremely popular this year. The Spaces for People work we’re putting in place is in response to the huge increase in the number of cyclists (up more than three times compared to last year) and pedestrians (double those on foot from last year).
“People need to be able to move safely around while physical distancing, as well as have accessibility to the whole stretch of the beach area. And of course, encouraging walking and cycling supports international, national and local agendas for tackling climate change and improving people’s well being.
“There have been several external pieces of communication asking opinions on the temporary changes at the beach area including social media, press releases to local media which have been published, a public consultation, advance warning signage in the beach area, and website updates.
“Local businesses likely to be affected were contacted by letter and some were hand-delivered. We will continue to engage with all parties going forward and review the measures when and where necessary.”