An ambitious project to redesign a major Aberdeen street to combat Covid-19 is due to get under way this weekend.
Work was scheduled to begin today on making Union Street completely car-free – with only public transport, cyclists and pedestrians allowed.
Existing lanes will be reallocated to allow more space for pedestrians and assist with social distancing as city leaders look to get Aberdeen moving again following coronavirus.
The first stage will see Union Street pedestrianised between Bridge Street and Market Street, along with sections of Schoolhill, Bon Accord Street, Summer Street and Chapel Street.
Some bus services will be re-routed around Bridge Street, Guild Street and Market Street, while the taxi rank on Back Wynd willl be relocated to Flourmill Lane and Bath Street.
It is hoped the first phase will be completed within two to three weeks.
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Council co-leader 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.”
In later stages, road layouts will be temporarily changed in other parts of the city including Rosemount, Victoria Road in Torry, North Deeside Road and George Street.
The programme was developed by the council in partnership with partners including NHS Grampian.
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.”
Nestrans chairwoman Sandra Macdonald – the city council’s transport spokeswoman – 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 One and beyond.”
Aberdeen Inspired chief executive Adrian Watson added: “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.”
A questionnaire on the proposals can be found at https://consultation.aberdeencity.gov.uk/planning/physical-distancing