One way systems, bike lanes, white paint and hundreds of bollards are to be removed from George Street next month – as work begins to scale back physical distancing work in Aberdeen.
The city council has scheduled three weeks of roadworks in the busy residential and shopping area on the edge of the city centre to lift the temporary Spaces For People restrictions.
George Street and the surrounding area looks to be first in line to be liberated from the Covid restrictions, which have split traders across the city.
Sarah Brown, manager of Thains Bakery, previously joked she would hold a socially distanced street party when the barriers came down.
She told us: “This is fantastic – the removal is great news for businesses.
“The Spaces For People is still badly affecting us as there is nowhere for people to stop and park outside.
“A lot of people in cars, including taxi drivers, were put off by it as they could not get to the door.
“On a Sunday, pub goers will kick the barriers down as they pass and people seem to think it’s great as they can get parked outside.
“It’s a major relief and hopefully things can get back to normal soon.”
Controversial road changes were not popular with all in George Street and across the city
Others complained the pavement widening was not required in the area as queues never materialised, despite health officials demanding more room be given for people lining up to enter shops and businesses.
Cycling campaigners too have been critical over failures to properly police the bike lanes in George Street, which have been used as parking spaces by car users.
SNP councillor Michael Hutchison said: “I’m not sure it worked as intended but I hope that lessons can be learned from this.
“There is clearly a need and demand for cycling and pedestrian improvements in George Street. Unfortunately the layout we got just didn’t work.
“The lack proper consultation and modelling caused problems from the beginning.
“Hopefully, when we look at rolling out the council’s sustainable urban mobility plan, we’ve taken this experience on board and learned from it.”
The £1.76 million project, funded by a Scottish Government grant, was hoped to increase the numbers of people walking and cycling around Aberdeen.
Last month, councillors agreed to begin the removal of the controversial physical distancing measures come August – though the timetable and order of the work was not specified.
At the time, council transport spokeswoman, Labour’s Sandra Macdonald, said: “Having served their purpose, it is time to pack away the striped bollards, temporary signage, water-filled barriers and pavement extensions.
“Residents and businesses have had to adapt, and to adapt again, over the past year and it will be some months before all the works to re-establish the affected streets and pavements are complete.”
It now looks like George Street will be opened up ahead of Rosemount Place and Torry – with the long-awaited removal work in all three areas expected to take 13 weeks.
Pedestrianisation of Union Street and other upheaval in the city centre will remain for now, with those changes forming part of the council’s long-term ambition for Aberdeen’s regeneration.
George Street Spaces For People roadworks to begin on August 9
Parts of the currently one-way Maberly Street and St Andrews Street will also shut to allow access for council workers.
The ban will include driving and waiting – with the threat of illegally parked cars being towed at the owner’s expense.
Bus lanes and one-way restrictions in Charlotte Street and John Street will be put on hold during the disruption, meaning motorists will be able to travel in either direction to get around the roadworks.