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Old December 25th, 2014, 03:50 PM   #1
Kenspeckle
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Edinburgh City Centre Transformation (ECCT) Project

Mixed views on George Street experiment

Broughton Spurtle - 23rd December, 2014

Quote:
It is now three months since partial pedestrianisation of George Street began as a year-long experiment.

‘Stakeholders’ met last week to discuss their own perceptions of the trial, and to review the findings of a 300-person survey.

A minute of that meeting is reproduced in full, undedited, below. The PowerPoint presentation summarising the survey is attached at the foot of this page.

The minute is clear and self-explanatory, so we don’t propose to repeat it here. However, points which immediately jump out are:

Footfall and time spent on George Street have increased, but – as elsewhere in the UK – shoppers are spending most money online and with ‘budget retailers’.

Most people support pedestrianising the street but don’t like the decking and marquees. Officials agree with this finding and are looking at alternatives.

Council figures do not back up local perceptions of an increase in displaced traffic along parallel streets such as Abercromby Place. [It is unfortunate, to say the least, that no Council figures had been made available to the New Town and Broughton Community Council by the time it met on 8 December.]

Air quality is improving.

There is public concern at the perceived privatisation of civic space.

Separate from the trial process, the Council will procure a designer to lead research into the ‘pros & cons’ of leaving George Street the way it was, maintaining the current layout, full pedestrianisation, and a compromise with knobs on.


In what reads like masterly understatement, the minute concludes:

There was a lot of passion expressed in the meeting and understandable concern that, within the context of a low-budget trial, the look of the street could improve. The benefit of a trial approach is that we are not stuck forever with any aspects that have not worked, while we can retain the aspects that do succeed. We have an unprecedented opportunity to learn (through empirical research) how people move around the city centre, and what their thoughts and opinions are on how people use George Street, for shopping, dining, socialising, working, living, travelling and visiting.

The next stakeholder meeting will be in March 2015.
Quote:
BRIEFING NOTE & MINUTES

George Street Pedestrianisation Trail : First Quarterly Research Results (300 interviews) and feedback from quarterly stakeholder meeting (attended by businesses, members of the public, Elected Members, transport groups, heritage bodies and other interest groups).

Background & Different roles for CEC & Essential Edinburgh within the trial

The Council is running a year-long trial on George Street, introducing a two-way cycle lane, more space for pedestrians and a one-way traffic management system. 91% of the car parking was retained, including all types of parking on each block, and the purpose of the trial was to increase footfall, improve the pedestrian experience, and to increase the amount of time people linger on the street and the number of times they would return to the street.

Aside from the Council’s role in opening up the space, Essential Edinburgh secured a planning consent for marquees and decking with the aim of animating the space, in a temporary manner.

The Council procured and appointed Research Resource, a leading independent research firm, to undertake 1200 on-street surveys, 100 per month, including minimum quotas of cyclists, New Town residents and car drivers.

A reasonable conclusion from quarter one is the Council’s aspects of the trial have been successful in achieving greater footfall on all four blocks, people are lingering longer & returning frequently to the street. However the restaurants’ marquees are almost universally seen as having failed on account of (i) their appearance is not in-keeping with George Street (ii) they are too permanent – they could not be removed for a major civic event like Light Night, for example (iii) they ‘box in the buzz’, and animate a private space that fails to bring atmosphere to the wider street. The Council is not seeking to provide private commercial boxes on civic space. There are other ways of animating a civic space that still allows for civic use of civic space on demand, yet bringing life to the street year-round.

Research Results

Research Resource reported on the first 300 on-street interviews. Full results are attached as an appendix. The key findings were as follows. 3 months in and George Street has:

· More people than ever before are on George Street : footfall has increased

· People are lingering longer, spending around 3 hours on average when visiting the street

· People are returning at the same or greater frequency than before (33% visit more often now it’s pedestrianised, 62% same as before)

· These three facts show that Council’s objective of making the space more attractive to visit (and encouraging returning visitors) is working. People like the space that’s been created.

For Businesses:

· Window shopping is top of the list of “reasons for your visit”. Shopping comes fourth.

· The Council’s project is putting more eyeballs in front of shop windows than ever before, but only half are being converted into shoppers.

· Reasons for this may include “showrooming” where customers browse in shop, see the product, but then find a better deal online.

· Commentators like Martin Lewis argue that recent consumer rights legislation has created an imbalance, with 14 day no-questions-asked returns allowed for online purchases, but no similar arrangement exists for in-store purchases. The more clued-up consumer (perhaps the typical George Street consumer) is perhaps shopping online this year, especially for clothing.

· There are also some patterns visible across the UK macro economy where budget retailers (e.g. Primark) are performing better than higher end retailers (e.g. those George Street).

· The Council will be looking to work with businesses to improve the environment (there is often trade waste left outside premises all day, which is off putting to customers, whose customer experience has already begun by the time they pass branded trade waste bags outside a premises) & we’ll be introducing some free-to-access public seating on the street.

· All ideas and discussions for animation of the space are welcomed by the Council, and any correspondence on ideas can be directed to [email protected]

· The fact there are more people on the street, lingering longer & returning frequently is a strong position to build upon in 2015.

From local people & those interested in the world heritage site:

· There is broad support for the concept of pedestrianising the space and introducing more animation, but the execution of these two concepts could improve. Two key criticisms are:

· (1) the long-run design must return to a pleasing symmetry (it is currently asymmetrical) and an independent designer will be contracted to work up four potential options for the long run layout of the street, reporting in late 2015. We are confident this will address the matter and produce a design with symmetry through the design options process.

· (2) bar/restaurants’ decking and marquees, an inflexible commercial use of civic space.

· We are working with Essential Edinburgh to encourage the removal of decking and marquees from their members before the trial ends, with alternative approaches encouraged which animate the civic space, but with a non-permanent removable structure. One example of an alternative are the “Jumbrellas” recently installed on Rutland Street, where these umbrellas have an electricity supply, provide weather protection and heating for customers, but bring buzz to the surrounding street (not a boxed-in buzz) and they can be removed at short notice for civic events, retaining an identifiably civic use of civic space.

Traffic displacement and environmental health/air quality matters:

· Traffic is being monitored on George Street and surrounding streets, to track any traffic displacement that occurs. The Council is meeting monthly with the New Town & Broughton Community Council, as well as with some interested members of the public, to provide feedback. This work will be ongoing, but early findings are that traffic levels have decreased significantly since 2005 on York Place (down 25% on 2005 levels) meaning there are more people in the city centre but fewer cars in town than before. The traffic levels on parallel street such as Abercromby Place and Albany Street have not grown perceptibly in the first few months, with perhaps between 4 and 6 additional vehicles per hour (one every 10 mins).

· Air Quality – one of the key reasons for undertaking a one-way traffic system, and introducing more pedestrian space and cycle lanes, was because George Street has recorded a dangerous level of air pollution in recent years due to the high volumes of traffic that previously used it. Air quality levels are improving and will be reported in full at the conclusion of the trial (Sept 2015).

Successes:

· European recognition for how pretty the Made In Edinburgh planters have been…Edinburgh took gold at the Entente Florale, and George Street played a part in that.

· People asked the Council not to use metal mills barriers so the Council asked our craftsmen and apprentices at the Inch Nursery to create bespoke wrought iron planters to act as a visible barrier between the car parking and cycling/pedestrian spaces, as a safety measure.

· The trial has been delivered on time, on budget, and as all the materials are recyclable and have a resale value the project may end up very close to cost neutral.

· The greatest success to date though is that footfall is up, more people are spending a longer time on George Street, and are returning frequently for more, as they like the new space.

Details from the research

• 100 interviews completed each month

• Interviews spread across days of the week (including weekends), times of the day (including evenings) and across all 4 blocks of George Street

• Respondents stopped on a ‘next to pass’ sampling methodology

• 300 interviews carried out between September and November 2014

• 74% of respondents think George Street’s appearance has improved through the trial

• 72% said their visit was more enjoyable as a result of the changes

• 75% support the idea of pedestrianised spaces

• Specific pages to draw to your attention on the attached comprehensive data:

• Reasons for visiting George St (p7)

• How long visitors stay on George St/why (p8)

• What is important when making a decision about coming to George St (p11)

• Reasons for perception of improvement (p25)

Feedback from the Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting

As is often the case with a trial project, a lot of the research findings challenged long-held existing assumptions and preconceived ideas, amongst the local business community and local residents and Council officials.

The strongly expressed feedback from the stakeholder group was that there are negative perceptions of the trial, locally, and in discussion it emerged quite clearly that these are almost exclusively about the appearance of Essential Edinburgh members’ decking and marquees. The group would like to see these removed as they negatively impact on the perception of the street.

The project would support that outcome too, at this stage, as the project’s aim was to animate the space, to improve footfall, to encourage that greater footfall to linger longer and visit more often. While all of these outcomes are being achieved, at this stage, there are better ways than a marquee of animating a space in a temporary manner, but that allows for civic events to take place on civic space, bringing animation to the civic space, and not just to an enclosed private box.

Separate from the research process, the Council is beginning the process to procure a designer who will lead a design options process, involving key stakeholders and a panel of experts. This group will undertake a ‘pros & cons’ SWOT analysis of four different designs for the street layout being

(i) the previous layout of George Street

(ii) the current layout of George Street

(iii) a fully pedestrianised George Street and

(iv) a layout that is between (ii) & (iii), informed by Designing Streets & key design principles.

The work of the design team will be presented to Transport and Environment Committee at the conclusion of the trial. The stakeholder group will be informed of progress from the design discussions on a quarterly basis, in a similar manner to the quarterly research updates they receive.

Perhaps the key consideration for the George Street trial, this stakeholder group, and the design process, is to work towards a vision of what kind of place George Street should become, in advance of the St James development completing in 2019/2020. The empirical research feedback is already challenging notions and ideas of how customers and citizens use George Street, how people perceive it, and what they would like it to become. A clear majority of the interviewees at this stage support greater pedestrianisation of the street, raising fundamental questions for the project to consider during the remainder of the trial period on what type of place is George Street - is it a retail street, a party street, or a residential space, a cultural attraction for tourists, is it even “one street” in terms of uses (i.e. do individual blocks have different characters from neighbouring blocks).

It is clear from the research that the design options will wrestle with directly competing groups, e.g. 12% saying they want more car parking, and a similar number (13%) saying get rid of all car parking.

The stakeholder group also raised important questions about financing any public realm improvements (the concern being that whatever the outcome is the Council needs to get it right and it may be a costly exercise). The key feedback though was a request for the removal of marquees.

The group accepted that the purpose of a Council in a pedestrianisation project is to create a space that encourages greater footfall, that lingers longer and returns more frequently. The trial can evidence that it has been successful in all those regards so far. At next meeting the questionnaire and any photographs being shown to interviewees will be brought to the meeting to see.

There may be food for thought for business groups within the information that 38% of people on George Street are window shopping (perhaps showrooming) but only 20% are actually shopping. Business groups may wish to use this information to:

(1) lobby central government about the impact of an imbalance in consumer rights (online vs in-store purchases carry radically different levels of protection for consumers);

(2) consider ways to convert the increased footfall and ‘showrooming’ at their windows into shoppers coming in-store to make a purchase there and then;

(3) engage with Council over ideas for ways to animate the space in the street;

(4) consider that, in the newly pedestrianised spaces, the customer experience begins before the customer reaches the shop window. There are daily examples to be found of retailers leaving trade waste (clearly identifiable to their business) out on the street. The same staff member who took the rubbish out is then polishing the windows and door handles, but the customer’s negative perception will have begun at the point of seeing the trade waste. There are more discreet ways that trade waste can be stored and removed.

(5) The Council is keen to engage more directly with individual businesses on the street, to provide an equally-informed view that would sit alongside the monthly feedback from the local community council and the 1200 on-street customer/citizen interviews being captured.

Closing remarks:

There was a lot of passion expressed in the meeting and understandable concern that, within the context of a low-budget trial, the look of the street could improve. The benefit of a trial approach is that we are not stuck forever with any aspects that have not worked, while we can retain the aspects that do succeed. We have an unprecedented opportunity to learn (through empirical research) how people move around the city centre, and what their thoughts and opinions are on how people use George Street, for shopping, dining, socialising, working, living, travelling and visiting.

The George Street area is fortunate to play home to some of the finest architects, designers and heritage expertise in the country, some of the finest business brains in the country, and has the benefit of a highly motivated local community who care deeply for the World Heritage Site and want to see the street become the best it can be. It is the Council’s role to ensure that this passion and expertise (allied to the empirical research work) produces the best long-term outcome for the street in what is a very dynamic city centre environment.

The input of all attendees and contributors was all noted and gratefully received.

At the next meeting, the results of interviews from December, January and February will be released, and it will be interesting to see if the early successes are maintained through the winter months (higher footfall, lingering longer, returning frequently, positive about pedestrianised areas). Also with the Christmas shopping period in there, and the annual Hogmanay festivities, the retail and tourism angles will undoubtedly be of interest for members of this Stakeholder Group.

Many thanks for your involvement.

Date of Next Meeting: Week commencing 16thMarch 2015 (date & time tbc) in Assembly Rooms.

Files

December Steering Group Presentation - Lorna (1).pdf
Fingers crossed for the full pedestrianisation option... but I'll not hold my breath.
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Old December 31st, 2014, 09:56 AM   #2
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George Street experiment thrives on success and failure

Broughton Spurtle - 30th December, 2014

Quote:
Iain MacPhail, City of Edinburgh Council’s City Centre Programme Manager, contacted us yesterday with a response to our recent article on the ‘George Street experiment’ and the flood of reader replies it has generated since.

We reproduce his article in full, picking out a few key phrases in bold italics. Major points emerging include:

Marquees and decking to be removed, possibly before end of trial.
Council determined not to prioritise private over civic uses.
Aim is to animate not compartmentalise the street.
Scheme is to assure street's long-term future in face of St James Quarter competition.
Significant positive outcomes and lessons learned.
Lines of communication open. Council welcomes further feedback.


Overall, McacPhail's approach comes across as reasoned, reasonable and receptive. We are relieved to have it confirmed that someone at the centre of the process appears to share so many of the aspirations for George Street expressed by worried locals. We accept his explanation that one can only hope to learn from an experiment by allowing it to run its course, and that such a process inevitably entails failures as well as successes.
Quote:
THE GEORGE STREET EXPERIMENT

First, I’d like to thank the Spurtle for hosting this comments thread, and thank all the contributors to it.

In what follows, I aim to respond to a few points, to pose a few questions of my own to Spurtle readers, and to confirm that I am following the online discussion. I’m keen to make the George Street trial a beacon of good practice in local engagement and this thread is hugely useful and influential in that process.

APPEARANCE, DECKING AND MARQUEES

In local discussions (and in the Spurtle thread, too), many of the comments I receive relate to the appearance of the decking and marquees.

I can reassure readers that the marquees and decking will not be returning after the trial comes to a close (and they may well be removed before the trial concludes in September 2015).

The purpose of a trial is to test out ideas, and different executions of those ideas. The Council’s aim with the George Street trial has not been to test out marquees or decking (which were installed at their own expense by local businesses, not as part of the Council’s project).

Rather, the Council’s aim has been to seek a better animation of civic space, in a way that allows for civic events to take place, while bringing more atmosphere to the street, in a manner that befits the primary street in James Craig’s First New Town. The local businesses felt that the decking and marquees could achieve that, though the Council remained to be convinced and has let the proof be found in a trial setting.

The decking and marquees have failed on all of the measures we were testing. There are better ways of animating a civic space year-round. On Light Night (when a record number of nearly 30,000 turned up to see the Christmas Lights turned on) we found that the decking and marquees could not be moved to accommodate this event.

The Council has no wish to hand over civic space to commercial interests, and Light Night evidenced that the marquees and decking are too inflexible and too permanent to be considered as an option. Better alternatives exist at (for example) the Italian Centre in Glasgow or at Rutland Place, where large (entirely removable_ umbrellas have been installed, sunk into the ground, carrying their own electricity supply. Should a civic event like Light Night or the Moon Walk require access to those spaces, the ‘Jumbrellas’ can be removed at short notice, maintaining the priority of civic uses of civic spaces.

The marquees and decking fell at the first fence in that regard and appear to be just a commercial use of civic space. For that reason they will not be in place when the trial period comes to an end.

The Council is seeking to test ways of animating the public space, and this represented a second failing of the decking and marquees installed by the businesses. The marquees have been found to ‘box in the buzz’ and to animate only the private enclosed space, while offering no additional atmosphere to the street around them. The Jumbrellas, and similar approaches to Jumbrellas, are a preferable alternative to test because they are not only removable on request, but provide some atmosphere to the civic space around them, which is a prerequisite of any longer-term approach.

A third failing of the decking and marquees, in the eyes of the Council, is their appearance, though we would temper criticism by mentioning that decking was only ever a short-term measure as any longer-term approach to the street layout would follow the Grassmarket example by providing a flat and useable paved space for outdoor tables and chairs.

However, that said, the decking has been hugely unpopular, and does create a barrier to pedestrians entering the space – a lot of contributors have described their impact as making a greater space feel actually more hemmed in than before.

The decking and marquees can be ruled out as an option for George Street in the long run on account of their overly permanent and private use of civic space.

CYCLE PATHS AND LACK OF SYMMETRY

There is an undoubted lack of symmetry to the trial layout, but I can reassure readers that this is not the long-term proposal for the street
. A number of cycle groups have expressed their preference for a more conventional and symmetrical layout for any long-term cycle facility on the street, and the return of the pleasing symmetry of James Craig’s plan should be welcomed.

In terms of how the design side will be addressed during the trial, there will be an independent design expert appointed early in the New Year (independent of the Council) who will lead a design-led workshop process, providing a SWOT analysis and careful scrutiny of four design options.

These will include the previous layout, a one-way system layout (similar to the current one), a more pedestrianised layout, and then a fourth option (which will begin with a series of design principles rather than a specific layout in mind and work up an option based on sound design principles).

The output from these meetings will be reported to the Quarterly Stakeholder Meetings and will be included in the final committee report reviewing the trial after it concludes in September 2015.

NO COMPLACENCY, BUT DON'T IGNORE POSITIVE NEWS

By leaving it till this stage of my article, I hope I can reassure Spurtle readers and others that there is no sense of complacency in the project and there are a lot of aspects we are looking to improve during the trial period.

However, there are some very positive aspects to the trial coming out of the research and it is important to keep those in the forefront of people’s thoughts and attention, too. We have commissioned an independent research company to conduct 1,200 on-street interviews, to provide (for the first time) an empirical baseline of data telling us how people move round the city centre, how they feel about the street, and how they use it.

We are at 300 interviews so far, and some of the results have strongly challenged preconceived notions. They have shown:

More people than ever before have been visiting George Street, since the trial came into being.
Those people are lingering longer on the street (spending three hours typically, a long time).
They are returning more frequently than they did before (they like the space and the street).
A significant majority (more than 75 per cent) want to see more pedestrianisation of the street.
People like the concept of pedestrianisation and café culture in the long term, even if the short-term execution of it (the decking, marquees etc.) has not worked in the trial.
Car use in the city centre is 25 per cent lower than 2005, yet more people than ever are in town.


For businesses, there are more eyeballs at their shop windows than ever before on George Street, but the top reason for visiting George Street (38% of visitors) was reported as ‘window shopping’ while a much lower number (20%) said ‘shopping’, which was fourth on the list of reasons to visit.

This fits with a UK-wide trend: an increase in ‘showrooming’ in city centre retail areas, where the more clued-up consumer (a typical George Street shopper, perhaps) is browsing in-store but buying online, in some part encouraged by greater consumer protection offered to online purchases, especially for clothing and tailored goods). The Council will work closely with businesses in looking for ways to address this trend.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

A number of people locally have asked me ‘Why are you even doing this?’, and ‘What was wrong with George Street as it was before?’ Those are perfectly valid and reasonable questions, in my book.

To those people, I point out that George Street pre-trial had fewer people visiting, for less time, and returning less frequently. People sometimes forget that the traffic levels were so intense before that George Street recorded quite dangerous (and failing) levels of air quality for a number of years in a row (they are improving now, and people are coming with greater frequency). There were a lot more buses, and one impact of that was to reduce the visibility of the shops and the architecture on the other side of the road, it all being obscured by the traffic. These are all areas the trial is improving.

I do have a number of people approaching me to (by and large) quote John Stark in the 1806 Gazetteer of Scotland. Mr Stark said famously that George Street had ‘no rival in Europe, or perhaps the world, for the grandeur of its appearance, the elegance of its architecture or its exact uniformity’.

Returning the street to some of this glory is a driving force for me in the project. However, I would qualify that by noting Edinburgh has (in the recent past) suffered a little when mixing hyperbole and complacency, and I’m keen to avoid that happening on George Street in 2015. For example, I remember 25–30 years ago people pointing to the view of the castle from Princes Street and being bold enough to say ‘Princes Street will always be one of the finest shopping streets in Europe because no other street has that view going for it. It will never go downhill’. That mix of complacency and hyperbole masked the issues facing Princes Street. The castle is still there, as is the view, but the perception of Princes Street has dipped dramatically in the intervening years.

So, when people ask me ‘Why are you doing this?’ and ‘What was wrong with George Street before?’, and then they say to me ‘What are you doing to the finest street in Europe?’ I do feel compelled to point out that this is the perfect moment for the community (locals, businesses, workers, visitors, diners, retailers, commuters, drivers, cyclists) to be asking what George Street is to be for in the future. It needs to work hard to maintain and enhance that perception of high quality.

The nearby St James development will create a high-quality environment for shopping and leisure facilities, and is due to be completed in 2020. My honest take on matters is that George Street, in its previous layout, would not withstand this competition, and – if we simply rolled back the trial, the research, and the fledgling design process that are underway – we could have another Princes Street on our hands where a mixture of complacency and hyperbole would see George Street sleepwalk into decline.

I want to keep in people’s minds that ‘the finest street in Europe’ will only retain that lustre if we all work together to achieve it. We have some of the finest heritage expertise in the country, some of the sharpest retail brains and a passionate community within the New Town of Edinburgh, and my role is to make this project accessible to all so that the unrivalled expertise we have locally can contribute to the success of George Street in future.

On a final note, I do have retailers and residents on other nearby streets contacting me and posing a different question. They ask, ‘Why is George Street getting all the benefit of this research, the heritage expertise, the design champion, the local community engagement, and why not us, too?’ I’m mindful that I’m the City Centre Programme Manager (not the George Street Manager) and that my employers are the City of Edinburgh Council (not the George Street Council) so these questioners absolutely have a point.

My reply to them is that George Street is the starting point for a civic discussion on a new, dynamic city centre. There are huge challenges facing city centres all over the UK and beyond. Edinburgh is no different. George Street is the starting point for that wider discussion.

We need a baseline of empirical data on how people move around, how they feel about the many varied places in a city centre which is of such calibre that it has been recognised by UNESCO. We also need to understand how city-centre retail and leisure patterns have changed and are changing (the ‘showrooming’ data for example) and how to respond to that, as a city. We have five to six years before the St James development is complete, which represents five to six years in which to steal a march. We need a clear vision of what George Street is for and how to make the best use of the exceptional cultural and architectural inheritance it provides.

In so doing, we need to respect the local community and encourage the wide variety of leisure, office and retail uses that have thrived in recent times on George Street, providing an environment that will help them thrive across a much longer-term timeframe.

I hope this lengthy contribution has explained the rationale for the trial. There are great risks and dangers around for city-centre streets, and these next few months are about getting it right on George Street for the long haul.

I really am grateful to the Spurtle for setting up the comments thread, and to all their contributors. I’ll look to respond individually from now on, and I’d be happy to attend a public gathering early in the new year if Spurtle readers felt that would be useful, too.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 11:13 AM   #3
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City centre chief wants George Street traffic ban

Edinburgh Evening News - 12th March, 2015

Quote:
A radical shake-up of one of Edinburgh’s flagship thoroughfares should be ordered, to hand over much more space to pedestrians, cyclists, al-fresco bars and restaurants and festival events, a city centre chief has urged.

Andy Neal, outgoing chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, has suggested making George Street traffic-free at certain times of the year or during the day to boost its fortunes.

Mr Neal said he believed there was “overwhelming” public support to make permanent moves to curb traffic levels, by reducing car parking spaces, having buses re-routed elsewhere and creating more outdoor seating areas.

Mr Neal, who leaves his post this month, has warned it would be a backward step if the city council scrapped an ongoing experiment which has seen some parts of the street closed to traffic since last summer and a one-way traffic system introduced. The 12-month pilot, which allows cyclists to travel both ways along the street, was approved following successful experiments during the Fringe.

Mr Neal said damage had been done to buildings and the road surface when buses were rerouted down George Street to accommodate tram works. He believed Princes Street will be prioritised as the city’s “main transport artery” in future.

His views have emerged as the council revealed figures showing three quarters of visitors to George Street think its overall appearance had improved over the course of its trial. Consultants found 79 per cent of pedestrians had an improved experience, while 70 per cent of cyclists said they had benefited.

Three quarters of all respondents were in favour of permanent pedestrianised spaces for seating, al-fresco dining or cultural activities. Less than half (42 per cent) felt car parking was important.

Mr Neal said: “George Street is a great place, but when you fill it with cars and buses the quality of the experience of being able to enjoy it is reduced.

“There should be much more emphasis for pedestrians and, to some extent, for cyclists as well. They have probably got more out of it just now than the experience for pedestrians.

“It should be a better place for pedestrians to walk along and dwell. We should be creating spaces for people to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, or read a newspaper. I’m definitely in favour of more space and emphasis for pedestrians and cyclists versus traffic, particularly buses.

“I don’t see it all one way or the other. I think we’ll have some kind of mixed use, perhaps at different times of the day or year. But I don’t see it going back to car parking in the middle of the street and two lanes of traffic going in both directions as the future. Everyone’s seen a glimpse of a better way.”

City transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “After the trial is over and we’ve evaluated it fully, we look forward to consulting on permanent changes to make George Street attractive to residents, shoppers and tourists.”
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Old March 12th, 2015, 12:50 PM   #4
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And the council's endless drive to make east to west travel in Edinburgh continues apace...
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Old May 28th, 2015, 09:58 AM   #5
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Pedestrianised route in Edinburgh city centre reverting back to road

STV Edinburgh - 27th May, 2015

Quote:
A major street in Edinburgh will revert to its traditional layout in September following a year-long pedestrianisation trial.

The trial saw more of George Street given over to pedestrians and outdoor seating for restaurants and bars.

A dedicated cycle lane running from Charlotte Square to St Andrew Square was also included in the trial design.

Most recently, "tiny parklets" were added to the pedestrian areas in a bid to tempt shoppers to the street.

Although traffic is to return to both sides of the street from September, council officials are recommending that an interim advisory cycle lane is retained on both sides of the street.

This means that the street will return to its previous layout with cars returning to driving along both sides of the streets and tables and chairs removed from the road for around nine months while decisions are made about the future of the street.

More changes in the pipeline

The George Street trial may be coming to an end, but officials have already begun work on a final design for the street which officials say will include a segregated bike route.

They estimate it will take another nine months to a year to complete the legal processes needed to agree a final design and make permanent changes to the street layout.

Transport convener Lesley Hinds says this is a process carried out in many places around the world.

"There was a trial period for a year and during that year, there was public consultations, open meetings, with people engaging - businesses, residents and other organisations - and putting forward what they liked about the experimental trial and what they didn't like,” she said.

"In that time, we have been consulting and asking what works and what doesn't works. This is what happens in New York and other places."

Feedback gathered from the trial design of the street shows that cyclists do not like moving from one side of George Street to the other and [people] do not like the temporary structures which were added, but do like the increased space for pedestrians and having cafes outside.

"One of the biggest criticisms that Edinburgh has had is that they have just gone in and put in things," cllr Hinds said.

"It was always said at the beginning it would be a trial period and, come September, it would go back to the way it was.

"We will be coming forward with proposals that will take account what people thought were positive - which was dedicated cycling route, and also for pedestrians to be able to have that nicer environment which has worked in every single capital city in Europe and in places like New York."

The next stakeholder meeting will take place at 10am on June 15 at Assembly Rooms which anyone can attend - and a full consultation will follow to assess what aspects of the trial worked well, a process Essential Edinburgh says it will be fully involved in.

Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said. “Essential Edinburgh will play a key role in assisting in this consultation and taking forward the views of all the businesses in the BID area.

“Once this is complete Essential Edinburgh will take these views forward with the City of Edinburgh Council and other stakeholders.”
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Old June 15th, 2015, 06:44 PM   #6
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Jaw-jaw on George Street

Broughton Spurtle - 15th June, 2015

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Stakeholders and Council officials met today in a public meeting to discuss the latest visitor research findings on the George Street experimental lay-out.

The figures were compiled by interviewing 100 people each month in March, April and May this year.

Attached below are the raw data presented at the meeting, and a presentation by CEC’s Iain MacPhail.

Summarising what had been learned from the trial so far, MacPhail highlighted:

• Need to preserve symmetry of street layout
• Civic uses should not be permanently blocked by private/corporate structures/enclosures
• Desirability of improved cycle facilities and segregated cycle lane
• Importance of accessibility
• Majority support for limited retention of car parking spaces
• Flexible patterns of use for different times of year
• Need for clutter-free access
• Barriers needed to exclude non-compliant drivers
• Buses and taxis found fault with experimental layout
• Need to facilitate cross-city traffic, especially at Hanover Street.

Files

George Street (2)-2.pdf
George Street-2.pdf
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Old June 29th, 2015, 02:48 PM   #7
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Full update on George Street: George Street quarterly public stakeholder meeting minutes – 15 June 2015

The main points:

Ironside Farrar appointed to lead design process for the new layout.
Potential layouts identified and assessed by late 2015.
Preferred layout selected in the first half of 2016.
Works to be completed 2-3 years before St James opens in 2020.
Likely design principles based on the trial: symmetry is paramount; clutter-free (so temporary removable coverage); reduced car parking; segregated cycle lanes on a conventional layout.
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Old August 12th, 2015, 04:22 PM   #8
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Open day consultation tomorrow at Roxburghe Hotel on future options for George St, following the trials and research feedback last year.

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/art..._street_layout
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Old September 24th, 2015, 10:27 AM   #9
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Have your say on the future layout for George Street

City of Edinburgh Council - 22nd September, 2015

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The public are invited to share their views to help shape the future of one of Edinburgh’s key thoroughfares.

An open day, on Friday 2nd October, will give people a final chance to meet the designers, landscape architects, planners and civil engineers working on a long-term vision for George Street. Now that the trial year has come to a conclusion, they will be taking public views as the long-term design begins to take shape.

The trial has been used to test the impacts on the street and surrounding area when there is more space for pedestrians, cyclists and events, and less space for traffic. The trial was the first time any council in Scotland has used an “Experimental” Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) as a place making and design measure. It is a legal requirement that, at the end of a trial using an ETRO, the street must be returned to its previous layout before the long term plan is settled upon and put to the public.

Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “During the time-limited year-long trial on George Street we worked closely with local residents, businesses, transport groups, heritage bodies and members of the public to test what worked and what did not. Put simply, we want George Street to reach its full potential.

"People's views are important in helping us to do that. Over the past year public quarterly meetings were held at the Assembly Rooms, with capacity attendances, where the Council encouraged experts and local people to run the research project, ensuring the results of the trial were credible. 1,200 people provided their views to an independent research team. Now, on 2 October, you can give your views on the future layout for this great street directly to the design team.”

The public meeting on Friday 2 October from 2pm until 7pm in the Assembly Rooms is an important last chance for residents to have their say on the future layout for George Street.
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Old September 29th, 2015, 12:26 PM   #10
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City divided over future of George Street

Edinburgh Evening News - 29th September, 2015

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The future shape of one of the Capital’s most prestigious streets is up for debate – and opinions are divided on the best way forward.

Proposals for the design, lay-out and traffic flows on George Street are still being finalised following a controversial year-long trial which involved a dedicated two-way cycle lane and a one-way system for general traffic, as well as marquees for al fresco dining.

The public are being invited to give their views at an open day in the Assembly Rooms on Friday.

Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, who is on the steering group on the future of the street, said there had been a mixed reaction to the experimental layout and lessons had to be learned.

“Some businesses liked it and benefited from it, others didn’t,” she said.

“George Street is now the most important street in Edinburgh and needs to be treated with that in mind. Any proposals have to be thought through, funded and have the quality the street demands.”

Ms Williams said the experimental layout left pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles in frequent conflict. “When they make it more permanent, there is a lot needs to be done to divert traffic away before they get there.

“A lot of people complained about there not being any buses, so that’s an interesting one to try to resolve.”

But she said George Street could not be considered in isolation. “You can’t just take one street on its own – it’s part of a network. If they fail to 
recognise its place in the bigger picture, it won’t be right.”

She said the pedestrian had to be the “principal player” in the new design. Her own preference was for the road to be decluttered, with street furniture stripped out to leave a broad expanse.

She said the marquees outside restaurants had not worked as well as people had hoped. “The way they had one on this side, one on that side, different quality and different awnings completely upset the balance of the street.

“Cafe culture is great, but you don’t get it all year round. We have to accept we’re not in the Mediterranean and we’re not going to have eight months of the year when you can sit out in the sunshine.”

She also voiced fears about how changes were to be funded.

“The council is always saying it has no money and lots of people are going to be losing their jobs. Someone needs to stand up and say there is money to do this.”

Tony Kenmuir, a director of Central Taxis, was sceptical about the likely changes. He said: “The best thing would be if they stopped skiddling with it. You have to reach a point where there is an acceptance the city centre doesn’t function if traffic and public transport cannot move as freely as possible.

“There is a large section of people who don’t go to the higher-value shops if you can’t get a car near them. It has been working fine for decades – how about they just leave it alone?”

He said there were many empty offices in the city centre because businesses were put off by the lack of access.

“I had someone in the taxi the other day who was considering relocating to George Street and was going to look at premises, but he didn’t even bother getting out to look when he realised you couldn’t get a taxi near it.

“They say they want to extend the life of Princes Street and George Street into the evenings, but if you don’t have an office economy during the day there’s no-one there to go for lunch or a drink after work.

“It’s really key for office staff to have access to public transport and taxis during the day”.

But Dave du Feu of cycle group Spokes was more enthusiastic about the year-long trial.

“Overall there has been a pretty positive response to the experiment from both cyclists and the general public,” he said.

“One of the questions asked of cyclists using George Street is had they cycled more as a result of the cycle lane being there and 40 per cent said they had.”

He said there had been “niggles” with the experimental scheme. “At one point the cycle lane changed from one side of George Street to the other. That was definitely a problem, but overall people were very supportive.

“They’ve told us the final design is still being worked on, but we have had fairly strong indications it will include segregated cycle lanes on each side of the road.”

The experiment involved a two-way cycle lane on one side of the road, but Mr du Feu said one-way lanes on each side were “probably better”.

“It would make it easier at roundabouts, where you had to cross from one side of the road to the other. For confident cyclists, it was not a problem, but part of the purpose of these lanes is to encourage people who are more nervous or novices. The idea is they should be suitable for an unaccompanied 12-year-old.”

Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, had serious reservations about repeating the changes made during the trial.

“Al fresco dining is a good idea – people want to do it and it looks good,” he said. “But those white plastic marquees looked appalling. In the middle of a World Heritage city having these marquees on little platforms made out of garden decking was embarrassing.”

And he said another change in traffic flows on George Street would just add to existing confusion for motorists.

“Lots of people say they never know which way the roads in the centre of Edinburgh go any more. Every time they come in there’s a new diversion or a new road closed. It’s very confusing for people.”

He said the development of the Edinburgh St James was going to mean major disruption next year and suggested George Street should be “left alone” at least until that was finished.

Proposals for George Street, taking into account public feedback, are expected to be presented to councillors in December.

City transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “During the time-limited year-long trial we worked closely with local residents, businesses, transport groups, heritage bodies and members of the public to test what worked and what did not. Put simply, we want George Street to reach its full potential. People’s views are important in helping us to do that.”

The open day at the Assembly Rooms, George Street, on Friday will run from 2pm- 7pm.
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Old October 4th, 2015, 03:12 PM   #11
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Some interesting impressions from last week's George Street consultation over on the CityCyclingEdinburgh forum. Design work still at an early stage of course, but it seems as though the favoured option is a straightforward layout of widened pavements, segregated cycle lane and the central parking area replaced with parallel parking spaces and a central carriageway. According to more than one poster, the impression from consultants was that full pedestrianisation is still the ultimate aim.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/wingpig/21269875184/
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Old October 4th, 2015, 05:44 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Kenspeckle View Post
Some interesting impressions from last week's George Street consultation over on the CityCyclingEdinburgh forum. Design work still at an early stage of course, but it seems as though the favoured option is a straightforward layout of widened pavements, segregated cycle lane and the central parking area replaced with parallel parking spaces and a central carriageway. According to more than one poster, the impression from consultants was that full pedestrianisation is still the ultimate aim.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/wingpig/21269875184/
Hi @Kenspeckle any ideas what the thinking in urban street design is regarding making parking central ? Would it be potentially too dangerous to disembark from? I see the thinking behind, and simplicity of the proposal shown on the right here but think putting the parallel parking in the middle of the road with a central pavement would potentially open up the street even more. So it would read pavement, cycle lane, traffic lane, parallel parking then central pathway and repeat. I can't help but think this way would be easier for pedestrians to cross, would keep opening doors away from bicycles (still one car side would open into traffic but that would be the case anyway with the proposal here) as well as visually opening up the street more for those sitting on the pavement tables. Any thoughts ?

I'm imagining as in Exhibition Road, London and various other shared roadways in London and NL the intention is to create as little surface height difference as possible ? Instead using pattern or colour to delineate edges ? Otherwise I'm ok with some traffic, full pedestrianised streets often seem messy and unruly somehow...
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Old October 4th, 2015, 06:58 PM   #13
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Old October 4th, 2015, 07:18 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by nivison View Post
Hi @Kenspeckle any ideas what the thinking in urban street design is regarding making parking central ? Would it be potentially too dangerous to disembark from? I see the thinking behind, and simplicity of the proposal shown on the right here but think putting the parallel parking in the middle of the road with a central pavement would potentially open up the street even more. So it would read pavement, cycle lane, traffic lane, parallel parking then central pathway and repeat. I can't help but think this way would be easier for pedestrians to cross, would keep opening doors away from bicycles (still one car side would open into traffic but that would be the case anyway with the proposal here) as well as visually opening up the street more for those sitting on the pavement tables. Any thoughts ?

I'm imagining as in Exhibition Road, London and various other shared roadways in London and NL the intention is to create as little surface height difference as possible ? Instead using pattern or colour to delineate edges ? Otherwise I'm ok with some traffic, full pedestrianised streets often seem messy and unruly somehow...
It's an interesting idea and sounds better than the current central parking set-up but I'm not sure "dooring" should be an issue with the proposed design. Though it's probably best not to read too much into these images, since the design work is at such an early stage, it looks as if there's a buffer between the parking spaces and the cycle lane. An advantage of the central carriageway shown at the exhibition would be the flexibility to omit parking altogether in select areas to create more generous pedestrian space without compromising the overall design - outside the Assembly Rooms for instance, or even the central third of each block if they were bold enough.

I'm not convinced that the final plan will be a truly shared surface approach, though I'd imagine they will likely raise the road level a bit closer to the pavement as you suggest. Personally, I would like to see full pedestrianisation but I think there'll be too much resistance for it to ever happen. I think I put this in a post a year or two ago, but my pie-in-the-sky dream for George Street would be to resurrect the underground parking proposal, keep the street traffic-free apart from a heritage tram running from Charlotte Sq to St Andrew Sq and cycle provision, top quality hard landscaping with plenty of benches, etc, and a grand avenue of trees... you can never have too many trees!
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Old October 4th, 2015, 08:37 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Kenspeckle View Post
It's an interesting idea and sounds better than the current central parking set-up but I'm not sure "dooring" should be an issue with the proposed design. Though it's probably best not to read too much into these images, since the design work is at such an early stage, it looks as if there's a buffer between the parking spaces and the cycle lane. An advantage of the central carriageway shown at the exhibition would be the flexibility to omit parking altogether in select areas to create more generous pedestrian space without compromising the overall design - outside the Assembly Rooms for instance, or even the central third of each block if they were bold enough.

I'm not convinced that the final plan will be a truly shared surface approach, though I'd imagine they will likely raise the road level a bit closer to the pavement as you suggest. Personally, I would like to see full pedestrianisation but I think there'll be too much resistance for it to ever happen. I think I put this in a post a year or two ago, but my pie-in-the-sky dream for George Street would be to resurrect the underground parking proposal, keep the street traffic-free apart from a heritage tram running from Charlotte Sq to St Andrew Sq and cycle provision, top quality hard landscaping with plenty of benches, etc, and a grand avenue of trees... you can never have too many trees!
Totally get the point of omitting the parking on set points to widen the pavement (although still bisected by a bike lane ?). Possibly on balance makes that way preferable, but living partly in central Ams and not being the biggest cyclist, as a pedestrian I see many issues when trying to navigate moving bikes, then parked cars then two lanes of moving traffic to cross the road. Even there with so many years of experience the pedestrian surprisingly often comes off worst and I would hate, like you, to see that happen in Edi, so hope they include plenty of those extended areas you talk of to compensate. I guess with the central parking solution they could also omit parking and create a series of central islands (mirroring the central statues at the roundabouts), with planting, trees, seating even. Get rid of the parking completely then, and you have a central reservation - promenade - with trees and walking the whole length as you often find in Spanish cities for example.

I do see the rather narrow looking strip between parked cars and bikes, but again not sure it is really wide enough for the sake of the cyclists on these drawings. If you imagine what you do when you get out of a car you tend to step away to close the door, particularly when not seeing other vehicular traffic, again every day I see people step into bike lanes when disembarking cars. If you combine not enough space for everyone with any raised edges preventing bikes from veering quickly it could possibly even end up being rather dangerous.

Boris's bike superhighway is throwing up quite a few other issues with sunken bike lanes, and changes in hard landscaping height (rubbish trapped in the edges, difficulties crossing with pushchairs, for the infirm/elderly etc), and I hope Edi takes note. Variations of "shared space" now seems always preferable, the days of corralling walkers into few and specific crossing points etc seems very retrograde.

As I don't live in Edi my 'on the ground vision' so to speak is from memory and google earth, but it almost seems there simply isn't the width to have much wider pavements with either of these solutions. Ok so you are turning the cars 90degrees but by the time you create two 'lanes' of parking, you put in the dedicated bike lane and a wide enough separation strip is there really much extra space left to make those pavements noticeably wider ? Or are they playing a little fast and loose with the real width of the cars/road on these proposals ?!

Your idea sounds lovely tho, trees and trams. The trams and bikes would be enough to 'control' the pedestrians just enough, one big open space can sometimes encourages a too intense level of random strolling !

I could go on, urban planning and general outdoor design of city streets can transform cities in a most profound way. I would definitely have been at the exhibition with my two pence worth !
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Old October 4th, 2015, 08:44 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by nivison View Post
As I don't live in Edi my 'on the ground vision' so to speak is from memory and google earth, but it almost seems there simply isn't the width to have much wider pavements with either of these solutions. Ok so you are turning the cars 90degrees but by the time you create two 'lanes' of parking, you put in the dedicated bike lane and a wide enough separation strip is there really much extra space left to make those pavements noticeably wider ? Or are they playing a little fast and loose with the real width of the cars/road on these proposals ?!
Looking at the drawings it appears to me that the extra pavement space and cycle lane is coming at the expense of a lane of traffic in either direction (as well as turning the parked cars 90 degrees), which will also mean slower traffic on George Street with buses stopping - a good thing in my opinion.
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Old October 4th, 2015, 11:50 PM   #17
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I'd like trees but I'm aware that there'd probably be significant resistance from fans of James Craig.
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Old October 5th, 2015, 09:59 AM   #18
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I'd like trees but I'm aware that there'd probably be significant resistance from fans of James Craig.
Ha! You're probably right, though I'm sure I read once that the original edicts for the New Town forbade trees in the St Andrew Square and Charlotte Square and near the northern boundary of Princes Street gardens. Breaking that rule hasn't worked out too badly.
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Old October 5th, 2015, 11:16 AM   #19
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Spot on Belle. If George Street isn't suited to being a true 'avenue' then not sure what is.
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Old December 7th, 2015, 12:28 PM   #20
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George Street Public Realm Project

New design for George Street to be unveiled

The Herald - 7th December, 2015

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New "cafe culture" plans to improve one of Edinburgh’s busiest shopping thoroughfares after a year-long part pedestrianisation trial are due to be unveiled by designers.

Edinburgh City Council has appointed Ironside Farrar to use the information gleaned from the George Street experiment to come up with “design principles” for a long-term layout for the street.

Previous studies found more people than before were out and about on George Street during the trial and people were lingering longer, spending around three hours on average when visiting the street.

A cycle lane was also included in the trial and parts of the street closed to traffic.

In September 2014 the street was transformed with the introduction of a dedicated two-way cycle lane and a one-way system for general traffic and buses.

The council had an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order in place to test out different types of street layout.

Quarterly meetings have been held, encouraging feedback from more than 1,500 interested members of the public and businesses, which will be used to inform a long-term design.

Both sides of the street were reopened to traffic on a block-by-block basis in September, along with the implementation of a new advisory cycle lane as agreed by the council’s transport committee in June.

The purpose of the trial and its test results has been to find out what would "help the street reach its potential".

Initial designs for the George Street aimed to reduce traffic-dominated blocks, improving the quality of the pedestrian experience and encouraging a café culture. They were drawn up following consultation with shops and other businesses and the public.

Over the period of the trial, regular on-street interviews with passers-by and engagement with firms allowed project leaders to gauge support for changes, which also included outdoor seating for cafes and restaurants and the introduction of the city’s first "parklets".

The design team is using the information gathered to create design principles for the future of the street, with a report expected by the end of the year.

The council said it would not make any permanent and costly changes are made without first consulting and involving the public.

Amongst the findings were the importance of cycling facilities to the future of the street to respondents, the need for George Street to be accessible to all and the preference for symmetry in any long-term designs.

Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh transport convener, said: “The George Street trial really allowed us to listen to the public and respond to their needs - it was a true experiment.

"The whole point of the project was to enhance the environment for pedestrians, cyclists and shoppers, and its success was demonstrated by increased footfall and frequent use of the cycle route.

“We have continued to work with the public and stakeholders, along with appointed designers, to build a vision for the street’s future, so I look forward to seeing the outcome.”

One source said cafe culture would be likely to continue.

He said: "There will probably be wider pavements and cafes spilling out. And more focus on the West side to redress the balance, at least during festival time."
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