Plan for pedestrians to physically distance and encourage more people to cycle is agreed at committee

A plan which is installing temporary spaces across Aberdeen to help pedestrians physically distance and enable more people to cycle was today agreed at urgent business committee.

The works are being carried out by Aberdeen City Council after a ringfenced £1.76million grant from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund, and measures taking place in several locations around the city include temporary pedestrianisation, pavement widening, bike lanes, and one-way walking.

The works on Union Street and nearby streets have been installed already so the city centre was prepared for allowing people to physically distance and queue safely when some non-essential shops re-opened, yesterday.

The members of urgent business committee unanimously agreed the City Council should submit a further bid or bids to the Spaces for People fund to cover costs associated with maintaining the works, adding further required measures to allow safe access to public building and facilities particularly when schools return, and removing measures as and when they are no longer required.

The report to committee noted that delivery of this programme of works in the city centre and other areas around the city is a priority action that supports a Socio-Economic Rescue Plan 2020/21 for the city.

The report said with lockdown easing now mapped out and being rolled out, and the beginnings of re-opening the economy imminent, it is clear that physical distancing will remain a key part of life for the foreseeable future and therefore the public realm has to be temporarily adapted to facilitate this in line with public health requirements. The Covid-19 Urban Realm task force has therefore collaborated with NHS Grampian, Nestrans and Aberdeen Inspired, and worked in conjunction with the City Council’s Transport spokesperson Councillor Sandra Macdonald to develop a high level city-wide plan to address key pedestrian pinch points and other locations where people are likely to congregate in numbers, and to put in place measures on key corridors to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

Cllr Macdonald said: “Listening in to the committee today it was heartening to hear public health expert, Christopher Littlejohn of NHS Grampian, strongly support the measures that we have taken to ensure that pedestrians can physically distance while walking about and queuing for shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants in the city.

“It was important we installed these measures in the city’s busiest area, the city centre, before large numbers of people returned to the main shopping areas.

“The project team will continue to engage with the public and businesses on the plans as they are in all our best interests to ensure people keep physically distancing and we prevent a second wave of coronavirus in the city.”

The temporary interventions that are likely to be needed to facilitate public health requirements as lockdown eases and businesses re-open include additional walking and cycling priority, reallocation of carriageway space for use by active travel and buses, widened pedestrian crossings, accommodating cycle crossing too where necessary, additional secure cycle parking, signage for cycle routes, and signage encouraging responsible physical distancing behaviour on busy active travel routes and leisure destinations such as the beach and parks.

They also include creating capacity for tables, chairs and associated leisure uses, additional bus priority, space at bus stops and bus stop/ shop entry queue management, relocation of bus stops, review of bus lane times, re-routing of buses, access limited to public transport, residents and deliveries/ loading and unloading, removal of obstacles such as guard rails, introduction of green infrastructure, re-routing for access to off-street car parks, one ways, suspension of kerbside parking, and speed reduction.

The report to committee said it is acknowledged that these temporary Covid-19 public health measures may not be perfect in the first instance as they have been developed at pace in response to the public health emergency and it had not been possible to fully engage with people and stakeholders as would be a usual part of the design process.

Nevertheless, it is recognised that continued public and stakeholder engagement is critical to the success of these temporary Covid-19 public health measures in keeping people safe from harm, reducing the risk of a second wave and enabling businesses to re-open safely and support the Socio-Economic Rescue Plan.

In addition to what has been done already, there will be further press releases, Members’ briefings, Frequently Asked Questions, maps, social media, on street information and signage provided to aid understanding of and compliance with the necessary temporary Covid-19 public health measures.

The report added further and continued engagement is now scheduled with businesses, transport operators, transport user groups, the Disability Equity Partnership, and community councils. Specific engagement has also been held with the two main bus operators, First Bus and Stagecoach.

It said should also be noted that whilst the temporary Covid-19 public health measures are specifically designed to address the physical distancing requirements of this public health emergency, they are also in accord with the City Council’s objectives to build places for people, keep people safe from harm, enable people to make healthy life choices, enable the economy to grow and thrive, to be resilient at times like these and contribute to the net zero carbon agenda.