29
June
2020
|
16:43
Europe/Amsterdam

Thousands of people return to Aberdeen city centre today as some shops allowed to reopen

Thousands of people returned to Aberdeen city centre today as some shops reopened as part of the national route map out of lockdown.

Stores with an entrance facing onto a street were allowed to open their doors to customers from today and some had queuing systems in place to take advantage of the additional pedestrian space created by Aberdeen City Council to help people to physically distance.

Areas around the city, including part of Union Street and nearby streets, are having temporary works installed to allow people to walk, cycle, and queue for buses, to visit shops, bars, and restaurants while adhering to physical distancing guidance and to support the NHS.

Aberdeen City Council transport spokeswoman Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “It was great to see more people in the city centre again, bringing the area to life as some shops were given the green light to reopen.

“As it gets busier in the days and weeks ahead, we are asking people to continue to be considerate of others when walking, cycling, wheeling or driving about. Motorists should also plan their journey ahead, to avoid Union Street, before driving to city centre car parks.

“We want people to enjoy being able to come back into the city centre again and to feel safe doing so. We have implemented measures to make physical distancing possible and we look forward to more shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants reopening in the coming weeks.”

Adrian Watson, chief exeutive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: "It’s been great to see people come back into the city in number today, with the re-opening of our non-essential shops. You can already see how the important it was for the Council to pursue the ‘Spaces for People’ national funding to allow the public to return safely. The businesses opening today have been very responsible in their approach and have been delighted to get going and welcome the customers in. We look forward to seeing numbers build and more businesses open in the coming days and weeks."

Motorists who are coming into the city centre are advised to plan their journey in advance talking appropriate routes which avoid Union Street to access city centre car parks.

People walking, cycling, wheeling and driving about the city have been asked to be considerate to each other as more shops reopen along with bars, cafes and restaurants in the coming weeks.

The messaging asks people to look after themselves and those in their care, stay in their local area and plan ahead and be mindful of others when walking, wheeling and cycling – particularly with regard for disabled people, older people and more vulnerable groups.

It also advises for:

  • People to stay on the left on shared paths, and pass on the right;
  • Cyclists to ring their bell, slow down and be prepared to stop when passing people;
  • Give additional consideration to disabled people who have less option to detour from the path;
  • Everyone to be aware that not all disabilities are visible, and to show the same consideration to all;
  • Dog walkers to clean up after their dog and keep them on lead it there are other people around.

Supported by Aberdeen City Council, the messaging was compiled by Sustrans with input from Public Health Scotland, Transport Scotland, and the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland. More information is available at

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/about-us/our-work-in-scotland/walking-cycling-and-wheeling-during-covid-19-in-scotland/

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 which is being administered by Sustrans, and measures taking place in several locations around the city include temporary pedestrianisation, pavement widening, bike lanes, and one-way walking.

The works will help protect public health by reducing COVID-19 transmission in the city which will in turn reduce the number of cases NHS Grampian’s contact tracing team have to cope with, making their intervention easier and more effective. The temporary measures will further help the economic recovery of the city and allow people to continue to use active travel such as walking and cycling.

The city centre, and Union Street in particular, faces challenges because pavements are not wide enough to accommodate the current 2-metre level of physical distancing.

City centre traffic must re-route to free up carriageway space for businesses, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

The works particularly on Union Street and nearby streets are being put in place before the next lockdown phases are relaxed so when people start returning to Union Street in larger numbers, the space to allow for physical distancing has already been created.

The program of works has been developed with NHS Grampian, transport organisation NESTRANS, and Business Improvement District operator Aberdeen Inspired, and organisations which have been consulted include city centre businesses, bus companies, taxi firms, Police Scotland, the Disability Equity Partnership, and other local groups.

Aberdeen City Council will continue to review, monitor, and evaluate the interventions while discussions are held with stakeholders, and when the measures are in place. The continual reviewing may mean changes to the interventions, and it is also a requirement of the fund, which is being administered by sustainable transport body Sustrans Scotland.

The length of time the temporary measures will be in place will be determined by NHS and Government guidance for physical distancing.