Key Active Travel Project Meadows to George Street Reaches Milestone

Submitted by edg on Fri, 19 Apr '24 11.39pm
Meadows to George St Project - North Bridge

The Meadows to George Street Project, part of a wider plan to improve cycling, walking, accessibility, and enhance public space in Edinburgh city centre, reached a new milestone this week, as the statutory orders needed to progress to the construction stage were advertised.

The 0.9 mile, North-South route through Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town has long suffered from congestion and gridlock, and accompanying pollution for residents, as evidenced by this video shot during the Festival.

The City of Edinburgh plan will introduce a continuous separated cycleway along the route, with wider pavements for pedestrians and a reduction in general traffic access in order to prioritise buses.

Safer walking and rolling

Cycle improvements include a single (rather than two) stage crossing from the top of the Middle Meadow Walk cycleway to a car-free Forrest Road.

Forrest Road will have widened pavements providing space for cafe patio seating and rain gardens, with a dual-directional cycleway down the middle. Buses will be diverted to two-way Bristo Place.

After the Forrest Road section, the cycle route becomes a segregated, bi-directional bike route on the east side of George IV Bridge. A signalised crossing at the north end of Forrest Road links the two. The route continues along George IV Bridge, across the Royal Mile, down the Mound and crosses Princes Street where it splits to become a separated, uni-directional cycleway on either side of Hanover street.

A short way up the road, the route links with the George Street and First New Town project, and cyclists can link up with City Centre West to East Link (CCWEL), which officially opened last month and continue to the north via Leith Walk. The routes also run alongside the Roseburn to Union Canal active travel project.

Having both cycle lanes on the east side of the street, from Princes Street to Forrest Road, was deemed better to support dedicated loading opportunities on the west side where the current loading demand is highest and a widening of footways and placemaking on the west side.

“Initial modelling has shown that journey times for cyclists are not significantly different when comparing an east side cycleway to a west side cycleway,” the project web site says.

The drawback of having cyclists going in both directions will probably be most apparent on the steep climb on the Mound where faster or electric-assisted cyclists may get stuck behind slower cyclists climbing the steep hill, while in the adjacent lane, oncoming cyclists are descending at full speed.

Other changes the project includes are the closure of Candlemaker Row (the street by the statue of Greyfriar's Bobby) to all vehicles apart from the no. 2 bus and service and loading vehicles.

The top of the Mound will have a bus gate at North Bank Street stopping cars between 6am and 10pm.

On Market Street a new bus gate is proposed at the junction of Jeffery Street, permitting buses, taxi and
cycle through access only.

Broader Active Travel Network

The Meadows to George Street is a key project within Edinburgh’s City Centre Transformation, and the Our Future Streets approach of the City Mobility Plan, which was approved by Council members in February 2024.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Scott Arthur said:

“We’re keen to get on and deliver the changes proposed so it’s important that we take the time to re-engage with those along the route and take them along with us on this exciting journey. We understand the impact these projects can have on the local community, in particular businesses, and we will be working closely with them throughout to support them and ensure the benefits are maximised."

"Edinburgh is a city with big ambitions. Through schemes such as this we’re sending a clear signal as to the sort of Capital we’re aspiring to be. From reaching net zero by 2030, to enhancing our already excellent public transport networks and making sure our residents are at the heart of everything we do, I’m really excited to see what the future holds," he added.

There has been extensive public consultation throughout the project and in 2019, engagement showed 78% overall support for the project.

"We will also be engaging with local residents, businesses and community representatives through a programme of door-to-door distribution, email, workshops, drop-in events, and information packs,” said Councillor Arthur.

Sustrans Scotland funding

Financial contributions by the Council are match funded by the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland funds Places for Everyone through Sustrans Scotland.

Karen McGregor, Scotland Director for Sustrans said:

"This is a hugely exciting time to be in Edinburgh, and a massive achievement within the context of active travel.

The all-new walking, wheeling and cycling links Meadows to George Street is set to deliver will absolutely transform everyday journeys for thousands of people living and working in the city, not to mention those visiting every year.

We’d like to thank the whole community for their continuing involvement and support, and for the clear ambition they have shown in pushing this project forward."

Construction of the Meadows to George Street plan is expected to start in 2025/2026.