The figurehead of Edinburgh’s controversial Spaces for People scheme has hit back at critics – saying the council is not waging a war on motorists but is sticking up for the 45% of the city’s residents who don’t have access to a car.
Edinburgh City Council’s transport convener, SNP councillor Lesley Macinnes, has frequently been accused of targeting people who commute by car, as the council’s SNP/Labour has installed new temporary cycle lanes, widened pavements and implemented road closures.
The schemes have been installed as part of the Scottish government’s Spaces for People programme, which gave the council £5m at the start of the pandemic to install temporary traffic measures that would allow people to walk, cycle and wheel while maintaining social distancing.
However, the schemes were implemented using Temporary Traffic Regulations Orders (TTROs) which allowed the council to change road layouts without prior consultation with residents.
Although the council has since carried out consultation, and some changes have been amended, critics say these changes have taken too long and the council has abused its power and installed schemes under the guise of Spaces for People, against the will of local residents.
Despite often bearing the brunt of criticism, councillor Macinnes is unrepentant in her mission to help the 45% of Edinburgh residents who don’t have the privilege of having access to a car.
She said: “This is a thing that really gets me, about how the opposition to these changes play this out.
“Conservative Cllr John McLellan, for example, has been regularly banging on since the beginning of this administration about how we’ve got a ‘war on cars’.
“I would flip that around, and say what we’ve got is a campaign to give people more choice, because 45% of the people in this city do not have access to a car – so when we only have policies that support car use, what we’re essentially saying is that 45% don’t matter – well, they matter to me.”
The council first installed the Spaces for People measures using TTROs, which allowed them to install temporary bike lanes, wider pavements and road closures for a maximum of 18 months.
Now, as the council approaches the end of the 18-month TTRO period, city planners are looking at extending the Spaces for People schemes for another 18-month period using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs).