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Work on Union Street traffic ban to allow safe social distancing to start within weeks

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Work to temporarily part-pedestrianise Union Street in Aberdeen to allow for better social distancing will begin within the coming weeks.

The city council has secured £1.76 million from the Scottish Government to pay for the measures to allow people the space to walk, cycle and shop in safety during the coronavirus lockdown.

Traffic will be steered away from Aberdeen’s granite mile, with only pedestrians, cyclists and public transport allowed between the Castlegate and Holburn Street.

Changes will also be made to busy routes elsewhere in the city.

Changes are to be made to the layout of roads and on-street parking in Rosemount, George Street and Victoria Road in Torry; as well as in Cults, Peterculter and along North Deeside Road.

It has been described as a major step on the road to recovery for many struggling city centre firms and the steps are likely to remain in place in line with government and NHS advice.

The measures are being enforced because a number of pavements around Aberdeen are not wide enough to allow the advised 6ft social distancing.

Funding will also be used to install temporary bike lanes and one-way walking systems through the city centre.

Planned with input from NHS Grampian, business improvement organisation Aberdeen Inspired and transport body Nestrans, the council scheme is hoped to increase safe access at pinch points along popular routes used for leisure and travel to businesses, health facilities, schools and other public buildings and parks.

Additional signs and other measures will be put in place at the city’s green spaces to aid social distancing in light of the high number of visitors taking exercise within them.

Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “We welcome the grant funding which will be used to implement temporary active travel measures, helping to ensure people can walk and cycle during this public health emergency whilst physically distancing and keeping safe from traffic.

“These temporary interventions will help us meet the health and wellbeing needs of residents during this difficult time and will allow people to move safely around Aberdeen which will in turn start the social and economic recovery of the city and the wider region.”

But last night charity RNIB Scotland warned the temporary measures could endanger blind and the partially sighted if planned “too hastily”.

Director James Adams said the new cycle lanes had to be introduced “with full regard to pedestrians with sight loss or other mobility issues” as they might not be able to see or hear bikes approaching.

Speaking to those concerns, a council spokeswoman told The P&J: “These measures will in the first instance be focused on pedestrians, including those physical difficulties, as the most vulnerable users.

“The purpose of the fund is to create safe spaces for all users where ever possible and the council will be endeavouring to do so.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “In order to support the easing of lockdown a number of measures will be required across the city to provide safe space, as per the NHS guidelines.

“These measures will in the first instance be focused on pedestrians, including those physical difficulties, as the most vulnerable users.

“The purpose of the fund is to create safe spaces for all users where ever possible and the council will be endeavouring to do so.

“It must be remembered however that these interventions are temporary and the fund will only support temporary measures.”

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