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Confusion in Aberdeen pedestrianised zone amid claims absent road closure signs risk lives

Cars in the pedestrianised section of Schoolhill in Aberdeen. The council removed signs signalling the road closure to "soften" the look of the physical distancing measures, but it is claimed the confusion is risking lives.
Picture by KATH FLANNERY
Cars in the pedestrianised section of Schoolhill in Aberdeen. The council removed signs signalling the road closure to "soften" the look of the physical distancing measures, but it is claimed the confusion is risking lives. Picture by KATH FLANNERY

Changes are to be made in Aberdeen city centre after concerns were raised about the potential for a fatal crash in a temporarily pedestrianised area due to “confused” drivers.

The P&J took fears for the safety of pedestrians in the car-free zone in Schoolhill to the council, after witnessing vehicles speed through the area.

Aberdeen man Ross McLean, who looks over the busy stretch during his working day and has witnessed a number of near misses, revealed worries it would “inevitably lead to an accident”.

Before a vow to bring in more signage, he said: “I feel I am literally waiting for the moment I’d have to be a key witness in a death due to the confusion.”

Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate were closed between Back Wynd and Flourmill Lane as one of the first council measures to create space for physical distancing, the strip contains the crossing between the two Bon Accord shopping centres.

Changes have been introduced in Union Street, across the city centre and in Torry and Rosemount too, with more to come as part of a £1.76million project.

Mr McLean added: “Initially I was ecstatic about the pedestrianisation as I routinely witnessed vehicles nearly collide with people walking between the two shopping centre buildings, not realising it was an active road.

“However that excitement was dampened as I witnessed trust grow in the pedestrianisation – until the city council removed the road closure signs, near Back Wynd, and turned off the crossing lights.

“Now cars just meander around the blockades and speed between pedestrians, who have no safe means of crossing or understanding who has right of way.”

At the Back Wynd junction, a barrier has been put across the eastbound carriageway but vehicles can still manoeuvre around it by crossing lanes.

A road closed sign was initially put in place but it has been revealed council officers elected to take it away to try and “soften the look” of the blockade.

Flower planters were put in the middle of the road instead.

The council replaced the signs when Mr McLean first raised concerns more than a week ago although they have since been removed again.

The P&J has witnessed a number of vehicles weaving around the barrier blocking entrance to the the pedestrianised zone this week.

Passing police officers observed a minibus travelling down the street on Monday morning but did not stop the vehicle.

When asked what was being enforced in the area, the pair said a number of drivers had been stopped and fined in the last week for disobeying the signs at Flourmill Lane.

But, they revealed, drivers were getting a pass heading the other way as there were no signs.

Yesterday transport spokeswoman Councillor Sandra Macdonald said the local authority had been trialling a system to make it easier to allow delivery vehicles access between 6pm and 10am.

“It would appear it was a positive move as officers felt the road looked closed and there was a call to soften the sort of industrial look of the measures,” she said.

“It was a trial to see if we could get away from having someone move the barriers every night but if it’s not working we will maybe look at a more substantive solution.

“The road is still shut to motorists and we’re going to put in extra signage to make that clearer.”

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