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Environmental group warns air pollution did not ‘magically vanish’ as Aberdeen traffic returns to nearly 80% pre-lockdown levels

Councillor Sandra Macdonald in the pedestrianised area in Union Street, between Market Street and Bridge Street.
Councillor Sandra Macdonald in the pedestrianised area in Union Street, between Market Street and Bridge Street.

Traffic in Aberdeen has returned to nearly 80% of pre-coronavirus levels as lockdown continues to be eased.

City officials are advising motorists to avoid the city centre, as the local authority rolls out changes to enable physical distancing.

And last night environmental campaigners urged the north-east not to return to old levels of car use – warning problem air pollution had not “magically vanished”.

Many areas of Aberdeen have already been temporarily altered to afford enough room for people to confidently and safely walk, cycle and queue.

The council is now encouraging motorists to better plan their journey and avoid the disruption.

It comes after significant queues for parking at the city’s reopening shopping centres yesterday and reports of confused motorists driving the wrong direction up one-way streets and through cycle lanes.

Council transport spokeswoman Sandra Macdonald said: “It is really heartening to see people coming back into the city for shopping as it supports local jobs and the local economy.

“The road changes and restrictions, particularly the pedestrianisation areas, are designed to allow people to walk in safety by allowing them to physically distance and avoid traffic.

“We ask people to plan their journey before they start and avoid cross city centre routes to avoid congestion and reduce frustrations.

“Ideally they should go to a car park nearest to where they are coming in from, and if they can’t, to use Anderson Drive and the bypass to reach their destination.”

The council is trying to steer those returning to the city after lockdown away from the upheaval.

Drivers from the south are being asked to use car parks to the south of the city centre, in College Street and at Union Square; while those coming from the north should use facilities in East North Street, Loch Street or the Bon Accord Shopping Centre.

The Chapel Street or Denburn multi-storeys are recommended for those from the west.

Public transport use is also being encouraged to help reduce city traffic levels.

In the last month, changes have been rolled out in Union Street, Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate, the West End, Rosemount and Torry – with more to come in the weeks ahead.

Last night, Aberdeen Friends Of The Earth chairman Gregor McAbery said the north-east should “embrace a more people-friendly city centre” and keep traffic levels down.

“Our air pollution problem has not magically vanished, so we will need to reduce car use in city centre areas,” he added.

“The next challenge is to change the messaging regarding bus and train use, as now most people are masked up, it is no longer appropriate to discourage public transport use in of official messaging – full beer gardens are a higher risk than a bus full of masked passengers.

“We should ensure we do not return to the old levels of car use, as the health and economic impacts of that congestion in terms of delays, days off or loss of life due to air pollution or lack of exercise are high.”

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