Environmentalists have welcomed the start of the Edinburgh Council Open Streets initiative on Sunday 5th May. A number of streets will be closed to cars and other vehicles from 12 noon to 5pm. The move was backed in a public consultation and will cut harmful air pollution from vehicles in the city.

A series of events have been organised to celebrate the launch, including jazz performances in Dunbar Close Garden, Tai Chi on the High Street, electronic bike trials on Victoria Street and the free use of Just Eat hire bikes.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Air Pollution Campaigner, Gavin Thomson commented,

“Opening up our streets to people will show us what we are missing by allowing cars to dominate and pollute our public spaces. By giving more people the freedom to walk and cycle safely, we can cut air pollution, reduce our climate emissions and make Edinburgh a better place to live and work.”

“Edinburgh Council should be praised for leading the way in tackling air pollution by getting to the heart of the problem which is traffic. It would be great to see other councils in Scotland introduce these ideas which are now commonplace across Europe.”

“In recent months Edinburgh Council has put game-changing, modern transport plans on the table, which, if all implemented, could make the air on our streets safe to breathe again and transform the city into one of the best in the world. If Councillors back these changes, which are supported by the public, they could make our streets safer, enable easier movement for everyone and provide a boost to business. We’re still waiting to see details of the Low Emission Zone, which needs to cover the whole city and ensure the most polluting vehicles are restricted

“Air pollution at several sites in the city is breaking legal limits that should have been met years ago. The mounting evidence of the health impacts of air pollution, allied with legal requirements to clean up the air, make the case clear for action like this.”


Earlier this year, Friends of the Earth Scotland identified 4 sites in Edinburgh with illegal pollution levels

Dirtiest streets for Nitrogen Dioxide

The European Ambient Air Quality Directive set a limit for NO2 of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre, so all these sites are breaking the legal limit. The deadline for compliance was 1 January 2010.

Location / NO2 Annual mean (µg/m3)
Edinburgh Queensferry Road / 50.54
Edinburgh Nicolson Street / 49.22
Edinburgh St John’s Road / 46.32

Dirtiest streets for Particulate Matter

The Scottish annual statutory standard for particulate matter (PM10) is 18 micrograms per cubic metre, so two of these sites are breaking the standard. The deadline for this standard to have been met was 31st December 2010.

Location / PM10 Annual mean (µg/m3)
Edinburgh Queensferry Road / 24.15
Edinburgh Salamander St / 20.83


  1. Edinburgh Council Open Streets press release: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/2645/edinburgh_set_to_open_its_streets_to_the_people
  2. Edinburgh Council Open Streets Homepage http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/connectingplaces/info/9/consultation/20/open_streets_consultation
  3. Item 7.2 on Edinburgh Council Transport & Environment Committee meeting on 28th February showed widespread public support for ‘Edinburgh: Connecting our city, Transforming our places’ strategy http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/4653/transport_and_environment_committee
  4. Revealed: Scotland’s most polluted streets in 2018 https://foe.scot/press-release/scotlands-most-polluted-streets-2018/
  5. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
    * Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
    * An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
    * Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.