LEADERS in Scotland’s capital could be forced to overhaul controversial emergency pop-up cycle lanes after thousands of residents told council bosses they oppose the measures.

Edinburgh City Council’s Spaces for People programme has led to temporary cycle lanes set up and pavements extended into roads as part of coronavirus measures following funding awarded by the Scottish Government.

A council-run public consultation, which received 17,600 responses – found a majority of locals oppose the policy, apart from safety measures set up outside schools.

The council has also carried out market research with around 600 people which found the public are more supportive of the measures.

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From the public consultation, only 38% of the public support the council’s protected cycle lanes compared to 56% who oppose them. Only 37% of people support measures along shopping streets and 35% back leisure connections.

A specific business consultation found that traders overwhelmingly oppose the policy, including 55% which fail to back safety measures outside schools.

The council’s SNP transport convener, Lesley Macinnes, has admitted some people expected more consultation but has pointed to some “misinformation” being spread about the scheme.

She said: “We were faced with a situation where we had to put these measures in place really quickly. We wanted to give people the space to exercise safely, to get around the city safely when they had to.

“It required us to move quickly. I think a lot of people feel we should have done a greater deal of consultation. But the decision was made early on by this council that we had to move quickly and we had to move in a way that precluded some of that level of engagement that we would normally undertake.”

Ms Macinnes added: “I think there is a feeling that we should have consulted more. There’s been a bit of misinformation out there about the way in which we were making those decisions and the motivations we had behind them.

“There was a lot of chat about us just doing this on order to throw in cycle lanes all over the city. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was very much motivated by protecting our communities.”

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Council officials will now assess each separate project as to whether they should be retained – with criteria including whether the infrastructure encourages walking and cycling, the impact on businesses and public transport.

Recommendations will be considered by councillors later this month for decisions to be made.

Ms Macinnes said the council remains committed to becoming a carbon net zero carbon city by 2030 and cutting the level of in-car commuting across the capital.

The transport convener said she was not alarmed that the negative consultation responses will derail the authority’s ambition to reduce the level of car traffic in the city.

She said: “I’m not concerned that this kind of consultation response will be seen as a block to progress.

“I think it will just help to inform us about the more detailed engagement that will have to take place around certain proposed measures and policies. We need to take people with us on a lot of change.”

Ms Macinnes added: “We’ve already got public buy-in for things like improved pedestrian and cycling facilities. More people want more choice around sustainable transport options.

“What it doesn’t mean is that we’re turning round to everybody and saying ‘you can’t drive your car anymore in Edinburgh’. That would be an entirely ridiculous thing for anybody to be saying.”

Tory MSP for the Lothians, Sue Webber, who is also a city councillor, called for the authority to listen to the strong views of locals, warning a failure to do so could put the capital’s recovery form the pandemic at risk.

She said: “I’m heartened by the strong and clear views from the sheer number of people who have expressed their opposition to the Spaces for People scheme.

“These measures have been causing controversy across the city and if they press ahead and ignore concerned residents and businesses, it could hamper the recovery of the city or getting back to normal."

“It is possible the council could use emergency traffic regulation orders for another 18 months, meaning these temporary measures could be in place for a total of three years during the pandemic, without proper consultation.”