Christmas 1962: Traffic banned as shoppers take over Kirkcaldy High Street

Kirkcaldy town centre has witnessed many initiatives in a bid to get the balance right between pedestrians and traffic.

By Allan Crow
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 6:17 pm

The days when cars and buses trundled along High Street were ended by the move to pedestrianisation, but the debate hasn’t really stopped.

Next year will see new plans tabled for parking charges - another issue that has spanned the decades - but, in many ways, the Lang Toun has seen it all before.

December 1962 saw an experiment launched which took traffic out of the High Street, and the area handed over entirely to shoppers.

A packed, traffic free Kirkcaldy High Street for Christmas 1962 (Pic: Fife Free Press)

Councillors also opted to try it out on the busiest weekend of the year - right before Christmas.

Only “invalid carriages” - Blue Badge holders would be the modern equivalent - and lorries making deliveries were allowed in.

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Everyone else was told to park up and walk.

How the High Street in Kirkcaldy looked with traffic in December 1962 (Pic: Fife Free Press)

And it seemed to work.

Reported the Fife Free Press: “With pedestrians having a field day, the first reaction from police, town officials and most local traders was ‘a great success.’

“Only grocery stores complained of trade being down.”

Barriers went up at noon on Friday to ban vehicles from the High Street until 5:00pm

On Saturday the ban started at 10:00am and, from then on, shoppers took over the entire street - roadway and all - until traffic started flowing again at tea-time.

The experiment, planned to alleviate congestion on High Street, was praised by Kirkcaldy’s Mr R.J. Brand, Depute Burgh Engineer.

“As far as we know, up to now there has been a vey good reaction to the experiment

“But, we have not had any detailed reaction from shopkeepers yet and, until we do, we cannot give a final verdict.”

Motorists seemed to find parking spaces without too much difficulty, although many faced a rather longer walk than usual from their cars with many using the Nicol Street car park or the Esplanade.

Multiple stores in the High Street were well pleased with the results of the experiment, reporting an increase in sales and one notching up record sales for the year

Grocery stores and shops were disappointed as many customers stayed away rather than trail heavy bags to cars parked some distance away

At Marks & Spencer M&S business was “very good” while trade at Woolworths and Littlewoods was also up.It was a similar picture at British Home Stores which claimed “a record day for sales.”At Barnet & Morton: Miss Jessie Hutt, manageress, concurred - “we had a marvellous weekend - and the experiment was also welcomed by Beveridge’s outfitters where Mis Susan Ramsay said: “We think it is an advantage to having a traffic free High Street

“There are certainly more people about and over the two days we were busier than we were last year, especially on the Friday

“Some customers said if it was enforced they would come into town more often.”

At the Co-Op, R. Young, managing secretary, had reservations, but said: “It was much more pleasant for shoppers.”

Less enthusiastic were the town’s grocers.

Robert Fernie said all such shops were pretty quiet on Friday, while Saturday saw no difference to their trade. He felt the car parks were filled by locals rather than visitors.

Wm Low manager Kenneth Conaly found it “ a bit disappointing” noting that customers would just not carry bags of shopping to cars parked some distance away.

Twenty years on, one question remains - would a traffic free High Street work now in a town centre which looks vey different?

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