Nostalgia: Pedestrianisation comes to Kirkcaldy High Street

Kirkcaldy town centre where traffic was banned from the High Street in the run up to Christmas in 1972.
Kirkcaldy town centre where traffic was banned from the High Street in the run up to Christmas in 1972.

Kirkcaldy High Street was closed to traffic on two occasions in the early 1970s as the Town Council flirted with the idea of pedestrianisation.

The town centre became car free on the two weekends leading up the Christmas in 1972, then again five months later during May 1973.

The 'Walkabout' trial  in May 1973 when traffic was banned from the High Street in over four Saturdays.

The 'Walkabout' trial in May 1973 when traffic was banned from the High Street in over four Saturdays.

The Fife Free Press reported that the town centre had become a “paradise for shoppers” during the pre-Christmas experiment, with “pedestrians having a field day”,

And the initial reaction from police, town officials and most local traders was that the trial had been a great success, though some grocery stores complained of trade being down.

Barriers went up at noon on Friday, December 15, 1972 to ban vehicles from the street between the traffic lights at Charlotte Street and the junction with the Esplanade.

Only vehicles carrying disabled passengers lorries carrying supplies to shops with no other access other than High Street were allowed through, with the ban staying in force until 5.00pm and was repeated the following day.

The pedestrian-only plan was praised by Kirkcaldy’s depute burgh engineer, Mr R. J . Brand, who told the FFP: “As far as we know there has been very good reaction to the experiment.

“The police were very happy that things went so smoothly, and pedestrians were delighted with the results.

Motorists also seemed to find parking spaces without too much difficulty, although many faced a rather longer walk than usual from their cars.

“The car park at Nicol Street was opened and this was a big advantage, and good use was made of the Esplanade car parks and the area between the car park wall and the sea wall.”

Local shops seemed happy with the experiment, though were cautious not to get too carried away.

A Marks & Spencer spokesman said: “We suffered no adverse effects from the traffic ban and we are all for a traffic-free High Street.”

The ban on traffic was “beneficial to sales” at Woolworth’s, and at Littlewood’s store, the number of Saturday shoppers was well up.

But Littlewood’s manager, Mr C. Roe, said: “We don’t attribute our increase in sales solely to the closure of the High Street to traffic.

“We would also prefer to see the ban on traffic staying in force until 6pm.

“By 5pm pedestrians have got used to the idea that there are no vehicles on the street and when the traffic starts flowing in again for the last hour, it could tend to be dangerous.”

The same point was made at British Home Stores, but a spokesman added they had “record sales for the year”, whilst Jessie Hutt, manageress at Barnet and Morton, said he store had “a marvellous weekend”.

It seemed, with a few reservations, that the trial had been a success but as it was held in the run-up to Christmas when shops experience their busiest time, the Town Council decided to repeat the experiment over four Saturdays in May 1973 – and once again it proved to be hugely popular.

At a meeting of the Council’s Streets Committee it was unanimously agreed that the second experiment had been an “outstanding success”.

George Wood Kirkcaldy’s Burgh Engineer, said: “We have had no bad reaction from shoppers or shopkeepers.

“All the comments we have heard up to the moment have been favourable, though we are still keen to hear people’s views.”

With Councillor Daniel Leslie adding that “the days of traffic as far as High Street is concerned, are numbered”, it seemed that pedestrianisation of Kirkcaldy High Street was inevitable, and it proved to be the case.

Although it took another 15 years!

Send your High Street memories to us at ffpnews@fifetoday.co.uk.