Residents were given a glimpse at what a pedestrianised Market Street could look like on Saturday – and reviews were mixed.
The road was closed to cars between Bell Street and Union Street on Saturday, between 9am-5pm, as the town marked its first ever ‘car free day’.
A number of activities were organised to mark the occasion, with stunt bike team The Clan performing next to Whyte-Melville Memorial Fountain, ‘pop up parks’ set up to let visitors relax and enjoy the sunny day, and cycle rides through the town.
But the response to the event was mixed.
While local councillors praised the success of the ‘car free day’, some shop owners noted a drop in business and raised concerns about the possible pedestrianisation of the street.
Eric Milne, managing director of Fisher and Donaldson, said his Church Street shop lost a number of its regular customers, who found it difficult to get to the store.
He warned: “Pedestrianisation only works where there is an adequate supply of easily accessible parking within two minutes of the shops or where you have lovely weather all the time. If the weather was cold and wet as it often is this would be a disaster.
“You only need to look at what the pedestrianisation of Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline did to see what happens when you pedestrianise main shopping streets. Make it hard for the customers to get to your shops and watch the shops disappear.”
Tony Fusaro, owner of Luvians, described the ‘car free day’ as “bad for business”.
He also expressed concern about the shortage of parking close to Market Street.
Mr Fusaro added: “It does not work. It has been proven time-and-time again. You want to keep the vitality of the town.
“If it ain’t broke, what are you trying to fix? We want as many people coming through Market Street as possible.”
However, the ‘car free day’ was praised by local councillors.
Cllr Jane Ann Liston thanked organisers St Andrews Space for Cycling and Fife Council.
“It is clear that Market Street on Saturday was a much more pleasant place than usual, devoid of the usual noise and fumes and giving pedestrians as well as cyclists much more space,” she said.
“Most of the reports from visitors and businesses appear to have been positive, which is very reassuring.
“However, if this arrangement were to become a regular occurrence, or even permanent, there are some things that need to be sorted out beforehand.
“Firstly, there is the issue of organising shop deliveries, which could be managed by restricting them to certain times, or permitting the vehicles in to carry out the deliveries, but only travelling at 10 mph, as in Dundee.
“Secondly, arrangements would have to be made to enable Blue Badge holders to park near the shops, otherwise Market Street would become inaccessible to those with mobility difficulties.
“Notwithstanding, though, all these issues have been addressed elsewhere so there is no reason why it cannot also be so in St Andrews.”
Cllr Brian Thomson, who asked residents for their views on the possible pedestrianisation of Market Street earlier this year, said ‘car free day’ “exceeded all expectations”.
He added: “The atmosphere was fantastic, and it was great to see so many people enjoying a street that’s usually dominated by motor vehicles.
“A number of things could have been done better, and I know that the organisers will be reviewing all aspects of the day to ensure that, in the event of more car free days being held, such issues are addressed.
“In terms of business, it will be interesting to find out what the feedback is, and seeking the views of businesses will be an important element of the feasibility study on pedestrianisation.”