NEW cycle lanes and spaces for walking that were installed in Edinburgh during the pandemic look set to stay for longer.

The Spaces for People infrastructure will stay for up to 18 months more before being reviewed again, if city councillors back a recommendation from officials next week.

The project has sharply divided opinion in the city, with some concerned about the impact the new lanes have on traffic, parking, disabled access and public transport.

The City of Edinburgh Council received more than 17,000 responses to its consultation on the Government-funded programme, which is designed to encourage active travel and allow social distancing.

However, as the consultation was ongoing an online "bot" was set up to submit fake responses that were against keeping the projects.

The bot created more than 18,000 responses but was caught by the council and a member of the public was reported to the police for fraud.

Police Scotland did not establish any criminality in the matter.

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While the segregated cycle lanes across the city will remain, the report does not recommend keeping widened pavements in certain shopping streets.

Councillors will consider the report at a meeting of the transport committee next week ahead of a full council meeting later this month.

It recommends keeping the Spaces for People infrastructure under Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders lasting up to 18 months, which allow the schemes to be monitored and modified.

City centre projects include the pedestrianisation of Victoria Street, Cockburn Street and Waverley Bridge, all of which would be retained.

However, the Spaces for People measures on Forrest Road and George IV Bridge would be removed at the end of the pandemic as a permanent cycling corridor is already planned for the area.

Car-free areas outside schools will also be retained, while there are plans for a further cycle lane between Portobello and Musselburgh in East Lothian.

Officials say some off-road cycle paths saw as much as four or five times the normal level of use last year, though they want to measure their use as life returns to normal after the pandemic.

The National:

Lesley Macinnes (above), the council’s transport and environment convener, said: “We know people have benefited from the changes and we want to see if we can keep as many as possible of the project benefits as we hopefully move out of the Covid pandemic.

“As we look toward the end of the pandemic, we want to make a sustainable, successful recovery.

“By helping people to walk, cycle and wheel, many of the changes we’ve made to streets will support this, as well as our broader ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality, reduce air pollution and to improve the quality of life for all those who live in and visit Edinburgh.

“Projects have been controversial, and some groups, notably those representing people with mobility and visual impairments, have raised concerns about their impacts, especially on parking.

“Other concerns include ‘floating’ car parking and impacts on traffic levels on some roads.

“I’m committed to making sure we listen to feedback and make improvements as we move into a new stage of trialling projects. I want the measures we keep in the longer term to get the balance right, working for everyone.”

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On the attempt to undermine the consultation through the use of an automated "bot", Macinnes said these incidences were very rare and this case was “exceptional”.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We received an allegation of fraudulent responses being submitted as part of the Spaces for People consultation in Edinburgh on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

“Inquiries have been carried out and no criminality established, and we have liaised with the council on this matter.”