Traffic-free days have begun in Edinburgh city centre

The scheme is part of a plan to reduce air pollution in the city

(Photo by Stewart Kirby/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(Image credit: LightRocket via Getty Images)

Traffic-free days have begun in Edinburgh city centre, with a number of streets now closed to traffic on certain days under plans to reduce air pollution.

The Scottish city have become the first in the UK to join the Open Streets movement, with the traffic-free initiative taking place on the first Sunday of every month in what is an 18-month trial of the programme.

A number of streets in the Old Town, including the Canongate, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street, will be closed from midday until 5pm on Sunday.

Alongside this, Edinburgh's cycle hire scheme will be free of charge all week to help people get around and encourage them not to drive in to the city.

The Open Streets movement has seen cities worldwide temporarily close certain streets to all motorised vehicles on a regular basis.

Lesley Macinnes, who manages transport on the City of Edinburgh Council, told the BBC: "We've seen how successful similar schemes internationally have proved by encouraging active travel, improving air quality and creating a safer, more relaxed atmosphere so I can't wait to see this take shape in the capital.

"Climate change is a real threat to society, it's clear that we have to act, and Open Streets is undoubtedly a step in the right direction."

In April, 20 protest groups took to Scottish streets to call upon politicians to increase cycling spend and improve traffic law for bike riders.

The campaigners asked for 10 per cent of the transport budget to be spent on cycling, for better road traffic law and enforcement and for cycling to be built into transport strategies.

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