15th November 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Pedestrianisation increases trade (Les Sinclair)

In relation to your “Don’t gamble with the street” editorial in Friday’s edition of The Shetland Times, and related comments made on The Shetland Times website.

There is a long-established body of evidence within the UK and Europe that pedestrianisation of shopping streets increases footfall and thence trade in those areas. The nearest example of this is Kirkwall, which for many years has excluded vehicles from Bridge Street, Albert Street and Victoria Street, apart from those using blue badges, for most of the business day, apart from a short period in the morning for deliveries to take place. All three streets also have a 15 miles per hour speed limit, as does Broad Street. It would not be an exaggeration to say that retail trade is thriving in Kirkwall.

Stromness in comparison has two-way traffic, and anyone who is in the least familiar with that town will confirm that the number and variety of shops there has suffered a long period in the doldrums.

The people who have expressed opposition to the pedestrianisation of Commercial Street appear to base that on reduced accessibility to businesses.

I have watched, on numerous occasions, young, fit people pull their cars in so close to the Post Office wall that they’re in danger of losing their wing mirrors, in order to save them walking across the road to post a letter. I’ve witnessed similar behaviour at one of the bank ATMs in the street.

I’ve complained several times to Tesco about young, fit people who park their cars on the double yellow lines at the front door of the store to avoid having to walk from the large car park set aside for them.
Surely pedestrianisation is worth pursuing to increase socialisation on the street, and, in addition, to get some gentle exercise to avoid becoming lard-arses?

Les Sinclair
Annsbrae Place,


  1. Sheenagh Burns

    I couldn’t agree more. Yes, businesses must have access at set times, but cars go down the Street all the time for no valid reason, ruining the surface and doing nothing for the experience of pedestrians. One reason I never go to Aberdeen to shop is the hassle of getting over Union St, even with crossings. When the cruise ships are in or there’s some festival on, Commercial Street is a real pleasure, and not just for shopping. But it’d be better without having to flatten ourselves against walls!

  2. Ali Inkster

    You have a few ideas that may be misconceptions, the person pulling up to the post box might not be able to find a space except on the pier in which to park so the cost of that letter has doubled unless they drive by and pop the letter in on the way past. Then you mention tescos, I wonder if the management of tesco would be happy with their customer car park at seafield? If as you claim making folk walk increases business it is maybe just as well their carpark is right at the door and folks are forced to park so close or tescos may just have 100% of Shetlands retail trade instead of the mere 60% the good access restricts them to.

    As for the rest of the UK more and more towns are opening up their city centres to vehicles once more and removing the speed bumps in a desperate attempt to bring trade back.

    • Les Sinclair

      Why on earth would Tesco want to move their car park to Seafield?

      There are post boxes located all around Lerwick and Shetland generally, so why would anyone feel the necessity for posting letters at the main Post Office?

      At the risk of repeating myself, where, specifically, in the UK is any town or city de-pedestrianising?

      • Ali Inkster

        There may be post boxes all around Lerwick but Who knows where they are? Some folks may only know the one at the post office.
        I have no problem with a 20 limit but I do object to the overkill in spending on speed bumps altered pavements and restricting access, when a couple of 20mph signs would do the job.

  3. Johan Adamson

    But is the plan for Commercial street not to put bollards up between Slotties and the bookshop? In that case disabled badge holders and deliveries would be prohibited. I think if that were the case the disabled should start a crowdfunded legal challenge to the plans as they would have no access to the post office. And we would probably lose the post office like Stromness did, and there is a great void where it once stood.

    • Johan Adamson

      I wonder if RBS have queried how the armoured car can get in to collect and deliver the money and cheques?

  4. Johan Adamson

    Also, most of the trade in Kirkwall is coming from tourists and there are a lot more of them in Orkney than there are here, due to the colossal cost of getting here and our distance from the mainland. Tourist also love Stromness, and Stomness is still managing to support a butchers, bakers, paper shop, chemist as well as tourist shops.

  5. Morag MacLeod

    I’m from Kirkwall. If there are restrictions there nobody seems to be aware of them or pay any attention as there are always cars driving along the street. Its something you get used to and know to step aside. Yes, Kirkwall is thriving but not because it is pedestrianised. As Johan Adamson said, the downturn in trade in Stromness is not due to cars on the street.

  6. Les Sinclair

    I’d like to point out to Johan that Stromness still has a Post Office, and that the old Post Office building is not “a great void” but is in the process of being refurbished, and to ask her where she found the figures to show that “most of the trade in Kirkwall is coming from tourists” or is this an uninformed assumption, and why does she further assume that “disabled badge holders and deliveries would be prohibited” if pedestrianisation went ahead in Commercial Street?
    Could I also ask Morag how she knows that Kirkwall’s thriving trade is not due to pedestrianisation and how the downturn in Stromness is not due to traffic on the street, or are these also uninformed assumptions?
    Incidentally, for what little it’s worth in this debate, I am Orcadian born and bred.

    • Johan Adamson

      If they put bollards at the end of commercial street (like at the Clydesdale) then no one can get into the street surely?

    • Johan Adamson

      And you dont think losing the PO out of that building in Stromness is a bit of a miss?

    • Morag MacLeod

      As a fellow born and bred Orcadian Les, I can assure you that the streets in Kirkwall are not pedestrianised (unless somethings changed in the last month since I was there). Maybe there is legislation in place but its not enforced and I dont think anyone has noticed. There are cars along the street regularly and not in a specified time period. Victoria Street is full of parked cars. Theres a car park across from William Shearers accessed only from the street. I doubt if they would be able to sell their garden products without it.

      • Les Sinclair

        Morag. May I assure you that you cannot assure me!

  7. Les Sinclair

    Johan. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no suggestion of bollards at the end of Commercial Street, apart from yours. Details such as that will surely be agreed following the consultation. There is more than one access and egress point into Commercial Street. The entry at the south end is not sacrosanct.

    The former Stromness Post Office was a damp old building with no historical or architectural merit. Following refurbishment it will be fit for use for another purpose. The Post Office moved all of five yards across the road.

    I get a distinct feeling that once you get something into your head you will not be swayed by anyone else’s views, so for that reason this is my last contribution to this correspondence.

  8. Johan Adamson

    If the south end is closed then we will have two way access to the RBS spaces, presumably like access to the Fort end of the street, because that works so well? Id be one of those ‘lard arses’ when I was 7 months pregnant with twins and trying to do the banking. I wonder how many of those other people at the bank are temporarily not able to walk far but without a badge?

    I dont know what is wrong with what we have. We do have pedestrianisation and it works fine. Shut the street for festivals and the like, that wont cost anything except some time for admin, try to get the ‘lard arses’ to leave the spaces at the bank for those in need. We are spending a lot of money with this on something that isnt really broken. Im sure that the Bid can find something else to spend this money on, and if it is SIC money then can they spend it on a more urgent road priority such as the road in Weisdale where the road is not actually wide enough for a bus and a lorry to meet, instead of this which runs the risk of shutting some of the few remaining bits of the street that we need?

    • Morag MacLeod

      Johan, I totally agree with you on the pregnancy thing. After experiencing trying to walk with feeling the equivalent of a 10lb bowling ball stitched in my belly I’ve said numerous times pregnant people need to be automatically issued with blue badges after 6 months. Also there are people with “invisible” disabilities such as Autoimmune conditions like MS who might appear and feel well one day and be hardly able to leave the house the next. They might not fall into the blue badge criteria.

      • Johan Adamson

        Also parents with young children – they get spaces at Tesco – and old folk, Im sure they stop going places because it comes too difficult. And there are temporary things like broken bones and infections where you cant breathe, etc, etc. Its not up to us to judge. The obesity problem is much bigger than Commercial Street.

  9. David Spence

    As if anybody needs to already know, but the design of the main part of Commercial Street, allows trade and disabled traffic, but also all other forms of traffic as well……whether taxes or cars, vans and lorries.

    Why not have a system, like they do in certain car parks down south, where Traders, Disabled vehicles, Taxi’s, Police and Emergency Vehicles have a swipe card system giving access to the business part of Commercial Street?

    I am sure it would not cost that much to have gates at strategic points on Commercial Street which can only be accessed via a swipe card? A gate between Faerdie Maet and the Post Office (leaving enough room for pedestrians to get passed) another gate just after J.R. Whites, another gate just before High Level Music, bollard off the junction where the road goes down from the Bank of Scotland and Commercial Street. So, you would have 3 gates.

    I know some people may regard it as an inconvenience, but I would say peoples safety takes great priority.

    Just a passing thought, as they say. lol

  10. Debra Nicolson

    My main concern is where is the money is going to come from to pay for pedestrianisation if we go down the route of blocking access. The recent increases in council tax could be used but I’m not sure it is a good idea to use taxes for something that the community is so divided on. The same with speed bumps. It’s fine to reduce the speed limit but it would be more prudent to just have a couple of signs. If these do not seem to work then speed bumps can looked at further down the line.

    • John N Hunter

      According to the SIC report £41,000 will come from existing SIC budgets, the rest will come from government grants.

    • Allen Fraser

      A sense of proportion is a foreign country to the SIC – they will always buy a Rolls-Royce when a Toyota pick-up is all that is required for a job.


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