Welcome to Living Streets Edinburgh

Edinburgh, with its generally dense population and walkable distances, could be a European exemplar of a pedestrian-friendly city. But the many sensible walking-related policies of the City of Edinburgh Council too often don’t translate in practice into a safe and attractive walking environment on the streets. Motor traffic continues to dominate the vast majority of the city’s streets – yet there are clear economic, environmental and social benefits in prioritising pedestrian movement within a high-quality public realm.

Our overall aim is to:

Promote walking (including ‘wheeling’) as a safe, enjoyable, accessible and healthy way of getting around Edinburgh.

To this end, we want to see:

  • walking given the top priority over other forms of travel in all council transport and planning policies;
  • a reduction in the volume of motorised traffic and its impact on people using the street;
  • better designed and maintained pavements, road crossings and other pedestrian facilities;
  • more effective and joined-up monitoring and inspection of the walking environment by CEC;
  • planning policy which encourages dense, sustainable housing over car-dominated, dispersed development;
  • more effective implementation of pro-walking policies ‘on the ground’.

Our priorities for action in 2022-23 are to:

  • campaign for increased budgets (capital and staffing) for the pedestrian environment by CEC;
  • influence the annual CEC capital maintenance programme, to maximise the benefits for walkers;
  • seek improvements in road safety, including reducing the volume and speed of traffic, through measures such as those proposed in our ‘Slower Speeds, Safer Streets Action Plan‘ for Edinburgh;
  • influence signalled road crossings to give pedestrians more priority;
  • support location-specific campaigns including carrying out local street audits;
  • grow the number of our supporters and campaigners.

If you would like to get involved in our work in any way, please email us at:
 edinburghgroup@livingstreets.org.uk

 

Leamington Terrace to Lower Gilmore Place: street review

This short review of streets in the Bruntsfield/Tollcross area was produced by Annie Pollock, local resident and LSEG supporter. It was compiled using observations from a ‘walkabout’ with new City Centre councillor Margaret Graham and local Living Streets volunteers on 13 July 2022.

LSEG Suggestions on a new approach to Pedestrian Crossings, July 2022

Living Streets Edinburgh Group would like to suggest changes to the traditional approach taken to decision-making about pedestrian crossings which has been in place at CEC for many years. To date, this has principally involved a report every two years on a ‘Pedestrian Crossing Programme Update’ which seeks councillors’ approval for an updated list of pedestrian crossings. A report is due later this year.

We want see a new approach which more clearly recognises the agreed ‘sustainable travel hierarchy’ (with walking and wheeling at the top) and is set in the wider context of ambitions to reduce travel by private car, road injuries and deaths etc.

A new crossing has recently been installed on Corstorphine Road east of Kaimes Road which was originally approved in 2010! While we recognise that a number of legitimate factors can cause delays, the pedestrian crossing programme has systematically and institutionally suffered delays and backlogs for years. We need to honestly understand why this is and what can be done to improve it – especially in view to the promised (in Labour Manifesto) increase of 20% in the pedestrian crossing budget.

We also think that there is scope to invest more in upgrade signalling infrastructure which will not only increase the scope to improve the pedestrian experience, but could also benefit other high-priority modes such as bike and bus. There may be opportunities to benefit from Scottish Government funding for such investment as a result of the Strategic Transport Projects Review (2) or ‘smart cities’ initiatives. However, many improvements can be made quickly and cheaply.

We therefore make the following specific suggestions which we ask to be considered:

  • The method that the council has been using to decide whether to put in a crossing or not, and what kind of crossing if so, is in our view obsolete. It is based on the so-called ‘PV2’ method – essentially calculating how many pedestrians (P) cross at present and how many vehicles use the road (V). This clearly fails to take account of ‘suppressed demand’ – people who currently don’t try to cross the road because they think it isn’t safe. We do however agree that some ‘objective’ measures are needed – if the methodology is just based on people lobbying for crossings, it is the middle class areas that will get all the crossings and poorer communities which may need them more, will be unfairly disadvantaged. LSEG would be pleased to contribute to detailed consideration of alternative methodologies for prioritising pedestrian crossings, particularly using the expertise of our long-standing supporter John Russell, a retired academic in urban design who has significant expertise in the subject.
  • We would like the programme to not only identify which locations should be prioritised for use of the pedestrian crossing budget, but to also consider wider issues of ‘walkability’. In particular the programme should take account of both our own work recording the ‘wait times’ and ‘green man times’ over the last two years (https://bit.ly/35xMRHp) and also the work by the Jacobs consultant as part of the Spaces for People programme (appended). We want to see the methodology used by Jacobs extended to all signalled crossings in the city.
  • This should result in a number of short-term, low-cost measures which will significantly improve the pedestrian experience at many sites. These would include: 
  • identifying opportunities to reduce the wait time for pedestrians;
    • identifying opportunities to extend green man times, especially in areas with large elderly populations;
    • identifying sites where additional green man phases can be introduced, such as at Royal Mile/South Bridge and Nicolson St/West Richmond St, giving pedestrians double the opportunity to cross;
    • implementing all specific opportunities identified in the Jacobs report, such as a ‘walk with traffic’ option at the Chambers Street / South Bridge junction;
    • ensuring that the that the Master Time Clock is set to enable school children to cross at ‘off-peak’ settings, which have better pedestrian priority than peak settings.
  • We would also like to see longer-term consideration of ways to improve pedestrian crossings, especially to challenge current assumptions about the relative priorities of ‘traffic flow’ and pedestrian benefit. This should also link into the ‘Major Junctions Review’, currently being led by Anturas consulting on the Council’s behalf.
  • We want to see more use of measures to assist pedestrians to cross side roads, to reinforce new provisions in the Highway Code. These should include engineering measures to ’tighten’ junctions, to install raised crossings and to pilot the use of cheap, ‘informal’ zebra crossings. We believe that the Council can and should be less risk-averse in seeking more opportunities to pilot these zebras.
  • We want to see more use of cameras at junctions to detect and deter bad driver behaviour; far too many vehicles currently run amber and red lights with impunity. Some of our research referred to above identifies some specific sites where we recommend this.
  • We advocate much more assertive use of planning mechanisms – both voluntary and Section 75 – to secure funding from developers for crossings (and indeed for other pedestrian facilities such as dropped kerbs and junction improvements).
  • Finally, while the organisation of staff responsibilities is clearly a matter for the Council’s management, we suggest that consideration should be given to moving the pedestrian crossing budget from the road safety team to integrated it better with other facilities to encourage walking. This could be in the Active Travel team, or in a new team focussed solely on walking, or possibly under a new umbrella associated with developing ’20 minute neighbourhood’ work.

David Hunter

July 2022

LSEG comments on ‘Travelling Safely’ consultations, July 2022

Living Streets Edinburgh Group supports the general aim of the ‘Travelling Safely’ programme – to provide healthy, environmentally friendly alternatives to travel by private car. We therefore support the retention of all remaining schemes (whether closure of streets to traffic such as Cockburn Street, or pop up cycle lanes such as on Lanark Road) where they are well used, and where they do not cause unacceptable problems for other priority road users such as buses and disabled people. For the avoidance of doubt, we do not consider private car parking to be ‘priority road users’.

We are not in a position to comment on which of the individual schemes currently being consulted about meet these criteria; however, we have previously emphasised the need to collect (and publish) monitoring data in order to carry out appropriate evaluation (see for example: bit.ly/3aajyje). This continues to appear to be largely absent.

We must repeat our regret that almost all town centre ‘walking schemes’ (widened pavements) were removed ‘en bloc’ in 2021: they are therefore not subject to the current consultation. The decision to remove them was made without any plan to replace them with more permanent measures fit for the future and without any consultation with the community or with stakeholders such as ourselves. As such it breached the policy placing walking and wheeling at the top of the sustainable travel hierarchy, and we urge the council to come forward with new plans to improve pedestrian spaces in town centres as a matter of urgency. 

Finally, with regard to this consultation, we are sceptical that the current method of asking people to comment on somewhat obscure statutory procedures (ETROs) is likely to engage the wider public effectively. The schemes have already changed branding from ‘Spaces for People’ (which they are probably still best known as), to ‘Travelling Safely’, and now ‘ETRO’s. While we recognise the difficulties involved in public consultation exercises, we would suggest that the most effective way of gauging public opinion to date has been the ‘Common Place’ method used in 2020. This generated a very high volume of public comments, many of which are still very relevant and still to be acted on. We note that ‘wider pavements’ was one of the most commonly requested interventions. 

David Hunter

Convenor

Street Audits (Leith, Lochend, Niddrie)

Our colleagues at Living Streets Scotland completed a number of street audits for housing associations across Scotland in 2021.

These look at cycling and walking facilities in a number of neighbourhoods; please see links to the Edinburgh studies below:

Assessment of Walking and Cycling Conditions at Argyll Street, Leith (Port of Leith Housing Association)
https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/5676/auditreport_41740_portleithargyllst.pdf

Assessment of Walking and Cycling Conditions at Pitt Street, Leith (Port of Leith Housing Association)
h
ttps://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/5675/auditreport_41740_pofleith_pittst.pdf

Assessment of Walking and Cycling Conditions Lochend Rd South, Edinburgh (Port of Leith Housing Association)
https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/5753/auditreport_41740_pofleith_lochend.pdf

Assessment of Walking and Cycling Conditions at Gulliver Street, Niddrie, Edinburgh (Link Group)
https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/5752/auditreport_41736_niddrielinkgroup.pdf

Assessment of Walking and Cycling Conditions at Albert Street, Edinburgh (Port of Leith Housing Assoc)
https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/5655/auditreport_41707_pofleith_albertst.pdf

Smokey Brae Consultation – LSE Response

LSEG supports the proposals for Smokey Brae in the consultation advertised in April 2022: https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/sfc/smokey-brae-improvements-developed-designs/

Smokey Brae is currently at total odds with the transport hierarchy. It feels like a hostile environment for anyone not moving in a car. The current layout puts pedestrians in as an afterthought and is particularly unsuitable for anyone pushing a pram or using a wheelchair. The pavement is too narrow, and traffic moves incredibly quickly and close to those using it. The pavement creates a pinch point that when two adults walk through in opposite directions on foot, they struggle to pass. If a pram or wheelchair is involved, one party must give way. Currently, walkers and wheelers who choose to avoid this junction due to its inadequacies must make a 15-minute detour.

LSEG greatly welcomes the proposals to redesign Smokey Brae and create a space that respects the transport hierarchy more.

We strongly support the introduction of continuous pavement with raised table junctions. We would like you to implement these using pavement materials rather than road material as this will emphasise pedestrian priority.

The designs appear to reduce the overall footway space available for pedestrians by removing the pavement on the eastern side of the road. However, this seems to be a reasonable compromise as there is currently no safe crossing near the railway underpass, and the existing footway is too narrow.

If it’s possible to make the proposed new pavement even wider, LSEG will welcome this. However, we appreciate this may not be easy to do given the overall width available and the welcome introduction of safe infrastructure for cyclists. Perhaps you could achieve this by closing the road from the T-junction to the Meadowbank House entrance to both northbound and southbound traffic, except for emergency vehicles only. This change would allow the fire service quick access to the south and create ample room for walkers, wheelers and cyclists alike.

LSEG members have noted that the Jock’s Lodge crossroads have abysmal pedestrian crossing times. Those who need to cross the road must wait for 2-minutes between signals and only have 7 seconds to cross. People who want to go down Smokey Brae will need to use these crossings. Pedestrians coming from Portobello Road will now have to as the pavement has switched sides. Therefore we think it should be a requirement to adjust the timings of these crossings to give more priority to pedestrians; 7 seconds isn’t enough!

Lastly, we’ve mentioned in our other answers to the survey that we would like the introduction of seating and wildflowers. Due care should be given to the seating positioning so as not to obstruct the natural movement of people through the area.