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;
  • 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

 

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)
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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.

Strategic Transport Projects Review/ STPR2 – Comments by LSE

Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local voluntary branch of the national campaign for everyday walking and wheeling. We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Scottish Government’s draft proposals for capital investment in transport over the next 20 years (STPR2).  https://www.transport.gov.scot/our-approach/strategy/strategic-transport-projects-review-2/

Walking and Wheeling

The draft STPR2 proposals completely fail to recognise the importance, or scale of the task, of improving pedestrian spaces in Scotland. With ‘walking and wheeling’ top of the Scottish Government’s own sustainable travel hierarchy, the lack of any coherent programme to improve the everyday pedestrian experience is a serious omission which, unless rectified, would greatly undermine the opportunity to achieve the Government’s social, economic and environmental objectives.

There is a wealth of evidence on the negative effects of, and inequalities caused by, poor walking environments. Given the emphasis in STPR2 on ‘evidence-based’ decision-making, it is essential that an ambitious programme to improve the legacy of inaccessible, inadequate and poor quality infrastructure is adopted as a strategic priority.

In particular, we call for:

  • the inclusion of local roads in the scope of the STPR2. This is vital for the achievement of many of the recommendations, including ‘Connected Neighbourhoods’ (#1) and ‘Increasing Active Travel to Schools’ (#8).
  • a specific theme on improving pavements – both widening them and improving the surface quality. The wider pavements introduced by the City of Edinburgh Council in local town centres as part of ‘Spaces for People’ have almost all been removed. We wrote to Ministers in 2021 (jointly with Spokes Lothian) asking that capital funding is made available to councils to ensure that infrastructure is introduced to replace temporary schemes which is fit for purpose in the long term: bit.ly/3vJkoJZ The STPR2 is the opportunity to address this.
  • investment in walk-friendly junctions. Scotland (like the rest of the UK) has a massive legacy of street design which favours vehicles, not people. Junction splays in many residential areas are wide, favouring 30+ mph speeds even where those limits have been reduced to 20 mph. There is a huge job to redesign junctions with a tighter radius and shorter crossing route for pedestrians.
  • investment in traffic signals and pedestrian crossings. Much signalling infrastructure is out of date and cannot easily be adapted to give priority to travel modes which we need to put first – public transport, cycling and especially of course, walking.  We have documented pedestrian wait times at dozens of signalled crossings in Edinburgh and found many to be quite unacceptable: bit.ly/35xMRHp. On a positive note, there is a massive opportunity to improve them at relatively modest investment.
  • a national programme of investment in dropped kerbs and continuous footways. In Edinburgh, we have been told that 17,000 out of 22,000 junctions have no, or substandard, kerb arrangements. These make pavements dangerous – or simply unusable – for many pedestrians, especially disabled people.
  • a national effort to reduce pavement clutter (and to stop adding to it). This includes management of temporary obstructions such as hedges and bins, and removal of unnecessary fixed structures such as signage poles and guard rails, many of which persist despite changes in legislation (TSRGD 2016) and recognised best practice. New threats to pavements such as telecoms cabinets and EV chargers must be avoided. See our reports and video resources for further information here: bit.ly/3rMTqPD.
  • an initiative to encourage the provision of seats and toilets, especially in high footfall areas. Both of these simple, modest measures are important to many pedestrians – and especially for older people, children, disabled people and women. A national programme which increased such provision would make many areas more attractive and inclusive at modest cost.

Cycling

We support investment in cycling infrastructure, especially in routes which will encourage more people to commute into Edinburgh by bike, rather than by car. However, the recommendations under the ‘Active Travel’ theme do not have the right balance between walking/wheeling on the one hand, and cycling on the other, and this section does not properly reflect the agreed ‘sustainable travel hierarchy’.

Influencing Travel Choices

We strongly support the wider rollout of 20 mph speed limits in residential and shopping areas. However, they need to be accompanied by both engineering and enforcement measures. Many streets are designed for 30mph+ travel and driver compliance is known to be lower in such circumstances. There is enormous scope for imaginative use of new technology to assist with compliance, education and enforcement.

Measures to encourage active travel to school are very important. Our comments under the first active travel theme are relevant here. Official data (TaTiS 2019) shows that 52% of children currently walk to school in Scotland, which is an encouraging basis to build on. Only 2% of children cycle and while there is certainly scope to increase this figure, this data underlines again the need for active travel efforts to focus much more on safe walking environments.

Public transport

We support investment in the public transport measures with two qualifications. It is vital that good quality public transport is available if car reduction targets are to be achieved. However, we don’t support the recommendations on ‘DRT and MaaS’ (#20) or ‘mobility hubs’ (#22) as they stand.  We consider these initiatives to be over-hyped and lacking an evidence base that they will make a significant contribution to improved public mobility. We suggest instead that investment in DRT focuses on exploring opportunities there may be to develop existing DRT services such as community transport (which is under-funded), taxis and private hire cars. ‘Mobility hubs’ should be seen simply as one aspect of better transport interchanges (#21) rather than as a separate recommendation in its own right.

Increasing …resilience

The STPR2 has far too many ‘get out clauses’ which could be used to justify further significant investment in trunk roads and motorways, especially under the ‘Increasing safety and resilience’ theme.  For example, “Junction improvements, carriageway widening, route realignment and provision of overtaking opportunities” (#30) are not the priorities Scotland needs. These recommendations are not consistent with the ambitious national targets to reduce motor traffic, and would have an enormous opportunity cost in reducing the scope for investment in everyday walking and wheeling.

Planning policy

Investment in infrastructure needs to be accompanied by complementary planning policy. The ‘Infrastructure First’ principle, advocated in the draft NPF4, is essential so that new developments do not proceed until suitable sustainable transport options are in place. This is especially important around Edinburgh; for example the housing developments around West Craigs and Winchburgh where it appears that the essential new railway station may be in doubt despite massive housing expansion.

This document can be downloaded as a pdf here

Living Streets Edinburgh – Recording of Election Hustings 2022

We held an online election hustings on Tuesday 12 April 2022, to hear what parties had to say about walking and wheeling in the city, in the run-in to the Council elections on May 5th.

Party representatives were:

  • Kayleigh O’Neill (Scottish Green Party)
  • Cllr Kevin Lang (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
  • Mhairi Munro-O’Brian (Scottish Labour)
  • Cllr Lesley Macinnes (Scottish National Party)
  • Cllr Jim Campbell (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party)

You can watch the whole event, chaired by top transport journalist Alastair Dalton, here: https://youtu.be/P-lzZYhIlHA

Here is a list of questions asked at the hustings events by audience members, although there wasn’t enough time to answer many of them.