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 2024 are to:

  • Campaign for increased budgets (capital and staffing) for the
    pedestrian environment by the City of Edinburgh Council, especially
    to:
    • widen footways;
    • tackle pavement clutter;
    • improve priority for pedestrians at signalled crossings;
    • improve accessibility by installing dropped kerbs and continuous
      footways.
  • Secure better enforcement of controls on parking (including new
    ‘pavement parking’ provisions) and speeding.
  • Support specific local campaigns for place-making and traffic
    reduction.
  • Develop our work on walk-friendly environments at and around
    schools.
  • Influence planning policy and practice to aid walking and wheeling
    and reduce motor traffic.
  • Grow the number of our supporters and range of our campaigns.

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

 

Dalry Living Well – LSE Comments

Introduction

Living Streets Edinburgh Group welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation on ’Dalry Living Well Locally’. [1] We strongly support the concept of the ’20 minute neighbourhood’ – with the philosophy that most everyday services and needs are located on your doorstep and reached within a c.20 minute round trip walk. We recognise that the idea is in its infancy and that quite what a 20 minute neighbourhood looks like is still subject to debate.

To be successful, a “20 minute neighbourhood” needs to provide high quality infrastructure for pedestrians. We are thinking here not just of the fit and able, but the mother wheeling a pushchair and leading a toddler; the elderly who are finding walking more difficult and maybe using a wheeled aid; the users of wheelchairs and powered mobility chairs. A major concern with the proposed scheme is that a high-quality pedestrian infrastructure is not provided consistently throughout the area.

In this context, we do have serious misgivings about the approach proposed by the City of Edinburgh Council both with regard to the overall concept, and to design details, which we outline below. We hope that these comments will help the council to develop an improved vision of a ’20 minute neighbourhood’, and what features should be included in the Dalry scheme.

Overall concept

We are surprised at the scale of the project – from Haymarket to the Westfield area of Gorgie. This is over a mile long and is in our view far too large to be considered as a local neighbourhood, even accepting that this is proposed in separate ‘chunks’ (this section being from Haymarket to Tynecastle High). We would prefer to see designs based on much smaller neighbourhoods, such as the ‘town centre section’ in this scheme (from Caledonian Road to Dalry Place).

The scale of the proposal suggests that the project is envisaged more as a travel corridor than a neighbourhood improvement. If the mantra of ‘place not movement’ is to have any meaning, surely it must be for a neighbourhood placemaking scheme? The Council commissioned a ‘Public Life Assessment’ of Gorgie Dalry in 2016, presumably at significant expense, which includes a lot of useful, detailed observations and suggestions for placemaking. [2]  We see little or no influence of these suggestions on the scheme and recommend that it should be revisited.

One consequence of the ‘travel corridor approach’ is that, apart from the small ‘town centre’ section, there appears to be a perceived need to include segregated cycle ways along the whole route (because it is conceived more as a ‘route’, than a ‘place’). While we of course want to see more and better facilities to encourage cycling, this is problematic in that it forces compromises to be made in all other uses of the street and modes – including walking and wheeling. This contradicts the ‘sustainable travel hierarchy’ and in some respects, mirrors the widely-discredited approach taken in Leith Walk.

Another consequence is the bus gate at Haymarket, which will stop motor traffic other than buses and taxis using Dalry Road in the daytime. We certainly want to see less traffic on Dalry Road and other busy residential streets, and agree with the strategy to divert as much traffic as possible onto the Western Approach Road. We recognise that there is a case for a bus gate to achieve this. However, we would want to understand much more about how much traffic will be diverted to other streets, and where. The closing of such major road artery to general traffic will have significant consequences for traffic across western Edinburgh, especially given the 1.5 ton weight restriction on the WAR.

Requiring general traffic from the east, as well as the west, to access Dalry Road at the Ardmillan Terrace junction will put enormous pressure on this junction and we are sceptical that it will be able to cope. There is also the issue that traffic entering Dalry Road from the west will need to do U-turns and exit the same way, putting further pressure on this junction. And of course, where will traffic including HGVs, bin lorries, etc.perform these U-turns safely during the restricted hours?

Finally with regard the bus gate, we know that the ’15 minute city’ concept has been subject to numerous conspiracy theories claiming that it is designed to stop people travelling outwith their neighbourhood. These concerns have broadly been dismissed, emphasising that the concept is rather about providing better access locally, The restrictions at Haymarket will affect all drivers (those who need to drive equally as much as those who have other options) and is likely to add weight to those conspiracy theories rather than dispel them.

Apart from the bus gate, the other particularly challenging aspect of the scheme will be parking. We strongly support the removal of all general parking from Dalry Road itself – this space is too valuable to be occupied by private car parking – although there will of course, need to be appropriate provision for loading and for blue badge holders. However, densely populated, tenemented streets have very little off-street parking available, in contrast to other areas of the city where many houses have driveways and garages.  Parking spaces are at a premium in Dalry. The local community may accept reduced parking capacity on Dalry Road more easily if some additional off-street parking – for example at the under-used Lidl car park? – can be found.

Details

We are pleased to see the plan feature a number of wider footways, especially in the central ‘town centre’ section. Adequate pavements should be the absolute priority of a ’20 minute neighbourhood’.  Similarly, we like the provision of seating, trees and sustainable drainage facilities, all of which will greatly enhance the town centre. The use of continuous pavements giving pedestrians priority at side roads is also very welcome as are numerous opportunities to cross Dalry Road, including the welcome use of zebras.

This ‘town centre’ section is the part of the scheme which in our view works best. If the scheme is to broadly remain in its current form, we suggest that it should be extended at least to include Dalry Primary School in the west and eastwards to Haymarket.

We are however, very disappointed that other sections of pavement do not meet these standards. There are long sections of pavement which are currently well below the council’s own ‘absolute minimum width’ of 2 metres as specified in the council’s own street design guidance. This is most obvious on the south side of Dalry Road at the cemetery. It is frankly inconceivable that these plans do not intend to address this: if inadequate pavements are not going to be improved in a scheme like this, they will never be. We have seen this failure to meet minimum standards in several other ‘sustainable travel schemes and this undermines the Council’s professed commitment to the sustainable transport hierarchy. We also understand that there is no widening of the extremely busy pavements towards Haymarket.

There are ten bus stops along the route, five on each side and of these eight will be of the ‘floating’ design, requiring passengers to cross a cycle way immediately when boarding or alighting. This design is known to present significant difficulties for blind and disabled people especially.  The explanation that “Bus stop bypasses will mean that bus users will not have to wait on the main pavement and allow pedestrians and cyclists to safely pass” is misleading at best: they offer no advantage whatsoever for pedestrians. The space at some of the bus stops is so constrained that we understand they do not conform to the Council\s own Design Guidance and have no shelters. We would like to see normal bus stops which do not require pedestrians to cross a cycle way throughout.

We have significant concerns at the suitability of the Ardmillan Terrace junction design, although we completely agree that it is dysfunctional at present. These concerns relate not just to the capacity as noted above, but also we query why a ‘CyclOps’ (‘cycle-optimised’) design is appropriate here, rather than one which gives pedestrians priority. Again, we believe that many pedestrians, including older people and those with visual impairments will find this junction hard to cross, as they will have to cross not only the road but also cycle lanes, sometime several times, in order to get to the other side. It is also not clear what pedestrian ‘wait times’ will be.

It must also be acknowledged that disabled people’s parking opportunities will be limited by the extensive use of segregated cycle ways. The Council has just established an Accessibility Commission, designed to “ensure the city’s streets are as accessible as possible to disabled people”. It is paramount that these concerns about the ability of disabled pedestrians to use the proposed streets are addressed.

Finally, we are very disappointed that our suggestion to develop a new western access point to Haymarket Station, probably from Distillery Lane, does not form part of the proposals. This would bring the station much closer to the Dalry community and encourage its use by pedestrians and cyclists. We understand that this has been explored and is supported by the Scottish Government, Network Rail and Scotrail in principle. We recognise that there are challenges (ownership of Distillery Lane, funding, etc.) but we believe that this is feasible if there is the will to bring partners together. We urge the Council to pursue this unique opportunity which will not come around again.

Conclusion

We support the broad aims behind the proposals – to enable the local community to access their needs and service easily and sustainably and to reduce the dominance of Dalry Road by traffic. However we think that there are very significant problems with what is being proposed; some of these are matters of detail, but others fundamentally stemming from a flawed vision of what a ’20 minute neighbourhood’ should be.

We would therefore encourage a fundamental re-think of the scheme, to direct resources to more local, tangible improvements especially to the pedestrian environment. We are open to the concept of the bus gate at Haymarket if the significant questions about the impact on both displaced traffic, and local access can be satisfactorily answered. If these can’t be, then we would like to see a more modest, cheaper but practical alternative based on bus lanes – which as well as providing much needed priority for bus passengers would also improve safety for cyclists.

June 2024


[1] https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/13951/consultation-opens-on-future-dalry-town-centre-proposals

[2] https://planningedinburgh.files.wordpress.com/2024/03/gorgie-dalry-r.pdf

Meadows-George Street: LSEG objection to TRO

Objection to TRO/21/32

The Living Streets Edinburgh Group reluctantly objects to this TRO. We recognise that the Meadows to George Street scheme is both complex and ambitious, putting into effect important aspects of the Council’s ‘Our Future Streets’ strategy, There are many aspects of the project which are very welcome including widening of George IV Bridge footways and the semi-pedestrianisation of Forrest Road.

However, we are very disappointed that the footways on the Mound are barely improved from the current unsatisfactory state. The eastern footway will be only 0.5 metres wider while the western footway remains below the ‘absolute minimum’ width of 2.5 metres. The Mound is designated in Our Future Streets as a ‘walking priority street’ and it is inconceivable to us that such a comprehensive and expensive scheme does not bring pavements up to at least the ‘desired’ width of 3 metres’ stipulated by the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance. The Council’s report from March 2020 rightly acknowledges that these streets “carry very high footfall levels throughout the year and especially during the festivals. This results in the pavements being often over-capacity and people having to stray onto the road.” (para3.5)

Footway widening should have more priority than installation of a very wide (3 metre) cycleway, given that the street has a 20mph speed limit, and especially given that most motor traffic will be removed owing to the bus gate, which makes cycling on the carriageway far safer and more appealing. We are also unhappy with the Hanover Street footways, which although widened significantly, are bisected by cycleways on both sides. Again, the low volume of motor vehicle traffic, owing to the bus gate, must call into question the need for these cycleways at all. We also are disappointed to see the footway significantly reduced on the east of George IV Bridge at the NMS Tower restaurant corner.

Other than footway widths, our main objection is to the floating bus stops, especially at the foot of the Mound and on Hanover Street where cycling speeds are likely to be especially high. National guidance Cycling by Design states that “Bus stop bypasses on steep downhill gradients should be avoided, as cycle users are likely to approach these at higher speeds, creating interactions that are more difficult to manage” (p97).

All design guidance notes that these bus stops can be problematic for pedestrians/bus users, especially the most vulnerable people who particularly value safe, walk-only space such as blind people, older people with poor mobility, dementia etc. We accept that this factor needs to be balanced against the argument that bypasses protect cyclists from potential collisions with traffic when overtaking buses. However, given the big reduction in motor traffic as a result of the bus gate, this argument is much diminished. We therefore wish to see traditional bus stop designs on these locations in particular.

The project must reflect the status of ‘walking and wheeling’ at the top of the movement hierarchy both nationally and locally. We have been raising the points above with Council staff for over five years without any significant change and we must now therefore object formally to the Traffic Orders. We hope that future major active travel schemes will ensure that more priority is given to improving all walking environments and we intend to object to any future scheme which fails to meet at least ‘minimum’ standards.

LSE Annual General Meeting – 6.00pm, Thursday 16 May 2024

Friends Meeting House, Victoria Terrace

The LSE Annual report can be downloaded here – LSE Annual Report 2024

AGENDA

  • Introductions / apologies
  • Minutes of last AGM, 14 November 2022.
  • Treasurer’s report (Isobel Leckie)
  • Convenor’s report (David Hunter)
  • Communications with supporters (Rachael Revesz)
  • Discussion: our priorities and how to achieve them*
  • Agreement of lead roles (Convener and Treasurer etc.)
  • AOB.

Finish: 7.15pm

  • Note: this will be the main item. After discussion, we will decide what
    officer positions (Convener, Treasurer, committee members etc) we
    need.

Our Future Streets – A discussion on the future of Edinburgh’s streets

Thank you for attending our webinar with Daisy Narayanan, head of placemaking and mobility at Edinburgh Council, and Cllr Scott Arthur, convener of the Transport and Environment Committee, who discussed changes to central Edinburgh i.e. the North / South Bridges, Canongate, Cowgate, the Mound and more.

Missed the event? Here is the video on YouTube

Here are the headlines:

  • Edinburgh is very congested and that’s something we have to tackle to hit net zero, as well as accommodate growth: land has been set aside for around 37,000 new houses in and around the city over the next few years.
  • How and when these changes are happening are yet to be outlined in detail. But expecting some / most of it within a year.
  • Traffic modelling shows an expected 10% traffic evaporation once these new proposals go through – the Council has a 30% reduction target in car kilometres by 2030.
  • The proposals to restrict traffic on the bridges etc partly depend on letting traffic flow (partially) through Holyrood Park – Historic Environment Scotland (HES) owns Holyrood Park and is currently consulting on the park’s future – the Council and HES will have to work together.
  • Scott Arthur said he does not foresee any changes to Lothian Bus routes through the city centre, but of course Lothian Buses makes up its own routes, not the Council.
  • This is not a car ‘ban’. Residents and businesses will retain access to areas like Cowgate [editor: unanswered questions if any of proposed areas will actually be pedestrianised].
  • The new proposals mean re-examining plans to make Lothian Road a ‘boulevard’.There is an opportunity to widen pavements on the bridges as well as restrict through-traffic.
  • The Council is considering restricting vehicle access to Calton Road from Leith Street i.e. where the back of Waverley Station is.
  • Any changes to Picardy Place will be incremental e.g. possibly again allowing vehicles to turn onto London Road.
  • The fundamental challenge is the volume of traffic in the city. However, the plans aim to make it easier for people who really need to drive. The tram network is planned to double and bus journey times are planned to decrease by 25% within a decade.
  • The Council and Network Rail are talking about opening certain sections of the South Suburban Railway i.e. Slateford to Portobello, but not the entire loop. Timescale? 2035. Ultimate permission will come from Network Rail.Please email us if you’d like to be sent the slide deck / Zoom chat.

Further reading:

City Mobility Plan – First Review – February 2024

What are The City of Edinburgh Council plans for city centre traffic?

What are The City of Edinburgh Council plans for city centre traffic?

What will they mean for everyday walking and wheeling?

Join us online at 12.00 on 1 March to hear a short presentation from Daisy Narayanan and join the Q&A!

Register you place here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAsc-ugrjwpEtRfWiZMru0iH5nbbZlNLzXF#/registration