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.

Despite the many barriers to walking, 35% of journeys by Edinburgh residents are still made on foot, and the Living Streets Edinburgh Group is engaging strongly with the Council, pressing for the pedestrian environment to enjoy the kind of prioritisation given to cycling expenditure – now due to rise to 10% of the Council’s transport budget.

Our overall aim is to:
Promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy 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 development;
  • more effective implementation of pro-walking policies ‘on the ground’.

Our priorities for action in 2017-18 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;
  • support the 20 mph initiative, effectively enforced;
  • campaign for a fundamental review of CEC’s policy on ‘A-boards’ and other street clutter;
  • support the development of pedestrian-friendly cycle infrastructure;
  • support location-specific campaigns including George Street, Holyrood Park and the Cowgate;
  • grow the number of our supporters and campaigners.

Walking Campaigners Call For Pedestrianisation Of Key Streets At 2019 Edinburgh Festivals

 Key Edinburgh city centre streets should be pedestrianised for the 2019 festivals following ‘intolerable’ experiences for pedestrians this year, says the local walking campaign group, Living Streets Edinburgh [1]. In a letter [2] to City Council Leader, Adam McVey, the group’s Convenor, David Spaven, says:

‘Living Streets Edinburgh has been calling for restrictions on private traffic during the summer festival for several years[1]. We believe that the experience for pedestrians, hemmed into narrow streets surrounded by traffic has become intolerable. The festival experience would be hugely enhanced – and made much safer – by excluding much motor traffic from city centre streets during August. Each year, this becomes more urgent; in 2018 it has come to the stage that new barriers have been widely used to keep pedestrians out of the road.’

The group suggests that many of the busiest streets should be pedestrianised, or restricted for general motor traffic, with ‘obvious candidates’ being Cowgate (where the precedent of banning traffic at night has been in place for around 20 years), Lawnmarket and the Royal Mile. They also recommend that the option of planning a significant expansion of public transport at festival time, within the city and to the city, should be considered, especially at night and weekends.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

[1] Living Streets Edinburgh is the local voluntary arm of the national charity which campaigns for ‘everyday walking’. http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/

[2] Text of message sent to Cllr McVey on 28 August 2018:

 

Dear Cllr McVey

 As you know, Living Streets Edinburgh has been calling for restrictions on private traffic during the summer festival for several years[1]. We believe that the experience for pedestrians, hemmed into narrow streets surrounded by traffic has become intolerable. The festival experience would be hugely enhanced – and made much safer – by excluding much motor traffic from city centre streets during August. Each year, this becomes more urgent; in 2018 it has come to the stage that new barriers have been widely used to keep pedestrians out of the road.

While we welcome the introduction of traffic restrictions in Cockburn Street for the first time this year, this is far from enough. We’re therefore repeating our call for a thorough review of traffic for next year’s festival, with the aim of making many of the busiest streets pedestrianised, or restricted for general motor traffic. Obvious candidates are the Cowgate (where the precedent of banning traffic at night has been in place for around 20 years), Lawnmarket and the Royal Mile, although there are many other streets which would benefit from excluding traffic.

 So long as adequate notice is given, there is no reason why this should cause difficulty to businesses and venues in arranging deliveries, waste collection etc at permitted times. Clearly the needs of some motor traffic, such as public transport, disabled motorists and possibly taxis requires some consideration.

 However, in addition to the need for traffic restraint, we believe that this year’s festival has raised some wider issues about the management of Edinburgh as a ‘festival city’. While we recognise the many benefits that the festival brings to the city, the restriction of entry to, and views into, Princes Street Gardens generated a lot of public debate about the use of public spaces and the extent to which it is acceptable to restrict them to the public. At times the public transport system has seemed barely able to cope, with passengers turned away from full buses and trains, sometimes when there are infrequent evening and weekend services. 

 We therefore hope that there will be a thorough review of the festival which considers the potential benefit and impacts of curtailing traffic, but also takes account of these wider issues. For example, the option of planning a significant expansion of public transport within the city and to the city should be considered, especially at night and weekends. There will no doubt be many other options which can be considered to improve the festival experience for both residents and visitors, while continuing to welcome all the benefits that the festival brings.

 We hope that this request will receive your support, and that of Councillors responsible for transport, culture etc, and other festivals partners.

 Regards

 David Spaven

Convenor, Living Streets Edinburgh Group

 

[1] https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2015/11/16/car-free-edinburgh-for-festival-for-2016/

Tram safety review – what about pedestrians?

16th August letter to Councillor Lesley Macinnes

Dear Councillor Macinnes

We are very pleased to see some real debates starting in earnest about a vision for Edinburgh where people (pedestrians!) take precedence over traffic and look forward to participating in these discussions over the coming months.

Meanwhile, there is one important matter to which we wanted to draw your attention, concerning the motion on tram safety which you put to full Council of 29 June last year. This essentially called for a “thorough infrastructure review…to improve pedestrian and cycling safety”. A consultation was carried out by the Council in response to your motion, but this dealt with cycling safety alone.  Our response focussed on the need to respond to your motion by also considering pedestrian safety:  http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2018/04/10/edinburgh-tram-route-cycle-safety-consultation-comments-by-lse

We were then further disappointed to see walking safety considerations and improvements once more entirely ignored in the Council’s summary of the consultation responses, which again dealt solely with cycling safety:   https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/sfc/tram-route-cycle-safety-improvements/

We subsequently raised these concerns directly with the Active Travel Team; however, we were unable to convince them that a wider remit for the project to include the safety and convenience of pedestrians was as necessary as that of cyclists. Discussion on the walking aspects of the project seem purely incidental.  So far the sole focus has been on managing the potentially negative impacts for pedestrian movement as a result of cycling improvements, eg loss of footway space.

While we recognise how important it was to respond to the tragic death of the cyclist Zhi Min Soh, we don’t regard the overall Council response to your motion as acceptable. There are considerably more pedestrians injured on Princes Street and other roads than cyclists. We would therefore like to request two actions:

  • Could you ask officials to revisit the review to highlight measures which address pedestrian safety and convenience along the tram route, as required by your motion to Council?
  • Would you consider appointing a councillor as a ‘walking champion’ for the Council, in a similar role to the cycling champion? We feel that this might be a useful measure to ensure that pedestrian interests are given more attention than is often the case currently, where ‘active travel’ effort focuses principally on cycling, and does not give sufficient weight to walking.

Kind regards

David Spaven

Convenor, Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Walking Campaigners Welcome Festival Traffic Ban Success

Walking campaigners have hailed the City Council’s ban on vehicle traffic from two Old Town streets during the forthcoming August festivals. David Spaven, the Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh Group, commented:

‘We’ve been pressing the Council for several years to tackle this growing problem of lack of space for pedestrians in the city centre during the peak summer season. So, we’re delighted they’ve taken up our idea. Banning traffic from Cockburn Street and Blair Street is an important step towards creating a civilised city centre which is safe and convenient for all pedestrians. But it should be just the start of a more ambitious programme – with growing safety concerns along Cowgate, we feel this traffic-dominated street should be an early priority for treatment.’

Continue reading Walking Campaigners Welcome Festival Traffic Ban Success

Commentary on ‘Taking Trams to Newhaven’ consultation

Our support for tram extension

Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) is the local volunteer arm of the national charity which campaigns for better conditions for ‘everyday’ walking as part of a high-quality public realm.

We support the principle of extension of the existing tram route to Leith and beyond. This kind of high-quality public transport is essential to meet the transport needs of a growing city in a safe and sustainable way.

Some 99% of tram users access the tram on foot (or wheelchair), and we support the principle of strategically-located tram stops with safe, convenient and high-quality access on foot from the surrounding catchments.

Continue reading Commentary on ‘Taking Trams to Newhaven’ consultation

Edinburgh Tram Route Cycle Safety Consultation: Comments by LSE

Introduction

Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) is the local voluntary arm of the national charity, Living Streets, which campaigns for better conditions for ‘everyday walking’. In LSEG our key aim is to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around the city.

The main general point that we would want to make in relation to this consultation is that, while we understand the urgent need to review the tram routes in the light of the legitimate concerns for the safety of cyclists, the main victims of road vehicle collisions are pedestrians. Their needs should be at the forefront of thinking on improvements to the tram route, bearing in mind also that 99% of tram users access the tram on foot (or wheelchair). The motion to Council by Cllr Macinnes in June explicitly aimed to enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety and convenience (our emphasis); this initiative should therefore be named as ‘Tram Route Pedestrian and Cycle Safety Consultation’.

However there is little in this proposal to address the specific needs of pedestrians and we want to see much more vigorous action to address a number of long-standing problems which pedestrians face on the tram route in the city centre. In particular, we have frequently drawn attention to the unacceptably long wait times that people walking along Princes Street face when trying to cross adjoining streets such as Frederick Street, Hanover Street and South St David Street. We strongly recommend that the pedestrian phases are reviewed at all signalled junctions along Princes Street (and indeed along the entire route, for example at Haymarket). The aim would be to reduce the wait times for pedestrians to cross and if necessary increase ‘green man’ times and the frequency of crossing opportunities. Making these improvements will in turn increase pedestrian safety, as it will reduce the incidence of ‘red man’ crossing, which is encouraged by the unacceptably long times that people have to wait for the pedestrian phase.

Continue reading Edinburgh Tram Route Cycle Safety Consultation: Comments by LSE