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.
Notes of Living Streets Edinburgh Group Annual Public Meeting, Friends Meeting House, Edinburgh, 7.45pm, 11 October 2018
- Convenor’s welcome and report
David Spaven welcomed supporters to the meeting and summarised the Group’s activity over the past year. A number of achievements and welcome developments included:
- The Council agreeing to a complete ban on ‘A-boards’ (from 5 November)
- Progress on the ‘Festival Streets’ campaign, to make more car-free streets in the Festival, with the partial closure of Cockburn Street, and the prospect of wider closures in 2019
- Encouraging signs that routine maintenance works will introduce significant walking improvements (Signals team design for the Lothian Road/Morrison St junction)
- We’ve produced a ’10-point plan’ to influence the City Centre Transformation initiative
- collaboration with Spokes on planning and transport schemes, including the importance of providing separate (not shared) walking and cycling space.
On the other hand, there had been some disappointments:
- The Picardy Place/Leith Street debacle
- Failure to widen pavements significantly in major works on South Bridge/Nicolson St
- endless cycle consultations, almost always involving some shared cycle/walk space (although also usually with some walking improvements)
- the review of walking and cycling safety on the current tram route ignored walking entirely
- continued planning approvals of traffic-generating sites, over-provision of parking etc.
Looking to the year ahead, David highlighted some key LSEG priorities as to:
- monitor the implementation of the A-board ban
- press for more car-free Festival Streets
- have a ‘Walking Champion’ appointed by the Council
- press for more progress in implementing the Active Travel Action Plan
- contribute to the City Centre Transformation Initiative.
David then introduced and welcomed Daisy Narayanan, who has been seconded from Sustrans to lead the City Centre Transformation Initiative.
- Daisy Narayanan presentation
Daisy spoke about the vision for the project, which brought together a range of complex projects and initiatives, all at different stages. The aim was to provide a coherent vision to guide the development of the city centre across all parties and professional disciplines. The initiative will also embrace development of the Low Emission Zone and the City Mobility Plan (transport strategy). The starting point was that with a growing city (at least 100,000 more people by 2040) the status quo is not an option in terms of how people, goods and services function and move about the city. Daisy emphasised the importance of walking (No.1 of 15 issues) and of equality and inclusion, so that no one was excluded from being able to enjoy and participate in the city’s life.
Daisy took a number of questions from the floor including on the challenges that she faced and on whether planning policy was sufficiently joined up with the emerging vision.
- Workshop sessions
The meeting then broke into three informal groups to look at three issues that were part of the City Centre Transformation challenge: Accessibility, Strategic Walking Routes and a Walkable City. Points noted included the need:
- for better understanding of pedestrian movements, including data on where people walk
- to focus scarce resources on street improvements (wider pavements, easier road crossings, decluttering, pedestrianisation, tree planting etc) on busy walking streets
- to maintain and manage improved streets and public spaces.
David Spaven closed the meeting by thanking everyone for their participation and promised that a note of the meeting would be sent to everyone who had left their contact details.
Living Streets Edinburgh would like to see:
Recognition that walking is not simply one of several competing transport options, but is essential to almost every journey by public transport and to many car, train, tram, taxi or bicycle trips. Walking (also known as “footfall”) is fundamental to the city centre economy and creates a sense of community. It is the only universal way of moving about (‘walking’ includes people using mobility aids). It is healthy and pollution-free. Uniquely among travel modes, walking is as much (or more) about enjoying places as about movement.
Therefore, the promotion of walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around Edinburgh should be given the highest priority across transport modes and indeed in all other aspects of the City Centre Transformation initiative.
Specifically, we want to see action to:
- Reduce the volume, speed and dominance of motorised traffic;
- Constrain the number large vehicles (coaches, bin lorries, etc) in the city centre;
- Redress the chronic lack of high-quality urban space in Edinburgh by fully pedestrianising sections of key streets, especially George Street and the Royal Mile;
- Limit the availability of on-street parking to create sufficient space for walking, cycling and public transport;
- Deliver a strategic approach to identifying and improving key walking routes in and around the city centre based principally on levels of use;
- Tackle a chronic legacy of narrow pavements, street clutter and poor maintenance;
- Provide more frequent road crossings, improve crossing times and minimise wait times on key routes, which meet the needs of people of all abilities;
- Create an effective and joined-up monitoring, inspection and enforcement system for the walking environment;
- Implement planning policies which encourage housing density and sustainable local community facilities (schools, healthcare, libraries etc.);
- Put in place sustainable traffic plans for key sites on the city centre periphery which are particularly hostile to pedestrians (Tollcross, Haymarket, etc.).
Kirkgate in Leith, one of the few pedestrianised streets in Edinburgh, should not be ‘compromised’ by giving over part of its space to a new cycle route, argues the local walking campaign group, Living Streets Edinburgh. Responding to news that the City Council will not accommodate the cycle route along the planned tram corridor on Constitution Street, the walking campaigners have vowed to oppose the new plan. The group’s Convenor, David Spaven, says:
‘Taking the cycle route down Kirkgate is a guarantee of conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, with the most vulnerable street users likely to come off worst. The Council tells us it wants to make Edinburgh much more walking friendly, but proposals like this will do the opposite – undermining the safety and convenience of walking on a key foot corridor. The concept of a new cycle route along the entire tram corridor is very sound, but the space for it should be taken away from motor vehicles, not pedestrians.’
A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY – 11TH OCTOBER
This year’s annual public meeting of Living streets Edinburgh Group will focus on ‘City centre transformation’, and we’re delighted to have as our keynote speaker Daisy Narayanan, who is leading the City Council’s City Centre Transformation project. As usual, we will have workshops as a key part of the event – these will focus on the general opportunities for, and barriers to, a walkable city centre, including discussion of potential ‘strategic walking routes’ to and through the city centre. Daisy has indicated that she is keen to hear feedback on the city centre project and will welcome points arising from the workshop discussions.
We will also have updates on our campaigning work over the last year, including the successful outcome of our lobbying on A-boards, now to be banned from all streets in the city – and our plans for 2019.
The venue is the Quaker Meeting House on Victoria Street on Thursday 11th October. Registration will start at 19.30, and the proceedings will kick off at 19.45, with the meeting ending by 21.30.
- Please accept these comments from Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) in response to the Council’s Powderhall consultation.
- Living Streets Edinburgh aims to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around Edinburgh and to achieve this we want to see:
- Walking given the top priority over other forms of travel in all Council transport and planning policies
- 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 Edinburgh Council
- Planning policy which encourages dense, sustainable housing over car-dominated development
- More effective implementation of pro-walking policies ‘on the ground’.
- Given its ownership of the entire Powderhall site, and the fact that this will be maintained post-development, the Council is in the position of being able to set an example by planning and implementing development of the site to reflect these objectives in accordance with national and local planning policy.
- Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) has clear statements on reducing reliance on private cars and prioritising sustainable and active travel choices (para 46) and promoting opportunities for travel by more sustainable modes in the following order of priority: walking, cycling, public transport, cars (para 273).
- The aims of the Local Development Plan (LDP) include:
- help ensure that the citizens of Edinburgh can get around easily by sustainable transport modes to access jobs and services
- look after and improve our environment for future generations in a changing climate
- The Transport Section of the LDP states that the relationship between land uses and how people move between them is fundamental in promoting sustainable development and its objectives include:
- to minimise the distances people need to travel
- to promote and prioritise travel by sustainable means i.e. walking, cycling and by public transport
- to minimise the detrimental effects of traffic and parking on communities and the environment.
- The Council’s Design Guide states that greater emphasis has now been placed on creating places that support the development of a compact, sustainable city. There is support for walking, cycling and public transport, revised parking controls in new developments and encouragement for high density to make public transport more viable.
- The Council has recently resolved to consult on a prospectus – ‘Connecting Our City, Transforming Our Places’.
The prospectus builds on existing national and local policy and states, inter alia:
‘By 2040, Edinburgh’s population will be close to 600,000, an increase of 100,000, and the city-region is also growing, accounting for a quarter of the Scottish population. This growth and the potential strain on the transport network and city spaces needs to be managed to improve access to public transport, increase journeys on foot and by bike, and prevent unsustainable increases in car travel.
We must join cities like Copenhagen, Oslo, Barcelona and other leading cities in reshaping how our city works and become synonymous with urban innovation if we are to meet the economic, social and environmental challenges we face. “
- Within this context it is clear that there is both a requirement on and a commitment by the Council to make a break from the traditional car based approach to development and put people first. Powderhall is an ideal location for this approach to be put into practice as it is close to the city centre and is well served by walking and cycling routes, public transport and car club bays at Powder Hall, Dunedin Street and multiple points on McDonald Road.
- An additional opportunity exists at Powderhall as St. Mark’s Path, which bisects the site, is an important walking route as part of the active travel network, linking Broughton Road/McDonald Road/Leith Walk to The Water of Leith, St. Mark’s Park, Warriston and the established path network beyond. This path is part of the Council’s Quiet Route 20 Craigleith-Leith Walk-Restalrig on City Centre/North Edinburgh Map. The Council seeks to consolidate and enhance the network of Quiet Routes. A well-conceived development at Powderhall will contribute to this.
- The Council has a delayed programme of works to upgrade Quiet Route 20 at McDonald Road, including new crossings outside the school and a four-way controlled junction with Broughton Road. This should be completed as soon as possible and be in place before the Powderhall scheme is ready for occupation.
- Furthermore, the existing rail line to Powderhall is now redundant and there is the opportunity, in conjunction with redevelopment at Meadowbank (also under the Council’s control), to expand the walking route to Leith Walk, Easter Road and beyond and, in the other direction, over an upgraded Water of Leith bridge to St. Mark’s Park, and established paths to the northwest.
- In addition to the opportunities presented within and adjoining the site, there is also potential to capitalize on the ease of access to Redbraes Park/Community Garden (which abuts the site), Pilrig Park and the Royal Botanic Garden.
- Bus services currently exist on Broughton Road, Rodney Street and Pilrig Street. A car free development at Powderhall offers an opportunity to enhance these services, as well as increase in car club provision, to benefit new and existing residents.
- Further improvements on Broughton Rd at Redbraes and the railway bridge are already needed, especially pavement widening which would assist with traffic calming on the approach to the school. This development can provide the catalyst for these works and they should be costed into the plans.
- It is understood from Council staff at the August 2018 consultation events that the current intention, following earlier consultation, is to pursue a nursery/community use on the bowling green site to the south of St. Mark’s Path and rented housing on the former waste transfer station site to the north. The housing component will be a mixture of social, mid-market and open market rent with no private developers and no houses for sale. The Council will lead the development and retain ownership.
- This approach is entirely logical given the proximity to Broughton Primary School, the residential character of the surrounding area and the opportunity it presents for the Council to exercise direct control over the creation of an exemplar for sustainable living in an urban context.
- Given this background, a car free development becomes an attractive proposition. There will be costs associated with removal of buildings/structures and contaminated material from the existing Waste Transfer Station. A car free project will enhance development viability and offset costs by reducing the level of provision for access roads/parking and allowing a higher density development with more units.
- In addition to the economic benefits, this approach gives greater scope for an imaginative layout with less constraint on the relationships between buildings, greater potential for creating high quality shared spaces and safe walking and cycling links through the site to the existing network. There will be minimal additional traffic generated onto the surrounding road network, which will mean that the objectives of the Quiet Route are not compromised and impact on established development will be less.
- Having identified the opportunity that exists at Powderhall a radical approach is justified based on the following:
- Taking a starting point that the development will be car free (as allowed for by Policy TRA2 in the LDP) apart from provision required for disabled residents/visitors and essential servicing.
- Create an attractive and safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists within the new development with links to the surrounding walking and cycling network.
In association with the above, identify and implement improvements to off site walking routes. The redundant rail line in particular offers a unique opportunity, especially as development at Powderhall will be within a similar timeframe to the Council’s Meadowbank redevelopment.
- Take advantage of the location to enhance access by walking to the series of major green spaces via the active travel network.
The area enjoys a reasonable level of bus services, which must be enhanced and made an even more attractive proposition.
- Use the project as an opportunity to enhance off-site management and secure improvements to the surrounding road network, including Broughton Road and McDonald Road/Quiet Route 20, to improve air quality and create a more attractive environment for walking and other active travel.
- Promote the development as car free, make it clear that parking permits will not be granted for adjoining streets, and introduce incentives for walking, cycling and public transport.
- There is a real opportunity in Powderhall and other sites within its control for the Council to take a lead and create exemplars for urban living that reflect Edinburgh’s position as a major European city. Within this context Living Streets Edinburgh would be extremely happy to work with the Council and others during the forthcoming master planning stage and beyond to ensure that Powderhall gets a development that we can all be proud of.
- When progress on Powderhall next comes before the Council we respectfully request that this submission be reported in full without editing or précis.
LSEG 10 September 2018
The full response can be downloaded as a PDF document here