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 current campaigning priorities range across five issues:
the need for the council to devote more resources to inspecting, monitoring and improving the pedestrian environment
ensuring that cycling improvements are not gained at the expense of pedestrian safety and comfort
bridging the gap between exemplary policies (including Street Design Guidance) and practical implementation on the ground
pressing for better co-ordination between council departments impacting on the pedestrian environment
supporting the introduction of wide 20 mph limits for all the cities residential and shopping streets and their robust enforcement.
We were appalled to see how narrow the pavement is on the Castle side of Johnston Terrace, after the works to install a ‘rock trap’ to catch falling rocks from Castle Rock were finished recently. The pavement is only 1.5 metres wide – well short of the 2.5 metre “absolute minimum” required by the Council’s own (excellent) Street Design Guidance.
Having looked into the history of this, it is almost as appalling to read the report to the Development Management Sub Committee 14 January 2015, which states
“Whilst this width is below that recommended in the council’s …guidelines it is considered, given the relatively low use of this footway, to be an be acceptable departure from standards in this instance. However as two wheelchairs or buggies will be unable to pass each other on a footway of this width the applicant was advised that uncontrolled crossing points on either side of the narrowing were required.”
We have raised this with the Council – not only the inadequacy of this pavement (which is far from “low use”) but also the wider issue of how keen the Council appears to be to ignore its own guidance.
Living Streets Edinburgh Group are backing the overall direction of the City of Edinburgh Council’s proposals for the next phase of upgrade of the Leith Walk corridor, including the segregated cycle route. There are many benefits for everyday walking in the planned scheme as a whole.
We do have big concerns, however, about ‘floating bus stops’, with cyclists routed behind bus stops, thereby requiring pedestrians to cross the cycle route to access the bus stop.
This is especially the case on busy shopping streets and main public transport corridors. Irrespective of any cycling /walking conflict-reduction measures, it will be very difficult to avoid at least some deterioration in the convenience and safety of walking, especially for older and disabled people. Routine conflicts of queuing pedestrians blocking lanes are bad for cyclists too. The problems of conflict are most acute on areas with shop frontages and limited pavement widths and around major bus stops such as those found on main streets like Leith Walk. However, we are keen to do what we can to help the broad aim of what CEC is proposing for Leith Walk, so:
a. We will support a floating bus stop pilot on Leith Walk, provided that,
b. it can be demonstrated in advance that the whole Leith Walk scheme will deliver a net improvement in walking convenience and safety, and,
c. a package of design and regulatory measures to mitigate floating bus stop impact on pedestrians is put in place, and,
d. there is full objective monitoring and evaluation of the floating bus stops (for pedestrians, bus users, cyclists, elderly/disabled people) and of the modal shift / safety outcomes of the Leith Walk scheme as a whole, and,
e. the roll-out of further floating bus stops in Edinburgh is delayed until after the evaluation of the Leith Walk pilot.
We are also keen to see more formal and informal crossings of Leith Walk, integrated with the tram planning process.
Some cycling campaigners have indicated that we are opposed to segregated cycle ways. This is categorically not the case. After walking most of the proposed Edinburgh East to West cycle route, and auditing the design, we have supported the vast majority of the proposal and recommended some detailed design improvements. However, we have concerns about two sections of the route, due to impacts on the safety and convenience of walking.
The first concern is that Roseburn Terrace will not be able to accommodate a well-designed cycle bypass / floating bus stop which minimises conflicts with pedestrians queuing, alighting from or getting on buses. Conflicts of this nature will not be good for cyclists either. So far, the experience of such infrastructure in the UK has not been good, especially TFL’s efforts in London, where Living Streets has observed significant problems at a number of busy high streets. We are especially concerned at the effect on elderly and disabled bus passengers who will not be expecting to encounter cyclists on alighting.
We have suggested an alternative route for this short section – which actually links better with the Family Friendly route through Roseburn Park. We also believe widening both pavements at Roseburn Terrace is a priority for improving the public realm and maximising active travel benefits. We suggest further work is needed with all parties on the design of this section of the route and are happy to work with cycling groups to understand their perspective and look at options which address our concerns.
Our second concern is that the east end of Princes Street proposal – running straight through the middle of the pavement – is highly problematic due to the sheer volume of pedestrians and the inevitable conflicts which would be created. We want to see re-allocation of road space to accommodate cycling and minimise conflicts.
We look forward to supporting the project as a whole and ensuring it maximises benefits to pedestrians as well as cyclists. Where there are problems, we will work constructively with other interests to resolve them.
Living Streets Edinburgh (LSE) campaigns for improved conditions for everyday walking in Edinburgh’s streets and public spaces. Walking is the most important transport mode in the city, since over half of all journeys by Edinburgh residents are made either entirely on foot (35%) or by bus (18%), the latter involving a walking stage. It is also the most socially inclusive mode – it’s as natural as breathing – and is critical to the city’s economy (including the important tourist sector).
1. Key principles
1.1 LSE is strongly supportive of measures to improve sustainable transport generally and will support segregated cycle routes where these do not adversely affect the safety and/or convenience of walking, and particularly where they provide general improvements to the walking environment as well. This is the case for the large majority of this route.
1.2 We have big concerns about ‘floating bus stops’, as – irrespective of any ameliorative measures – there will inevitably be some deterioration in the convenience and safety of walking, as pedestrians have to cross the cycle path from the pavement in order to access the bus stop. Our view is that no floating bus stops should be created in Edinburgh until after the evaluation of a pilot (with multiple safeguards) within the next phase of the Leith Walk upgrade (see separate submission to Anna Harriman at City of Edinburgh Council). Options to avoid these conflicts should be explored.
1.3 Walking in the city centre and bus use are closely linked. The impact of reduced bus priority needs to be considered in relation to journey times and air pollution impacts on pedestrians. We urge the council to view the project in a multi-modal context, which balances the needs of cyclists with bus users (as well as people on foot) – especially on busy bus routes.
The briefing sets out the views of Living Streets Scotland and Living Streets Edinburgh (the local campaign group) on the future of George Street and the scope to restore it to its rightful place as one of the capital’s and Scotland’s finest streets. It summarises 10 principles that we believe will allow Edinburgh to match and compete with other similar north European capital cities, with principal streets that offer a high quality experience to visitors and residents.
Achieving the vision
Recognize that George Street is an internationally important asset
Redress the chronic lack of high-quality urban space in Edinburgh
More people – not more parking – is the key to George Street’s future success
Create fully pedestrianised European style spaces
George Street is not a transport artery, so prioritise place over movement
Quality materials are not enough to deliver a quality street
Shared space must protect vulnerable users and restrain vehicle speeds
George Street must be at the heart of a lively, sociable walkable New Town
Proactively manage and regulate the new street from the outset
Edinburgh must not fail again
The opportunity must be taken to demonstrate Edinburgh’s streetscape can match its world-class architecture.
Princes Street is the heart of Edinburgh and its busiest street for people on foot. But pedestrians get a very raw deal as they proceed along the street. We have recorded video footage of this junction in September 2015 and found that it can take to FOUR MINUTES 22 SECONDS for people to wait for the green man phase to cross just the Frederick Street junction. This is an unacceptable wait time for people on foot and not only leads to delays for the great number of people on foot but is dangerous as some people will inevitably seek to cross before the ‘green man’ phase comes on, resulting in frequent ‘near misses’.
The problem lies with the timing of the traffic signals. According to council policy, “absolute priority” is given to trams; this has had a knock-on effect of increasing the time that pedestrians have to wait to cross the roads which join Princes Street. However, the Council has responded to our concerns by tweaking the signal timings and we understand that pedestrian wait times have reduced recently. We will make more video recordings in the future, so that the pedestrian experience and actual wait times can be accurately documented and monitored. We also want to ensure that, should trams be extended to Leith or Newhaven in the future, there is no detriment to the pedestrian experience on any other part of the tram route.
Ten leading disability and environmental Scottish charities (1), brought together by Living Streets’ Edinburgh Group (2), have written to the Scottish Government urging action to be taken to turn Holyrood Park into a safe and attractive space for all.
While the city of Edinburgh gears up to reduce speeds to 20 mph, most of the sprawling park, meant to provide leisure opportunities for residents and visitors alike, remains a 30 mph limit with only one pedestrian crossing. The call follows concerns about the growing number of traffic accidents in the park (3).
The ten co-signing charities are calling for Historic Environment Scotland to review visitor access and safety arrangements in the park more generally at a time when Historic Environment Scotland is consulting on its corporate plan (4).
David Spaven, Convener, Living Streets Edinburgh, said:
“Holyrood Park is a unique green space, close to the heart of Edinburgh, but it’s become far too dominated by the speed and noise of vehicle traffic.
“People who want to enjoy this special park quietly and safely face far too many obstacles – speeding traffic, hardly any safe road crossings, and pedestrians and cyclists forced to use narrow ‘shared space’ paths.
“The time is right for Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Government to consider transport priorities for the park, with the needs of people on foot put right at the top of the list.”
“We want Holyrood Park to be a safe place that can be accessed and enjoyed by everybody. At the moment, the high volumes of traffic not only affect the air quality and noise but also people’s perception of how safe the park is.
“This can be very off-putting for many people with sight loss and can result in them not using the park, therefore denying themselves the pleasures of the great outdoors and being fit and healthy.”
John Lauder, National Director, Sustrans Scotland, said:
”While City of Edinburgh Council is rolling out 20mph zones across the city, the iconic Holyrood Park is being left behind. Right now it’s just not living up to its potential as a safe, attractive space for people on foot and bike to enjoy.
“In Scotland we have strong, cross-party support for walking and cycling and a government that has invested record levels in active travel over the past couple of years. Yet, on the door-step of the Parliament, one of Scotland’s most iconic parks is being used a rat-run – to the detriment of its users and those who live in the neighbouring communities.
“We want Holyrood Park to reflect Scotland’s ambition on active travel, by making it a safe attractive space for people making journeys on foot and by bike.”
Brian Sloan, Age Scotland Chief Executive, added his support to the campaign:
“Traditionally urban parks have been viewed as the ‘lungs of the city’ and we fear that given the current situation Edinburgh’s ‘lungs’ are being unnecessarily harmed.
“Holyrood Park could be a wonderful space for people of all ages to engage in an activity, such as walking or cycling, to enhance wellbeing and quality of life.
“Yet, given the current infrastructural prevalence for vehicular traffic this means that many people are put off from venturing into Holyrood Park. We urge the authorities to re-consider this so that Holyrood Park can rightfully be restored as a beneficial place for citizens and visitors alike to enjoy to its full potential.”
RNIB Scotland, Guide Dogs Scotland, Age Scotland, Spokes (Lothian Cycle Campaign), Sustrans Scotland, Paths for All, Living Streets Scotland, Transform Scotland and Ramblers Scotland
Living Streets Edinburgh is a local campaign group of Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking. We want to create a walking nation, free from congested roads and pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illness and social isolation and making walking the natural choice. We believe that a walking nation means progress for everyone.Our ambition is to get people of all generations to enjoy the benefits that this simple act brings and to ensure all our streets are fit for walking. For more than 85 years we’ve been a beacon for walking. In our early days our campaigning led to the UK’s first zebra crossings and speed limits. Now, our campaigns and local projects deliver real change to overcome barriers to walking and our ground breaking initiatives such as the world’s biggest Walk to School campaign encourage millions of people to walk.
However, in the interests of taking placemaking seriously, we would like to see the proposal go further than simply creating a performance/gathering space in front of the NMS. Any placemaking project should surely consider the street as a whole, and not simply one short stretch.
We would like to see the widened pavement stretching at least the full block from West College St to George IVth bridge, and preferably the full length of the street.
This would provide a more balanced effect, rather than creating an uneven patchwork. It would also respond to the congestion that regularly occurs on the pavement around the new, tower entrance to the NMS building.
This buildout would provide a much enhanced pedestrian experience both for those travelling along the street, and for those visiting the museum. Similar consideration should also be given to the junction with South Bridge, which records very high footfall, but which is often an unpleasant experience for those on foot.
Finally, to enable pedestrians safer access to the Cowgate, we propose a zebra crossing across Chambers Street at West College St. This would link up NMS to the steps down to Guthrie Street, as well as making it easier for staff and students moving between George Square and University buildings on the far side of Chambers st.
Objection from Living Streets Edinburgh to Planning Application York Place / Elder st 15/04868/AMC
This objection is sent on behalf of Living Streets Edinburgh, a group that campaigns for improved conditions for pedestrians in the City. We also work to ensure that the City Council follows its own policies and guidance with regard to pedestrians.
We object to this application on a number of grounds:
It conflicts with the City Council’s Street Design Guidance, particularly with respect to footway widths.
It worsens conditions for disabled pedestrians (and by extension for all pedestrians) by introducing steps where none exist currently, and by failing to properly protect pedestrian space and crossing in the shared space area. Therefore by accepting this application as it is the Council would fail to comply with the law (Equality Act 2010).
It conflicts with the City Council’s Active Travel Action Plan by failing to provide comfortable, convenient and safe pedestrian routes.
The specifics of each of these points are as follows:
Pavement widths – Elder Street and York Pace are classed as a strategic retail / high streets in the Street Design Guidance and as such should desire to have a pavement width of 4 meters, with an absolute minimum of 2.5 meters. The application fails to meet this in a number of locations:
Elder Street, at the junction with York Place, north side, adjacent to loading bay / car park entrance;
Elder Street at the far right, top side;
The footway on the south/west side of Elder St also appears to have been split with part level, part on steps. If this is indeed the case then it also effectively narrows the footway below standard.
[Based on this application, we also have some concerns about the south side of York Place where a two way cycle lane appears to have been squeezed onto the pavement, however subsequent planning documents claim that the full pavement width has been retained, which we consider vital]
Equality Act and accessibility. Introduction of steps on north / east side of Elder Street – this footway currently provides step free access from York Place (east) to the St James Centre. There is no justification for placing new steps in this location. The step free route involves four separate road crossings rather than the current one, flagrantly disregarding the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 to improve (not worsen) conditions for disabled people. No contrasting coloured strip is shown to indicate the edge of the “footway” and the start of the “roadway” in the shared space area; again a vital feature from an accessibility point of view.
Comfortable, convenient and safe pedestrian routes. There should be a zebra crossing connecting Multrees Walk to the St James Centre. This street will still have vehicles driving up and down it and crossing pedestrians (especially older and disabled people) need priority crossing in what is essentially is a pedestrian area. The Street Design Guidance states that the Council will on such streets “Provide pedestrian crossing points every 50-100m, ideally associated with entrances to major buildings.”
The “footway” area in the shared space area should be protected with bollards to prevent the footway parking that takes there at present. Again, this also has Equality Act implications; footway parking is one of the most significant mobility issues for visually impaired pedestrians.
Within these plans there are two staggered junctions crossing York Place and Elder Street. Again both should be removed, as noted in the Street Design Guidance that states “Avoid staggered crossings”. It currently takes up to 3 minutes just to cross 22 meters of York Place (Youtube video showing crossing time). With the change in road layout with dedicated turning lanes it should be easy to remove the Elder street stagger as a minimum. It is also unclear where cyclists on York Place are supposed to cross this junction. Would they dismount and use the small pedestrian island?
At the main entrance to the St James Centre there appear to be 14 bike racks at 90 degrees to the footway. If these bike racks are used the footway will be blocked – particularly difficult for older and disabled pedestrians, and the many who have prams or are carrying shopping.
The swept path analysis only shows busses traveling to / from the west end of York Place. Nothing is shown from the east. Busses currently traveling from Elder Street heading east bound have to dangerously overhang the pavement on the north side of York place to clear the existing pedestrian island. No attempt has been made to remove this risk to pedestrians walking on the pavement.