Monthly Archives: November 2015

Ten charities back 20mph for safer Holyrood Park

Ten charities back 20mph for safer Holyrood Park

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Park dominated by cars

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:

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Park should be a green space

“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.”

Ross Macfadyen, Interim Director, RNIB Scotland, said:

“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.”

Contact

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Kathryn Shaw, Media and PR Coordinator: Kathryn.Shaw@livingstreets.org.uk / 020 7377 4914.

Zebra-Crossing
Zebra crossing installed in 2005 removed by end of 2008
This crossing point was removed
This crossing point was removed

 

Notes to editors:

  1. RNIB Scotland, Guide Dogs Scotland, Age Scotland, Spokes (Lothian Cycle Campaign), Sustrans Scotland, Paths for All, Living Streets Scotland, Transform Scotland and Ramblers Scotland
  2. 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.
  3. http://www.crashmap.co.uk/Search shows over 50 fatal (1) serious and minor accidents
  4. Historic Scotland Consultation http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/about/consultations/hesconsult.htm. Historic Environment Scotland’s new Chief Executive David Middleton was in charge of Transport Scotland when it brought out guidance on 20mph limits in urban areas
Holyrood park only has one zebra crossing
Holyrood park only has one zebra crossing

Living Streets Edinburgh – Response to Chambers Street TRO

Living Streets Edinburgh is pleased to support the initiatives to make better use of Chambers St.  We support the principles proposed in the TRO.

Chambers-Street-TRO

(The original Traffic Regulation Oder can be found here)

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.

Chambers-Street-Widen-Full-Length-2We 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.

Chambers-street-Crossing-2Finally, 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

Objection from Living Streets Edinburgh to Planning Application York Place / Elder st 15/04868/AMC

Elder-Street-GeneralThis 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:

  1. It conflicts with the City Council’s Street Design Guidance, particularly with respect to footway widths.
  2. 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).
  3. 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:

elder-street-narrow-pavements-2Pavement 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.
  • Elder-Street-Cycle-Lane[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.  Elder-Street-stepsThe 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.

Elder-Street-CrossingComfortable, 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?

Elder-street-Bike-RacksAt 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.

York-Pace-Bus-Overhang

Available as a downloadable PDF – Objection from Living Streets Edinburgh to Planning Application York Place Elder St-2

 

 

Car-free Edinburgh for Festival for 2016?

Dear Councillor Hinds

Picture (c) Reggie Ticker
Picture (c) Reggie Ticker

Living Streets Edinburgh would like to ask that the Council formally considers the widespread closure of streets during next summer’s festival season.  This year, many of our members noted how many city centre pavements were so crowded (especially in the Old Town) that they were not only uncomfortable, but also felt unsafe. In addition, bus timetables became highly unreliable. Narrow pavements were occupied by hundreds of people, while wide roads were occupied by a handful of vehicles. The situation was exacerbated in streets like the Cowgate, where pavements were also frequently blocked by vehicles servicing venues. Unlike Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games (with similar attendances), there are no special provisions such as Park and Ride.

150811172622IMG_2814As a result, the way that Edinburgh’s streets are used at this time of year has become completely out of balance. We believe that the festival has grown to such an extent that a wholesale review is required to make much of central Edinburgh car-free during the peak festival season. This will make the Edinburgh festivals more enjoyable and successful, with a positive effect on travel, safety, tourism and the economy.

We therefore ask that a report is brought to appropriate Council Committee(s) to recommend measures which will redress this imbalance and make much of the city centre car-free for 2016. This report should consider the extent of street closures to general traffic (apart from buses) and recommend what exemptions might be made (considering issues such as emergency vehicles, taxis, deliveries and disabled parking).

We hope that you will agree to this request and look forward to your reply.

Kind regards

David Spaven

Convenor, Living Streets Edinburgh Group

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Living Streets Edinburgh objection to planning reference 15/04445/FUL- Cowgate / Victoria Street

Living Streets Edinburgh objection to planning reference 15/04445/FUL- Mixed use development comprising hotel, bar, restaurant, cafe, retail and commercial uses and alterations to India Buildings, 11-15 Victoria Street and Cowgatehead Church. | 1 -15 Victoria Street 18-20 Cowgate Edinburgh EH1 2EX

Living Streets Edinburgh has a number of concerns about this application, which lead us to object to it. Our reading of the application leads us to believe that the developer has not fully considered the implications of their proposal for pedestrians, and where they have considered them, they have ignored key issues.

Our main objection relates to the issue of loading/unloading in the Cowgate and Victoria Street, but we highlight below further concerns about access to bus stops, and general pedestrian accessibility.

Loading & Unloading

151031125538IMG_3703The planning application proposes that coaches and goods vehicles will use the Cowgate for loading/unloading of goods and people.  They’ve included a very narrow loading bay to facilitate this. However, the Cowgate is simply not wide enough at this point to accomodate vehicle loading.

The proposed loading bay will take away valuable pavement space.  The pavements in this area are already very narrow – and are on a busy road.  They’re currently 1.8m (at the back of this site ), and yet the developers want to NARROW them further, which seems likely to take them to the very minimum advised in the council’s own street guidance, given that the Cowgate is demarcated as a secondary retail/high st.

At present, deliveries to the site use the lane at the back of the Central Library up to the back of ‘Espionage’.  They do not use the street as in the current proposal.  The Cowgate is one of the only east / west roads left in the city center open to general traffic.  Any blockage would have major knock on effects through the Cowgate and Grassmarket.  Any vehicle loading or unloading would cause severe congestion within minutes.  The proposed narrow loading bay would not facilitate 2 way traffic.

150505145159IMG_11512As can be seen elsewhere in the Cowgate, delivery vehicles frequently park on the pavement, forcing pavement users into the road.  The damage caused by delivery vehicles can be seen throughout the Cowgate. It would be extremely deleterious to the pedestrian experience of Edinburgh, as well as costly to the council, if this practice were to be expanded any further.

For example, at the back of the recently opened Soco development an attempt was made by developers to build a loading bay on the pavement.  This has not worked as vehicles often take up the entire loading bay AND pavement, again blocking the pavement for legitimate users.

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Night-time closures

We also note that the site is within the night time road closures of Cowgate. There is no mention of this in the planning application.  If a delivery vehicle or bus requires access 10pm till 6 am where do they park?  If a vehicle does go through the no entry signs,  parks on the Cowgate, how would it leave the site?  Reverse out or drive through the closed road? Any of these options would again be disadvantageous to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians.

Narrow pavements and expanded footfall

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Pavement narrows to just 85cm meters from the proposed development

This proposal will inevitably increase the number of pavement users on the Cowgate.  No mention of this has been made in the application.  To the east of this development the pavement narrows to just 85cm under George the 4th Bridge on both sides of the road.  To the west pedestrians have to negotiate the very wide junction at the bottom of Victoria street.

With regards to Victoria Street the road narrows at the front of the development / behind the G&V Hotel.  As can be seen in some of the photos in the application the pavements in this area have been badly damaged by delivery vehicles parking on them.

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Cowgate / Victoria Street junction – very wide for pedestrians to cross

Victoria st junction

150512133645IMG_1288Any hotel guest trying to travel north will have to cross the 2 lanes of traffic at the top of Victoria Street.  During the rush hour it can be difficult to cross this junction on foot.  The increased number of vehicle movements on this street as a result of this development will only make the issue worse.

We are also concerned about the knock-on effects on Victoria St, which is likely to be used by coach or other delivery vehicles, especially those relying on SatNav. The street runs the risk of being overwhelmed if large vehicles attempt to negotiate this narrow street and become blocked.

Bus facilities- George IV bridge

150512133723IMG_1290The planning application makes note of the bus facilities nearby for use by its customers.  It does not mention that you have to cross 4 lanes of heavy traffic on George IV bridge to get to them.

 

Our advice would be that if the development is approved, it should be on the condition that

  • An off-street loading / unloading / drop off point should be created off the Cowgate.  The site is big enough for this.  There’s an example of an off road delivery bay at the Smart City Hostel further along the Cowgate.
  • The pavements should be widened along this part of the site to at least the far side of the George the 4th Bridge.
  • A pelican crossing should be installed on George the 4th Bridge at the top of Victoria St to allow people to cross the road without having to walk up to the junction with the Royal Mile to be able to cross the road safely.
  • All pavements surrounding the site should be protected by bollards to prevent vehicles parking on the pavement.  The upkeep and maintenance of these bollards and the paving stones should be met by the development.
  • During construction pedestrian traffic should be maintained on both sides of the road.
  • The bottom of Victoria Street at the junction with the Cowgate should be narrowed to allow pedestrians to cross the junction safely.
  • Along Victoria Street and the Cowgate more crossing points should be provided to allow pedestrians safer access to the development.

 

Available as a downloadable PDF – Living-Streets-Edinburgh-Cowgate-objection (98kb)