Cycling and walking campaign groups have welcomed the decision of the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) to look at new options to boost active travel in the re-design of the controversial Picardy Place / Leith Street junction associated with the St James Quarter development. Following a presentation  by a deputation from Living Streets Edinburgh  and Spokes , CEC’s new Transport and Environment Committee today backed a motion from Green Party Councillor, Chas Booth , which argued that:
‘ the redesign of a significant city centre junction and surrounding streets presents an opportunity for traffic reduction, development of active travel infrastructure, and improvement of the public realm’
The Committee agreed to receive a report within one Committee cycle, setting out options for achieving these objectives in Picardy Place and surrounding streets, and reporting on the decision-making processes to date on the Picardy Place junction, the proposed future decision making, and what the democratic oversight of the process has been to date.
David Spaven, Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh commented:
‘We’re delighted that the T & E Committee has decided to look at the options for better provision for cycling and walking at this important new junction. At present, conditions for active travel are highly sub-standard in the area – but we hope that all interested parties and the public at large can now work towards a final design which is both a symbolic and very practical demonstration of the importance of first, walking and cycling, and second, ‘place’ rather than ‘movement’, in a highly-visible and much-used area of the city centre.
‘The Census and other surveys show that the Council is making progress on its targets to reduce car use and to boost cycling, walking and public transport. It would be tragic if this success was jeopardised by a traffic-dominated design at this major city centre location.’
Martin McDonnell of Spokes commented:
‘There are a number of aspects of the currently proposed road design which give us cause for concern. We believe there is still too much emphasis on providing space for vehicles. While the provision of a dedicated cycle path and wider pavements is welcome, the cycle path and some pavements will narrower than they should be for these busy streets. It is also most unwise to incorporate shared cyclist / pedestrian space, particularly as many cyclists will be on ‘A to B’ journeys rather than mingling. This is a recipe for conflict, with the most vulnerable users (including pedestrians who are frail or have a disability) likely to come off worst.
‘Important green space and public realm (including mature trees) would be lost in front of the cathedral and on Picardy Place itself, in order to accommodate three lanes of traffic and the large island in the centre of the gyratory roundabout.
‘In light of concerns about the large gyratory intersection, which would be dangerous for cycling, and the loss of public space, we feel there is a great opportunity to explore removing the entire island at the centre of the proposed roundabout and the associated gyratory system from the design, thus creating improved conditions for cycling, and allowing the public realm and footway width to be increased on all three sides of the junction.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
 Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local voluntary arm of the national charity which campaigns for improved conditions for ‘everyday walking’. http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/
 Spokes is the Lothian Cycle Campaign. http://www.spokes.org.uk/
 Councillor Booth’s motion (with minor amendments, not shown here) was as follows:
- Notes the decision of council on 10 March 2016 in regard to the regeneration of the St James Quarter, including a decision on the future governance of the Growth Accelerator Model (GAM) works programme and cross-party members’ oversight of the project;
- Notes that the Edinburgh Tram Extension and Leith Programme all-party oversight group has not met since the council election in May;
- Expresses concern at the lack of public consultation on changes to a significant element of the city’s transport infrastructure;
- Agrees that full public consultation on proposed changes to the Picardy Place junction should take place as soon as possible;
- Agrees that the redesign of a significant city centre junction and surrounding streets presents an opportunity for traffic reduction, development of active travel infrastructure, and improvement of the public realm;
- Therefore agrees to receive a report within one cycle setting out options for achieving this in Picardy Place and surrounding streets, and that this report will also set out the decision-making process to date on Picardy Place, and the proposed future decision making, and in particular what the democratic oversight of the process has been.’
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