Monthly Archives: April 2018

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.

We also welcome the incorporation, in the initial design of the new route, of extensive provision of continuous footways over side roads at their junctions with Leith Walk and other key streets along which the tram will operate. These are potentially transformative of the walking experience and represent a significant opportunity to implement in practice the excellent principles contained in the Council’s Street Design Guidance.

Detailed design concerns

Notwithstanding our support for extension of the tram route, we have a number of concerns about the detailed design as presented for public consultation:

  1. The Council has failed to adopt best practice by using the ‘Place Standard’ to engage and understand what people want in this area. This is a place-making tool developed by the government which can assist the design process and would be especially important in areas like Leith Walk and Newhaven.
  2. On a related point, there is no evidence that the Council collected data on pedestrian movement on the street in order to best understand pedestrian needs in the context of the new tram route. The Council made a considerable investment recently in a number of ‘Street Life Assessments’ conducted by consultants Here and Now, and we would want to see evidence that the results of this work are reflected in the tram design plans. (https://planningedinburgh.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/leith-walk-and-great-junction-street-r.pdf)
  3. Many of the obvious design problems could have been anticipated and mitigated using tools like the Transport for London ‘Healthy Streets’ indicators – https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/planning-for-the-future/healthy-streets. A related point is that many of the problems with the design of the original tram route such as tram/cycle conflict – now being addressed in a retro-fit – are being replicated in the tram extension project, with no lessons evidently learned from the initial tram experience.

  4. There is no detail on pedestrian-specific points on access to the trams, eg (a) the impact of the longer distance to walk to tram stops (c. 600m apart v. c. 200m for buses), and (b) the design of pedestrian access routes to tram stops from the surrounding catchments (other than for the immediate environs of the tram stops). The Active Travel Plan includes a commitment (not yet implemented, so far as we know) to improve walking access to bus and tram stops; this should be done as an integral part of designing the new route.
  5. In terms of the wider pedestrian environment, the plan proposes a significant deterioration in Leith Walk crossing opportunities, and it is extraordinary that ‘pedestrian crossings’ do not even feature in the Key to the plans. A lack of pedestrian crossings would lead to increased social exclusion (since elderly and disabled people in particular would not be able to cross) and increased pedestrian casualties in the area. Currently there are five intermediate crossings (pelicans / zebras) between the traffic lights at the Foot of the Walk and those at Pilrig Street. We understand that one of the design principles adopted for the tram route is that zebra crossings are incompatible with safe tram operation. If that is the case, then replacement crossings (pelican / toucan) must offer similar frequencies and durations of crossing opportunities to those currently enjoyed by pedestrians.  However we would also point out that zebra crossings are very commonly used on streets with trams in continental Europe and we would suggest that the principle of no zebra or informal crossing points on the Edinburgh tram should in any event be reviewed to take account of international best practice and the practical, as opposed to theoretical, risks involved, compared to the benefits to pedestrians.
  6. Under the proposed scheme there will effectively be just one formal crossing opportunity in a distance of some 700m, ie at either end of the Balfour Street tram stop – and both of these will be staggered. The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) Street Design Guidance states that “pedestrian crossing points (controlled or uncontrolled crossings) [should be provided] every 50-100m . . . Avoid staggered crossings”. This is a profoundly serious – and very basic – flaw in the design proposal, effectively treating Leith Walk as a traffic-engineered, movement-oriented vehicular corridor, rather than ‘a place’ for people. Edinburgh’s tram infrastructure is once again being designed as a railway on the street rather than as a form of transport that complements and enhances the existing urban environment.
  7. On a related point, the plans indicate a pedestrian-deterrent central reservation where the tram electricity masts will be located. In the absence of frequent formal crossing opportunities, it would be entirely unacceptable to deter pedestrians from using such potential refuges. In any event, there must be frequent, formal crossings of Leith Walk (with frequent pedestrian phases, and sufficient time for less-able pedestrians to cross), in accordance with the CEC Street Design Guidance.
  8. Disturbingly, the plans do not identify footway widths – this is particularly worrying, as it is clear that a number of footway sections will be substantially narrowed under the current proposals. On a key shopping street like Leith Walk, with heavy pedestrian footfall, it is essential that all footways meet the CEC Street Design Guidance standard of a “desirable minimum of 4m or wider”. The environment of the northern part of Leith Walk has recently been significantly improved with much wider footways and additional crossing points, also improving the local economy through creating a more attractive public realm. The proposal to undo these improvements is indicative of the tram designers’ failure to understand the important ‘place’ function of Leith Walk – and a failure to follow the Council’s own Street Design Guidance.
  9. To the potential detriment of walking safety and convenience, the design includes a number of sections of footway shared by pedestrians and cyclists – this is a recipe for conflict, with the most vulnerable street users likely to come off worst.
  10. A crucial aspect of the tram will be the effect on pedestrian phases at signalled junctions (for example at Pilrig Street, the Foot of the Walk etc). The first tram route had a seriously negative effect on many such junctions and this must not be replicated in the extension. Indeed, there may be opportunities to extend pedestrian priority – for example at the southern end of Constitution Street, which will be bus and tram-only, and at the proposed signalled crossing at the junction of London Road. Such opportunities to prioritise walking should be actively pursued.

Wider policy issues

  1. In wider contextual terms, although an ‘in principle’ case for extending the tram to Leith (along a dense population corridor with generally wide streets) was established some years ago, (a) no other options for improving public transport in the area (such as enhanced bus services) have been appraised against the tram option, as required by Transport Scotland’s Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance, (b) there is a lack of detail on how the tram will meet the various transport policy objectives of the Council, (c) the scheme is progressing in advance of the Local Transport Strategy review, and (d) no alternative route options are set out, eg in front of Victoria Quay rather than behind it, and why the new terminus is not Western Harbour or Granton, rather than Newhaven.
  2. There is no detail on the impact on existing bus passengers, eg (a) loss of frequency of through buses, and (b) the extent to which the required seamless interchange between bus and tram (both physical and in terms of through tickets) will be provided in practice. Similarly (and related), an Equality Impact Assessment is required by law, but does not appear to be available.
  3. The Council should use the tram works project and related road closures to review traffic management on Leith Walk, Albert Place and Croall Place to reduce overall traffic levels. If running lanes for general traffic could be reduced, this would benefit the tram, and create more space for walking and cycling. Apart from essential access, there are strong arguments for restricting general traffic on Leith Walk, either entirely or in one direction. Failure to consider these options limits the scope to re-purpose space in line with the Council’s policies to support walking and cycling.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group / 25 April 2018

 

 

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.

In addition, we believe that this is the right opportunity to install the ‘missing pedestrian crossing’ at Ryans Bar, which was approved by Transport and Environment Committee in August 2014 as part of the ‘post tram city centre review’. This is an important gap in pedestrian provision in the city centre; again this junction was explicitly referred to in Cllr Macinnes’ motion.  This review should also consider other potential gaps in pedestrian networks where crossings are needed. One example would be another pedestrian crossing of Princes Street, to the west of South Charlotte Street and there are likely to be a number of others.

Finally, the city centre retains a considerable number of temporary features, many of which are trip hazards, such as rubber kerbs, patching of paving and other remnants of the tram construction which have not yet been properly remedied. Permanent reinstatement works are overdue. We can supply more detail on specific locations and issues.

Location-specific observations (west to east)

We make the following observations on some specific locations mentioned in the proposal which will affect people walking.

Haymarket Yards:
We are happy with the design proposals for this location, which offer enhanced pedestrian crossing facilities. The main problem for pedestrians crossing Haymarket Yards however is the inordinately long wait that people walking often have to wait to cross this junction which has relatively little traffic. We would like to see signal timings altered in favour of people walking.

Haymarket:
North of Ryries/Starbucks is a severe pinch point for pedestrians, especially problematic when many passengers disembark from busy trains at Haymarket Station. There is also a step parallel to the kerb, separating the pavement from the carriageway here which is an unpleasant trip hazard. There appear to be no plans to improve this space for the thousands of pedestrians who use it and we would ask that improvements for walking here are introduced.

Grosvenor Street:
We welcome the narrowing of Grosvenor Street, which will make it easier for people walking to cross.  We note that, to the immediate east of Grosvenor Street, the northern pavement of West Maitland Street is to be reduced from 4.9 to 3.8 metres. We would prefer not to see this, although, taken together with the improvements to crossing Grosvenor Street, we are minded to compromise on this as a net improvement for walking. However, this is dependent on the pavement being kept clear of clutter such as bins, poles, A-boards etc. We are therefore concerned at the note that “Existing cycle racks and traffic sign relocated to new footway area”. We seek assurances that if the pavement is narrowed, new obstructions are not placed on it: this would be entirely unacceptable.

Princes Street at South St Andrew Street:
We note that it is proposed to reduce the width of the pavement significantly – from 11.14 metres to 8.4 metres at the widest point and from 7.55 metres to 6.42 metres adjacent to the corner. While we understand the need to introduce an acceptable geometry for the cycle route crossing the tram tracks at this location, we oppose this potential loss of pedestrian space on Edinburgh’s principal pedestrian street which is used by over a million people every week (bit.ly/2qfA8Dp).  The reduction of the space available to people on foot here would increase the risk of pedestrians spilling into the carriageway/tram tracks. A shared walking/cycling space or a cycle bypass bisecting the pavement would also be totally unacceptable and we call for a fresh approach to improving cycling safety – which does not compromise pedestrian safety or convenience – at this key location.

 

David Hunter
for Living Streets Edinburgh Group