All posts by Living Streets Edinburgh

Email to councillors: Walking priority, pavement clutter and bus stop infrastructure

Dear Cllr Webber and fellow councillors

Motion to Council 9.4 

We want to record our support for your motion 9.4 to Council on Tuesday. Firstly, we are pleased to see the reminder that ‘walking and wheeling’ are top of the transport hierarchy (1) – far too often this is given lip service in policy, but ignored in practice.

Pavement obstructions also represent a significant problem which deserves highlighting particularly when social distancing is a prime objective. We are currently finalising a report on pavement clutter which we will be pleased to share with the council shortly.

With regard to ‘floating bus stops’, we have long had concerns at the risk of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, as bus passengers have to cross a cycle path in order to board or alight from a bus (2). Even more concerning is the recent introduction in number of ‘Spaces for People’ proposals of the apparently new (to Edinburgh at least) concept of a ‘bus boarder’ where passengers step off the bus directly onto a cycle way (eg Pennywell Road, Causewayside). Unexpectedly encountering a cyclist at this type of bus stop could endanger or intimidate many bus passengers – who are invariably also pedestrians – especially if they are Deaf, blind or unsteady on their feet.  We assume that the motion covers these ‘boarders’ as well as ‘floating’ bus stops.

We recognise the benefits that these bus stop designs bring to cyclists, and that many cycling advocates will disagree with our stance. However as an organisation championing ‘everyday walking’ we have to balance the benefits to cyclists against the risks posed to pedestrians, especially those more vulnerable.

Now is not the time for a major, rushed roll-out of untested cycle infrastructure in Edinburgh which introduces those risks. We know that many disability groups share our concerns, including Edinburgh Access Panel, RNIB, and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Suspension of the current proposals will permit consultation, particularly with disability groups, and also allow proper consideration of reports evaluating the Leith Walk floating bus stops which we understand were produced some two years ago but which we have only recently received.

We also want to make it very clear that Living Streets Edinburgh supports measures to make cycling easier and safer, provided these don’t add unacceptable risks to pedestrians, especially the most vulnerable people. There is also huge common ground in the interests of walking and cycling in our shared goal of seeing lower volumes of traffic, lower speeds and better enforcement of traffic regulations. We also support the overall aims of the Spaces for People initiative.

We therefore hope that your motion will achieve the widest possible support across all parties.

yours sincerely

David Hunter

Convenor

1) National Transport Strategy; page 43

https://www.transport.gov.scot/media/47052/national-transport-strategy.pdf

General response to various cycle schemes under ‘spaces for people’

This is a general response to the various cycle schemes advertised under the ‘spaces for people’ initiative (eg Wester Hailes Road, Ferry Road, Comiston Road, etc).

We support improvements to cycling infrastructure which encourages cycling and reduces motor traffic, so long as it is not detrimental to the actual and potential walking environment. Organisations like Spokes have rightly been very clear that new space for cycling must come from space for motor vehicles, rather than for walking. We therefore wish to record our support for the overall programme. However, we have two significant qualifications.

Pedestrian improvements

It is hard to see *any* improvements for people walking in these schemes? While general pavement widening may be difficult to achieve simultaneously with installation of cycle lanes, this should be a priority where pavements are especially narrow (eg south side of Ferry Road). We would expect to see at least significant efforts to remove pavement clutter such as signage poles and guard rails and simple measures such as cutting back hedges, sweeps of roadworks debris (traffic cones, sandbags, etc.) We also want to priority for pedestrians increased at all signalled junctions. Given that almost everyone is a pedestrian in their own neighbourhood, such measures are also likely to increase local support for these schemes, including among people who don’t cycle.

Floating Bus stops

We note that there are dozens of ‘bus stop bypasses’ or ‘floating bus stops’ proposed in these cycle schemes, which route cyclists between the bus stop and the pavement, rather than on the road. There appear to be at least: 13 on Comiston Road, 10 on Ferry Road, 9 in Wester Hailes, 7 on Meadow Place Road and 5 on Fountainbridge.

As the Council’s Active Travel team is well aware, the Living Streets Edinburgh Group has never been happy with this design concept which means that bus passengers boarding – and especially alighting from – buses have to cross a cycle way and may therefore unexpectedly encounter a cyclist, possibly travelling at considerable speed. While we recognise the benefits for cyclists, this design can only disadvantage bus users and pedestrians, especially older people and blind people, many of whose representative organisations have objected to the design concept.

Living Streets Edinburgh did not object to the first Leith Walk examples, on the understanding that a full monitoring and evaluation was carried out. The Council eventually agreed to this in 2017 but although we understand that this exercise has long been completed, it has never been published. It is wholly inappropriate to use the Covid19 pandemic and ‘spaces for everyone’ programme as the means for the sudden mass installation of these controversial bus stop designs at virtually no notice and with minimal consultation.

We therefore strongly oppose their inclusion in the Council’s current proposals. We suggest that instead, a much wider review exercise is taken at a later date, to consider the use of floating bus stops in the city strategically, once evaluation evidence is in the public domain. This should involve all relevant interests – walking, cycling, bus passengers, disability groups, etc.

Shopping Streets – LSE response to Edinburgh Council

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the various schemes to widen pavements in shopping streets (eg Corstorphine, Portobello, Morningside etc). This is a general response to all these schemes, although where we are able to, we will add supplementary comments on specific streets/locations.

First of all, we strongly support the initiative to widen pavements, which in many ‘town centre’ streets are grossly inadequate. This can only be done in many cases by removing on-street parking and loading, except for essential requirements (such as Blue Badge spaces where appropriate). We appreciate that some shops will want to see these parking and loading spaces retained, but crowded narrow pavements cannot possibly be an attractive environment for encouraging shoppers, may of whom arrive on foot or by public transport. Too much space in high streets is occupied by stationary vehicles.

We welcome the acknowledgment of the problems caused by clutter and guard rails and would encourage the council to take a much more vigorous approach to removing or relocating items including unnecessary phone boxes, royal mail boxes, telecoms cabinets etc as well as vertical signage on poles, many of which are no longer required since the Traffic Sign Regulations were changed in 2016.  Decluttering should take account of the various surveys and audits which Living Streets and others have carried out in recent years in many of the locations.

Design details will need to carefully consider and monitor access at bus stops especially for disabled people. We generally support bus priority measures including bus gates.

Where more outdoor space for businesses is provided (eg ‘tables and chairs’) it is essential that adequate clear space is provided for pedestrians and that the benefits to walking of widened footways are not swallowed up by added obstructions. It may be that ‘tables and chairs’ should normally be on reclaimed carriageway space, allowing the pavements themselves to be kept clear.

While we appreciate that these are temporary measures which need to be installed urgently, the extensive use of cones, barriers etc will make many streets look like roadworks, and thus risk making shopping streets look pretty ugly – if we actually want them to contribute to moving discussion forward it’s important that opportunities are taken to make things look better. Suitable gateway features / signage information for the public on the purpose / benefits of the scheme would be useful.

Effective management of schemes is essential, so that cones or barriers that fall over are quickly dealt with. Enforcement of parking and speeding, including a visible role of Police Scotland is important too.

Temporary bike parking should be installed at suitable locations, where they do not add to pavement clutter.

Monitoring of schemes must collect robust data on walking/footfall.

Promoting walking during social distancing (supplementary paper)

1) Introduction

This paper supplements the ‘5 Point Plan’ we produced on 7 May 2020, outlining steps we’d like to see to make walking attractive, safe and accessible during the Coronavrus crisis and its aftermath. It should be read in conjunction with that Plan: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2020/05/09/a-5-point-plan-for-city-of-edinburgh-council-to-promote-walking-during-social-distancing/

We want to see early implementation of the measures outlined in the Council Report and amendment approved on 14 May, especially those which focus most on walking improvements: widening pavements, improving crossings, etc https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=135&MId=5511&Ver=4.

This paper adds to the suggestions in the ‘5 Point Plan’ following further feedback and highlights some specific locations we’d like to see given early and urgent attention to. Living Streets Edinburgh Group is keen to contribute ideas on how Edinburgh should respond, in line with council decisions of 14 May.

2) Pavement Widening

In addition to those already suggested, we want to see consideration given to widening pavements in all of Edinburgh’s ‘town centres’. These are now experiencing queuing on pavements as more shops open and often leave insufficient space for people walking.  Key public transport routes (notably at Waverley and Haymarket) should also be given priority. Other streets which should be widened include Broughton Street and Balgreen Rpad.

3) Road closures

Our ‘five point plan’ suggested closing many residential roads through barriers (‘filters’, which allow people to walk or cycle through) – rather than by banning motor traffic completely, (as at Silverknowes Road, Braid Road etc).  We would like to see a response to this suggestion which could transform many neighbourhoods.

We don’t support the plan to close Viewforth (canal section) to motor traffic, owing to the impact this will have on Yeaman Place, a busy pedestrian street (outside of school times) which is full or parked cars and lacking in any kind of pedestrian crossing facilities. We would prefer to see Yeaman Place itself closed; or at least with mitigation measures such as formal pedestrian crossings introduced.

We want to see the council to show some urgency re-opening the established right of way at Holy Corner, Bruntsfield/Morningside (McLaren’s pub, the former Bank of Scotland).  Signature pubs have illegally blocked this Right of Way for over six months and yet the council has taken no enforcement action, despite the added need for social distancing on the busy, narrow pavement.

4) Guardrails

We welcome the council’s plans to start removing some guardrails as part of temporary cycle schemes (such as Crewe Road South, Old Dalkeith Road). Guardrail removal should not be solely as part of cycle schemes but should also be undertaken where it has particularly adverse impacts on walking.  There are numerous suggestions for guardrail removal in the ‘Tackling Pavement Clutter’ reports sent to Locality Roads Managers in 2019. Other specific locations we want to see guardrails removed are:

  • Morrison Street / Gardners Cres (with associated widened footway). Also north side of Morrison Street, east of Dewar Place.
  • Slateford Road between Ashley Terrace and Robertson Ave (with associated widened footway).
  • Roseburn Street under rail bridge (with associated widened footway).
  • Murrayburn Road (West of Hailsland Road).
  • Polwarth (at roundabout).
  • Colinton Mains Road (at Tesco roundabout)
  • West Port (North side).

5) Enforcement

Many LS supporters have asked for more enforcement of traffic laws, especially speeding (a police matter). Parking enforcement is also going to become even more important to ensure that temporary pavements and cycle lanes are not compromised by illegal parking, loading or waiting. We suggest that a zero tolerance approach is take to such infringements (ie removing any ‘grace period’) so that motorists quickly understand that new traffic restrictions will be enforced rigorously.

In some areas, traffic calming should be introduced. In recent years, there has been too little focus on engineering measures to support compliance with speed limits and we would like to see measures introduced in speeding problem areas.

6) Schools

Although it appears that schools will not generally begin to open until mid-August, we want to see early planning for school re-opening. Measures that should be considered include:

  • extension of the Council’s ‘School Streets’ initiative to ban cars from near the entrances to more schools;
  • engagement with Police Scotland to ensure that a degree of police presence is available to achieve effective enforcement of traffic laws;
  • very clear and early messaging to parents encouraging children to walk, scoot, wheel or cycle. Car drop-off’s should be explicitly discouraged, and not permitted in the vicinity of school gates.

7) Other measures

We have not yet seen any response to our request for removal of street clutter as a ‘quick win’ to aid walking and social distancing. As with guardrails the Council already has a policy of de-cluttering which should be accelerated at the present time.

We want to see public campaigns by the council asking residents to cut back hedges which block pavements and are illegal. Many residents probably do not realise this, or the problems that encroaching vegetation can cause. The council should also take enforcement measures itself, recovering costs where voluntary compliance cannot be achieved.  Due regard should be given to protecting wildlife and nesting birds in particular.

We want to see urgent improvements for people to cross the road, especially in reducing ‘wait times’ for the green man. We look forward to seeing a list of locations where these will be trialled as soon as possible.

A 5 point plan for City of Edinburgh Council to promote walking during social distancing

Introduction

It is currently impossible for pedestrians to maintain social distancing on many Edinburgh streets, which have pavements that are not wide enough.  As ‘lockdown’ measures are eased, but social distancing requirements maintained with more people on the street, it will be even more vital to increase the amount of safe space for walking. This will be a particular challenge when schools eventually re-open. Wider measures – notably to encourage cycling – will also be needed when lockdown measures are eased to ensure safe, efficient transport, with a likely reduction in the capacity of Edinburgh’s bus network. However, now more than ever, action is needed to ensure that walking’s place at the top of travel hierarchies is put into practice.

This paper focus on five immediate measures to encourage walking.   Many of these measures could be introduced at little cost while the additional £10m funding from the Scottish Government could be used to fund others, including the removal of larger, more complex structures such as the obsolete ‘real-time’ parking displays.

There are a number of resources which the Council has commissioned in recent years which contain specific suggestions to improve the walking environment on streets, such as the ‘Street Life Assessments’, ‘Street Reviews’ by Living Streets Scotland and the recent work by LSEG on ‘Tackling Street Clutter’. We recommend that these resources are revisited and used to guide immediate measures.

 

1) Pavement Widening

We want to see a programme of temporary pavement widening, focusing on high footfall streets such as ‘retail/high street’ and public transport corridors. The classification of streets in the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance provides a ready strategic framework to assist in identifying such streets. This will in places require removal of parking/loading/waiting permissions. To complement this process, the following streets have been identified as potential candidates by the LSEG Committee members and also from social media (see especially:

  • South Bridge/Nicolson Street/Clerk Street
  • Great Junction Street
  • Ferry Road
  • St Johns Road/A8
  • Queensferry Road
  • George IV Bridge
  • London Road
  • Easter Road
  • Dalry Road
  • Milton Road East
  • Lower Granton Road
  • Niddrie Mains Road
  • Raeburn Place
  • Morningside Road
  • Morrison Street
  • Captains Road
  • Liberton Road
  • Burdiehouse Road
  • Frogston Road
  • Comiston Road
  • Colinton Road

 

2) Road closures

In residential areas, many streets could be closed to through traffic, while retaining access by motor vehicles to/for residents through barriers (‘filters’). This will reduce traffic on local streets, making walking and cycling safer. This may apply particularly in residential areas (eg Oxgangs, Bingham, Lochend, Stenhouse etc).

 

3) Guardrails

Guardrails which hem in pedestrians over long stretches of pavement (for example, Slateford Road bridge) are particularly inappropriate at present. The Council already has a presumption against these features unless there is a compelling need, but Edinburgh has a legacy of many such guardrails from earlier, outdated street design philosophies. A programme of removal should be introduced immediately to accelerate the removal of inappropriate guardrails.

 

4) Decluttering

Removal of streets clutter is a ‘quick win’ to aid walking and social distancing. As with guardrails the Council already has a policy of de-cluttering which should be accelerated at the present time. This could include ‘sweeps’ of roads to remove old roadworks debris such as traffic cones, sandbags, old signs etc which litter many streets, and also removal of redundant and empty signage poles (many of which have been notified to locality teams as part of LSEG’s ‘tackling Street clutter’ project).

 

5) Signals

Traffic signals, including signalled pedestrian crossings, should be reconfigured so as to give pedestrians priority – eg immediate ‘green man’, increased crossing time, single crossing of staggered crossings, etc. This will aid walking movement and also reduce the risk of pedestrian congestion at lights, islands, etc.