All posts by Living Streets Edinburgh

LSE response to Infrastructure Commission for Scotland – Call for Evidence

This is a submission by Living Streets Edinburgh Group, which aims to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around Edinburgh.

https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/get-involved/take-action-in-your-area/local-groups/edinburgh

It is noted that you ask for comments in respect of 5 year and 30 year time horizons.   In the case of transport infrastructure this can be succinctly answered.  Within 5 years we need to have changed our whole approach to the way we move and in 30 years time we will be looking back wondering why we ever did it any other way.

Since the advent of statutory land use planning, decisions on where we live and work and how we move around have all been predicated on the use of private motor vehicles.  We have also accepted that the bulk of what we produce and consume should move by road and we have planned accordingly.

There is now an acceptance that this approach has created poor places to the detriment of people’s physical and mental well-being, and ultimately to the economy.

Scottish Government has taken some steps in policy to redress the imbalance:

  • Scottish Planning Policy Para 273 – “The spatial strategies set out in plans should support development in locations that allow walkable access to local amenities and are also accessible by cycling and public transport. Plans should identify active travel networks and promote opportunities for travel by more sustainable modes in the following order of priority: walking, cycling, public transport, cars. The aim is to promote development which maximises the extent to which its travel demands are met first through walking, then cycling, then public transport and finally through use of private cars. Plans should facilitate integration between transport modes.”
  • Creating Places 4.7 – “We will advocate the delivery of places that prioritise pedestrians and encourage activity and healthy lifestyles.”

Although this has now been Scottish Government policy for a few years, it has not been meaningfully reflected in local planning policy and decisions.  Land use allocations continue to be made on a basis that accepts private car use as a necessity and the dominant element in the provision of transport infrastructure.

Too often the infrastructure to allow people the realistic option of walking is not provided.  This has to change and development must be located where walking is the most attractive choice.  This requires all necessary infrastructure to be in place at the outset including a network of safe off-road footpaths along with accessible, frequent and affordable public transport.  Roads should no longer dominate and developments should be increasingly car free with no need for parking other than than as required for disabled/servicing. This will require culture change as well as a mixture of public investment and contributions from developers with any necessary adjustment to land values.  The UK, including Scotland, has failed on this score whilst in many other European countries it has long been part and parcel of the way they plan and invest.

One issue that receives insufficient attention, and should be taken into account as part of this review, is the on-going management and maintenance of infrastructure once it is in place. There is a need for ring-fenced resources to be available.  Poorly maintained paths/pavements, crossings etc. detract from the quality of place and make them less desirable to use.

It is now rare that a week goes by without the publication of a report on air quality in urban areas and what it’s doing to us, especially our children.  This cannot be ignored any longer and when we include all of the other health benefits, it is clear that we urgently need to change the way we plan the places where we live and work from one led by private cars to one focused on people and walking.  It makes sense on so many levels and there is a real time imperative, so your 5 year time horizon is the one that must be met.

If the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland wants to make one change in infrastructure provision that changes people’s lives for the better, please ensure walking is properly prioritised in the development process in line with Scottish Government policy.

Waverley Station Masterplan – Our Response

Living Streets Edinburgh Group aims to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around Edinburgh.

Within this context we appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the discussion on the future development of Edinburgh Waverley Station.  We look forward to a masterplan that reflects both the outstanding location in a World Heritage Site and this unique opportunity to radically improve the experience for people using the station.

The focus of the station is walking, whether arriving or leaving by train, or simply passing through.  The walking experience in and around Waverley is not an easy one, especially for those unfamiliar with the station or the city.

The masterplan process offers an opportunity to address this and should revolve around people walking, both within and through.  The statistics show that the overwhelming majority of people arrive and leave on foot, so make it easier and more comfortable for them to do so.

As the masterplan evolves there will be conflicts to resolve, but this should always be within the context of the movement hierarchy set out in Scottish Planning Policy with walking, cycling, public transport and, lastly, private cars in that order of priority.

The focus must be on the station as a travel hub and not as an opportunity for commercial development unless in support of that raison d’être.

In addition to catering for the projected increase in train traffic and improving the walking experience within the station, there are wider opportunities to be taken, so it is important that the masterplan boundary is not tightly focused on the station itself and embraces surrounding streets. It certainly needs to be closely integrated with the City Centre Transformation project being led by the Council.

Some of the associated issues to be taken into account (not an exhaustive list) when preparing the masterplan include:

  • No car parking other than for drop off/disabled use, and this must be designed to avoid conflict with those walking.
  • Make it easier and more seamless to walk to/from buses and trams without enduring pinch points or having to cross traffic-dominated roads.
  • Provision will have to be made for taxis in a location that does not conflict with walking, but not inside the station.
  • Reinstate the historical link from the Old Town to Calton Road via a new pedestrian bridge, thereby allowing people to walk over on one level rather than the current convoluted route through the station.
  • Close the dangerous Leith Street/Calton Road junction except for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Enhance the Calton Road route to the station to improve the walking experience and make it a more pleasant route at any time of day.
  • In addition, the opportunity must also be taken to prioritise pedestrians and enhance the walking experience on Princes Street (including exit/entry via Waverley Steps), on Waverley Bridge, and Market Street/East Market Street.
  • The servicing arrangements for the redeveloped station require careful thought in terms of location and future management.  Some of the ideas floated in the city centre transformation consultation regarding the size/type of vehicles used may be useful.

We hope that our input helps to inform the masterplan process and we look forward to continuing to work with others to create an outstanding future for Waverley Station and all who use it.

Reducing Pavement Clutter

Living Streets Edinburgh Group is pleased to have been awarded a grant from Paths for All under its ‘Smarter Choices, Smarter Places’ programme to tackle ‘pavement clutter’ in the city.  We aim to build on the ‘A-board ban’ to help free some of Edinburgh’s narrow pavements of obstructions. The City of Edinburgh Council is providing match funding for the project, which runs to September 2019.

 

The idea is that we will work with local council staff to identify – and hopefully remove – obstructions which get in the way of people walking. Our focus is especially on ‘fixed clutter – such as guard rails, signage poles or old phone boxes, but we will look at other obstructions too such as bins or encroaching vegetation from hedges. We aim to identify at least 100 pieces of ‘clutter’ in all. Our focus is across the whole city, not just in the city centre and we want to look at residential areas and local shopping districts.

As well as making some specific streets clearer, we hope that the project will generally raise awareness of problems caused by clutter and opportunities to remove it. We also see this as an opportunity for LSEG to build relationships with locality staff and also to involve community councils, and the Edinburgh Access Panel.

How you can help

We are looking for local community groups and individuals to tell us areas where you think there is a particular problem with pavement clutter. You can contact us by email, twitter of Facebook and we will then have a look at the street. We will also invite community councils in areas that we are looking at to join us on a walk around the area and suggest items that should be cleared from the pavement.

Living Streets Edinburgh Annual General Meeting 18 February 2019

You are cordially invited to attend our Annual General Meeting at the Living Streets  Scotland office at 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh, on Monday 18th February at 18.00.

The agenda is as follows:

  1. Introductions / apologies
  2. Minutes of last AGM.
  3. Convenor’s Report.
  4. Treasurer’s Report.
  5. Nomination of formal post-holders ( Convenor and Treasurer ).
  6. Nomination of other Committee Members.
  7. Presentation by Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland on the bigger Scottish                  picture and Edinburgh’s distinctive role.
  8. Discussion: 2019 campaigns / getting involved with Living Streets Edinburgh.
  9. AOB.

The meeting will finish by 20.00 at the latest. We look forward to seeing you on the 18th.

 

George Street Consultation: response by Living Streets Edinburgh (LSEG)

Introduction:

Living Streets Edinburgh Group 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.

We welcome many aspects of the proposed design, which are way overdue: for example, removal of general parking, reduction of traffic space widening of pavements, removal of street clutter, and introducing seating. We append our general statement of preferences for street design, which the proposals generally meet well.

LSEG has a long-standing ambition to pedestrianise George Street – which we were told has widespread public support through the consultation. Edinburgh – perhaps uniquely for a European city of its size and history? – lacks any properly traffic-free space and George Street (and the Royal Mile) are the obvious candidates for this in the New and Old Towns respectively. The form that pedestrianisation should take depends on the type and volume of traffic that will use the street. Which parts of the street will be used by buses? Taxis? Private vehicles? The answer to these questions will determine the scale and type of appropriate pedestrianisation: for example, if buses are to continue to use the eastern section of George Street, then it would only make sense to pedestrianise the western two blocks.

We therefore believe that the design should follow decisions on the purpose of the street in terms of its ‘movement’ function, without of course undermining its crucial ‘place’ function. The emphasis on the ‘flexibility’ of this design (so that the street can accommodate traffic which is currently permitted, as well as options for reduced traffic levels) is a mistake and makes it hard to comment on the suitability of the proposed design. Decisions to restrict traffic should therefore be made now.

Having said this, we have the following comments on specific aspects of the design:

General parking:

We welcome and give unqualified support to the removal of general on-street parking. We note that a 1,600 space (?) car park will open soon in the St James Centre (regrettably). Careful consideration is needed for the provision of space for loading, service vehicles etc, and the management of such provision (see also ‘Enforcement’ below).

Blue Badge parking:

This should be provided ‘as appropriate’. To determine what is appropriate, detailed surveys of current Blue Badge parking patterns should be carried out, along with consultation with relevant disability groups. Provision is likely to consist of parking both on or near George Street (eg at the top of the steeply sloping streets like Castle St, Frederick St, etc) and also at the bottom, because some drivers/passengers will be heading for Princes St, rather than George St, and may be unable to manage the slope.

Crossings:

It is essential that all pedestrians can cross George Street easily, safely and with confidence. This should be both at the junctions with adjoining streets and also mid-block. We are not convinced that the design achieves this, as the ‘plazas’ do not appear to offer any formal pedestrian priority. Although we generally welcome the use of zebras to provide this, we doubt that the current crossing provisions adequately cater for the needs of people with visual impairments.  Our understanding is that there are only three signalled crossings – at the east and west ends, and at the Hanover St junction.

Cycle lane:

The cycleway as currently designed means very tight pavements on the south side of George Street at junctions, especially with Frederick St. It is essential that all pavements on this ‘flagship’ street fully meet the Street Design Guidance’s ‘desirable minimum’ width of at least 4 metres; this does not appear to be the case at these points. However more fundamentally, a 4 metre cycleway conflicts with the principle that George Street should be about ‘place’ not ‘movement’. If general traffic is restricted, as we advocate, this would remove the need for a separate cycleway at all, as cycling on the carriageway would be attractive and safe. This would also be more convenient for cyclists joining and exiting along George Street than a bi-directional cycleway.

We support provision of a safe and attractive cycling environment in the city, including to and on George Street. However, we question whether George Street is the right place for the major segregated west-east route catering for a range of cyclists including commuters, delivery cyclists etc as well as people arriving to enjoy George Street itself by bike.  Alternative, more direct options for a cross-city route include Queens Street or Princes Street. We therefore think that further consideration should be given to the best route for a segregated section of the National Cycle Network, as part of the ‘city centre transformation’ and the overall reduction in traffic in the city centre.

Management and Enforcement:

It is vital that plans for management and enforcement – of parking, waiting, loading, blue badge spaces, speeding, bins, ‘A-boards’, etc – is fully planned at the outset. Shops, bars and restaurants will need deliveries and waste collection etc and these need to be organised in a way (and at times) that does not result in vans, bin lorries, etc outwith designated times. Edinburgh does not have a good record of managing existing pedestrian priority spaces (eg Grassmarket, Castle Street, Rose Street). Without robust enforcement measures (which are likely to reduce with the removal of current pay and display parking), the intention to create people-friendly spaces will be defeated.

’Plazas’:

We agree that attractive spaces should be provided for both formal and informal events, social activity etc so that the vitality of the street is maximised as a lively place where people want to visit and stay at all times of the day, and year. However we need to have more detail on how such spaces will be managed – especially during the festivals (see also ‘Enforcement’ above) – to comment on whether the proposed design is suitable.

Trees:

We understand that tree planting on George Street is likely to be controversial, especially on ‘heritage’ grounds. However, we tend to favour the introduction of appropriate greenery which makes the space more attractive without compromising the historic and architectural appeal of the street.

Appendix: ‘Standard’ LSEG key principles relevant to George Street

A fundamental point is that all proposals and designs must explicitly conform to the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG) for the category/categories of street affected. Until the adoption of finalised Detailed Design Sheets for the ESDG, the latter’s Design Principles (as already adopted by the Council) should be adhered to, for example with regard to:

Space:

1. An increase (or no net loss) of pedestrian space.
2. Footways meet recommended widths.
3. Conflicts with cyclists are avoided, with dedicated and well-defined space provided for pedestrians (including separated ‘tiger’ crossings).

Crossings:

4. Junctions make foot crossing easier by being raised, with radii of corners and widths minimised
5. In busier areas, controlled crossings are provided in convenient places, with acceptable waiting and crossing times.
6. Pedestrian priority is made clear at all the key crossing points of the cycle routes, eg with continuous footways across side streets at junctions.

Equalities:

7. The design meets the requirements of the 2010 Equality Act by including the reasonable adjustments that the Council is legally required to implement in order to make the streets accessible to people with disabilities such as dropped kerbs (where continuous footways are not feasible), seating and tactile paving.

Public realm:

8. The footway is made free from clutter.
9. Guardrails are avoided / removed.

Impact of traffic:

10. If the area is a residential or shopping street or busy pedestrian route the speed limit is 20mph and the design helps to achieve this as a maximum speed in practice.
11. The level of parking and access to motor vehicles is appropriate and does not dominate the space.
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