Category Archives: Consultation Response

LSE SUPPORT FOR NEWBATTLE TERRACE PUBLIC REALM SCHEME

Living Streets Edinburgh Group very much welcomes this scheme, which will secure a big improvement in the quality of the public realm – with particular benefits for the safety and convenience of walking, in line with the latter’s place at the top of the Scottish Government’s ‘Sustainable Travel Hierarchy’.

We are surprised that footway widths are not specified, although we understand that in the new design ‘the north footway [of Newbattle Terrace] varies from 2.25 to 3.5m, with a couple of pinch points of around 2m’ and ‘the south footway is 3.0 – 3.1m, with a pinch point of 2.9m.’ This is reasonably in line with the Council’s ‘Street Design Guidance’ (SDG) which stipulates that the footway width should be an ‘absolute minimum’ width of 2m, ‘only allowed in short sections’.

The footprint of the scheme has been extended northwards up Pitsligo Road as far as the junction with Woodcroft Road, in order to accommodate a new contraflow cycle lane. The latter is welcome in itself, but should be matched by a widening of the parallel footways on this section (currently only 1.5-1.55m wide) in order to satisfy the ‘absolute minimum’ of 2m laid down in the SDG. The Convenor of the Council’s Transport & Environment Committee emphasised at the recent launch of the ‘Cut the Pavement Clutter’ project that the SDG ‘must be applied’ to all schemes, and noted the Council’s ‘wall to wall’ approach, ie not just upgrading the road carriageway, but also enhancing the parallel footways.

The creation of a continuous footway along the north side of Newbattle Terrace at the Pitsligo Road junction is very welcome, but pedestrian passage over the continuous footway should be protected by (i) road markings warning southbound (downhill) cyclists to give way to pedestrians, and (ii) tactiles at the edge of the former footway lines (to indicate to people with visual disabilities that vehicles and cycles cross this area – vehicles northbound only, and cyclists in both directions).

We suggest that any vehicle flow displacement on to Clinton Road should be monitored, and, if necessary, further action should be taken to deal with any problems caused by displaced traffic.

 

LSEG response to Council review of communal waste bins

CEC COMMUNAL WASTE BINS REVIEW Project: Comments from the Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG)

LSEG welcomes the current review of the location of Communal Waste Bins in the city, and the intention to create bin hubs and rationalise the scattered locations of the various types of bin. Under existing conditions there are far too many such bins that are poorly located or left mislocated on pavements, so creating unnecessary obstacles for pedestrians. In numerous instances they also collect other clutter items around them.  This review is timely in the context of the covid virus with  heightened concern over clutter and the need for more space on pavements to allow social distancing. The reduction of bin clutter is also central to the realisation of the council administration’s objective (27), to tackle clutter and pavement parking.

We have a number of questions and concerns however, about the specifics of the review and how successfully they will be translated into practice.

One particular concern is the intention to go with wheeled communal bins everywhere, rather than the ones with fixed positions that can then be lifted automatically with the lorry correctly alongside. The latter are all in the carriageway of necessity and, unlike wheeled bins, cannot be left out of position on pavements! Given the frequency with which wheeled bins are currently so left as obstacles to pedestrian movement, both on pavements and in the carriageway where blocking crossing points, we would wish to see fixed positions retained wherever this is practicable.

As of now wheeled bins are to be found out of position all over the city. Even when in the carriageway they are often to be seen too close to junctions or where they obstruct dropped kerb crossing points for pedestrians or block cycle lanes. They are left there after emptying by contractors, or they are subsequently moved or sometimes blown there.  Can we please therefore be informed as to what additional measures will be taken to ensure that bins are repositioned within the defined hub positions? Under the current regime, even where there are defined areas for bin location, all too often these are ignored or treated as only approximate indicators.  We are not convinced that the new bin hub settings will be sufficient to ensure that contractors do correctly reposition the bins. So without exception the hubs should be in roadway rather than on pavements. If gradients are a problem for this then regrading of the carriageway is the answer, not putting bins on pavements. Where there is a sufficient excess of pavement space to allow bin hubs to be located there without inconveniencing pedestrians, then it would be acceptable for that space to be used, but it must then be regraded to carriageway level in the process; otherwise there will still be out of position bins rolling around on pavements.

The current review is seen to only be covering communal bins. It does not embrace the residential or trade waste bins that are equally of concern for pedestrians, given that these bins are also frequently left on pavements for periods of time out of all proportion to the needs for collection, and in excess of the times authorised by the CEC.  We call for a complementary review to be undertaken of ways to reduce the problems and clutter associated with these bins also.

There are problems arising from both residents and retailers leaving bins out permanently or semi-permanently in some cases, and for excessively long periods in many others. The situation with trade waste bins does seem to have been improved somewhat over recent years, but the levels of regulatory and enforcement activities are still far from adequate. Woeful conditions for pedestrians are being created on pavements as a result, whereby wheelchair users and other vulnerable pedestrians are at times simply unable to use them. Council policy should make it clear that residential bins must be left on the roadway side of the kerb where the pavement width is less than 1.5m. The council should also seek powers to levy fines on residents who leave bins out permanently.

In many instances residents’ bins are also left blocking pavements after emptying by the contractors, and it is clear that insufficient efforts are being made to encourage compliance with or to enforce the rules. At the very least there surely should be clear instructions that emptied bins must not be left anywhere on pavements narrower than 2m, with penalties introduced for contractors who fail to ensure that their staff follow this in practice. Equally if bins are replaced on pavements where they are wider than 2m, there should be penalties imposed for placing them in obstructive positions.

 

There is also a need for the current review to be followed up with a much wider review aimed at minimising the extent to which bins of all kinds are located on streets in Edinburgh, where space is so often limited and in demand for multiple other uses, and in scarce supply for pedestrians in particular. There is potential for bins to be relocated off street in many places, and for space demands to be reduced by underground storage; as can be seen in a number of the cities with which Edinburgh both competes (e.g. for tourism) and likes to compare itself with. It is accepted that underground storage can be too expensive and will not be an option everywhere, but opportunities to introduce it arise continually in association with development and redevelopment processes, and CEC should initiate a system to take these opportunities.

This wider review should also embrace the waste management objectives set out in the finalised Edinburgh City Centre Transformation report of 12 September 2019, which approved early action to address waste collection through “operating plans for residential, commercial and public waste collection, including operators, vehicle restrictions, time restrictions and consolidation” (para 5.3.5). Potentially these plans will help deliver the aspirations in the ECCT to make a more walkable city, less dominated by traffic, especially heavy vehicles. 26 ton bin lorries have no place in many of Edinburgh’s streets and alternative ways of collecting waste must be explored, as already agreed by the Council.

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.