Category Archives: News

WALKING CAMPAIGNERS WELCOME FESTIVAL TRAFFIC BAN SUCCESS

Walking campaigners have hailed the City Council’s ban on vehicle traffic from two Old Town streets during the forthcoming August festivals. David Spaven, the Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh Group, commented:

‘We’ve been pressing the Council for several years to tackle this growing problem of lack of space for pedestrians in the city centre during the peak summer season. So, we’re delighted they’ve taken up our idea. Banning traffic from Cockburn Street and Blair Street is an important step towards creating a civilised city centre which is safe and convenient for all pedestrians. But it should be just the start of a more ambitious programme – with growing safety concerns along Cowgate, we feel this traffic-dominated street should be an early priority for treatment.’

Living Streets are marking up the traffic ban as their second campaigning success in a matter of weeks. In May, the Council backed a plan to remove advertising boards from pavements throughout the city – one of the walking group’s key aims in recent years.

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

COUNCIL TRANSPORT DELIVERY ‘SERIOUSLY IMBALANCED’ AGAINST PEDESTRIANS

The City of Edinburgh Council is paying ‘lip service’ to the importance of walking in its transport policies, while doing  very little in practice to make Edinburgh more walking friendly, says the city’s pedestrian campaign group, Living Streets Edinburgh [1]. The group says it is ‘shocked’ that out of 44 Active Travel projects being developed by the Council in 2017-18, only seven are for walking, compared to 37 for cycling [2]. In a letter to the Transport spokespersons for each political group on the Council, Living Streets says:

‘We have also seen over recent months other evidence of the low priority given to walking in practice, despite the lip service often given to it by the Council. During the recent icy weather, a common sight all across the city was pedestrians walking in the road because un-gritted pavements were too dangerous to walk on. We also see dozens of cycle parking racks being installed on city pavements despite the Council’s commitment in its own business plan to reduce pavement clutter’

 The Group’s Convenor, David Spaven, commented:

‘Walking is universal – pretty much everyone is a pedestrian across all ages, areas and backgrounds. In contrast, only a minority of the population cycle – and yet the overwhelming effort on Active Travel is clearly being directed to cycling. We would not want these remarks to be interpreted as a lack of support for the Council’s efforts to increase cycling – we strongly support measures to make cycling more attractive, especially where this will reduce motor traffic, and so long as they do not have adverse effects on walking. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to us that the Council’s priorities within Active Travel are seriously imbalanced. The Council is making significant progress in making Edinburgh more cycle-friendly, while it is doing very little to make it more walking-friendly.’ 

The letter from Living Streets to Councillors concludes that ‘a fundamental re-appraisal is now required of how Active Travel budgets and staff time are spent, so that there is a real and significant increase in the Council’s investment in walking.’

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

 [1]  Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local volunteer arm of the national charity campaigning for ‘everyday’ walking. See: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/

[2] City of Edinburgh Council Active Travel programme table for 2017-18 is attached.

END OF RELEASE

 2017-08-25 Active Travel Programme 2017-2018 Summary for Forum

PICARDY PLACE SCHEME MUST BE SAFE FOR PEOPLE ON FOOT, SAYS WALKING GROUP

The detailed design of the controversial Picardy Place traffic scheme must ensure that it is safe and convenient for people to get around the area on foot, says the local walking campaign group. Living Streets Edinburgh [1] has responded to the City Council’s decision to back the controversial gyratory roundabout design by setting out a detailed list of measures [2] which they say are essential to avoid conditions getting worse for pedestrians. David Spaven, Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh, which campaigns for ‘everyday’ walking, commented:

‘It’s unacceptable that the Council should be proposing a design which would actually make life worse for pedestrians, through more circuitous road crossings, narrower footway sections, and cycling /walking conflicts where new cycleways bisect footways. So we’ve put together a two-page list of key design principles which would ensure that it will be easier for people to cross roads using direct routes and following desire lines.

‘A fundamental principle is that the design details must comply with the Council’s own Street Design Guidance, so, for example, footways should be at least 4 metres wide, providing plenty of space for pedestrians, pushchairs and people with disabilities.

‘Another big concern is the planned ‘Floating Bus Stops’ on Leith Street, which will bisect the east side footway and make life more difficult for bus passengers, unless the Council applies the highest possible design standards to avoid conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.’

[1] Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local volunteer arm of the national charity campaigning for ‘everyday’ walking.

[2] Living Streets Edinburgh 2-page position statement on the detailed design of Picardy Place can be found here – Living-Streets-position-statement-Picardy-Place-detailed-design

POSITION PAPER ON PICARDY PLACE DETAILED DESIGN

Following the regrettable decision of the City Council’s Transport & Environment Committee on 25th January 2018 to back the traffic-generating gyratory roundabout design, Living Streets Edinburgh is now focusing on the need for significant improvements in the detailed design of the Picardy Place scheme. Incredibly, the latest Council design actually represents a net deterioration in the pedestrian environment compared to the current (pre-Leith Street closure) situation on the ground – as a result of, in particular, more circuitous road crossings, narrower pavement sections, and cycling /walking conflicts where new cycleways bisect footways. This is not acceptable.

As the Picardy Place plan is classified as a major scheme in the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (SDG), it should incorporate the measures identified in the SDG for such schemes on special streets. Therefore:

A. Footways: these should be (i) decluttered and (ii) resurfaced; (iii) with benches every 50 metres (not located on desire lines), plus (iv) trees to create shade, focal points and reduce perceived dominance of traffic; (v) there should be a presumption that cycle parking will be located on the carriageway, not the footway, avoiding pedestrian desire lines; and (vi) guardrails should be eliminated/minimised using the Council’s guardrail assessment tool.

B. Crossings: (i) the left to right width (not the distance across the road, but the distance between the silver studs) should be sufficient to cope with the volume of pedestrians; (ii) crossings should be gently humped/on raised tables to bring the road level to footway level; (iii) where the roadway is not raised, dropped kerbs should be actually flush with the roadway (not several inches above the roadway).

On Picardy Place specifics, and bearing in mind that the broad design endorsed by the T&E Committee on 25th January represents, in the details as shown in the Council plan, a net deterioration in the walking environment compared to the current situation on the ground, the following key points should be addressed:

1. Pedestrian crossings – there should be no increase in stages (ie separately signalled stages) at each crossing compared to the present situation; and waiting times for ‘the green man’ should be tolerable (at present, York Place at Elder Street can involve an entirely unreasonable four minutes’ wait to cross a 22 metre wide street).

2. Footway width – all footways should meet the SDG ‘minimum desirable’ 4m wide.

3. Cycleways bisecting footways – as day-to-day enforcement to prevent dangerous cycling is not going to happen, the highest possible design standards must be applied, to minimise the impact on the safety and convenience of walking:

i. Cycleways should be kept beside the carriageway (except at ‘Floating Bus Stops’, see below) in order to minimise conflicts (ie no crossing over to the side farthest from the carriageway).

ii. Cycleways should be vertically separated from the footway, ie with kerbs (and tactile surfaces) on both sides (except at formal crossing points).

iii. Cycleways should be coloured distinctly different from the footway.

iv. We continue to oppose Floating Bus Stops, which introduce the risk of pedestrian/cyclist conflict. However, as the Council is determined to introduce more of them, it is essential that the following design features should be included on Leith Street:

a) Advance signs to warn cyclists that pedestrians have priority.
b) Anti-skid surfaces should be applied on approaches to formal crossings (not just at Floating Bus Stops).
c) Formal crossings (with distinct markings) should serve key pedestrian desire lines and should be at the same level as the cycleway.
d) The standard advert positioning on the Decaux bus shelters should be changed to allow all-round visibility for pedestrians and cyclists.
(e) Sufficient circulation space should be provided beside (and behind) Floating Bus Stops so that queuing passengers are not forced to stand around / on the cycleway.

4.     There should be no ‘shared space’ between pedestrians and cyclists – where cyclists leave a segregated cycleway (see above) they should be required to dismount before entering the footway.

5. Roads bisecting footways – the proposed restricted vehicle access to Cathedral Lane bisects the pedestrian area in front of St Marys. Potential vehicle / pedestrian conflicts should be eliminated or minimised by creating vehicle access via Elder Street or by putting in place robust traffic calming arrangements which keep vehicle speeds down to walking pace in front of St Marys.

Living Streets Edinburgh has also objected to the TRO (traffic regulation order) / RSO (road redetermination order) for the south section of Leith Street on the following (summarised) grounds in particular:

1. The TRO removes all Greenways restrictions on Leith Street, eliminating bus priority.

2. 32 out of 67 sections of footway would not meet the ‘desirable minimum’ of ‘4 metres or wider’ set out in the Street Design Guidance (SDG). Two sections would not even meet the ‘absolute minimum’ of 2.5 m laid down in the SDG, the worst of which is at the very south end of Leith Street (east side) near its junction with Waterloo Place – a key pedestrian pinch-point.

3. The proposed split footways on Leith Street north of the Calton Road junction would reduce their effective width and utility for pedestrians. This would be even more inconvenient and hazardous for walking on the section between the Greenside Row and Calton Road junctions, where it is proposed that the cycleway should switch, mid-block, from one side of the footway to the other. This is a recipe for pedestrian/cyclist conflict, with the most vulnerable street users (including people who are frail or have a disability) likely to come off worst.

Living Streets Edinburgh / 1 February 2018

 

PICARDY PLACE DECISION ‘EMBARRASSING FOR COUNCILLORS’

The City Council decision to back the controversial Picardy Place gyratory roundabout will be a ‘continuing embarrassment’ to those Councillors who approved the plan, say local walking campaigners. Living Streets Edinburgh [1] criticised the decision of Transport & Environment Councillors from the Conservative, Labour and SNP groups for giving the green light to what the walking campaigners describe as ‘a 1960s’ solution to a 21st century problem’ Living Streets Edinburgh Convenor, David Spaven, commented:

‘Councillors – other than the visionary Greens – have backed a fundamentally flawed plan, which runs completely counter to the Council’s own transport policies. We now face the deplorable prospect that the Council’s design will make the Picardy Place and Leith Street even worse for pedestrians than it is at present. This will surely be a continuing embarrassment to these councillors, unless big changes are made to the detail of the design in the months ahead.

‘We will be pressing strongly for design improvements by Council officers to reduce the negative impact of more circuitous road crossings, narrower pavements and cycling /walking conflicts where new cycleways bisect pavements.’

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

[1]  Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local volunteer arm of the national charity campaigning for ‘everyday’ walking. See: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/END OF RELEASE

Leith Street TRO and RSO – Response to re-advertisement

Living Streets Edinburgh Group has previously objected to RSO 17/13 on the grounds stated in Appendix A.  In response to a re-advertisement of the RSO, along with advertisement of TRO 17/81, we re-state our objection to the RSO, and state our objections to the TRO, on the following grounds:

  1. Greenways/ Bus priority: The TRO removes all Greenways restrictions on Leith Street. This not only removes valuable bus priority but also the ‘no stopping’ restrictions. We cannot understand why the Council would wish to do this and we object to the Order.
  2. Footway widths: since our initial objection, we have been provided with more detail on footway widths. While we do acknowledge that there are improvements from the current substandard pavements – some of the busiest in the city – it is our understanding that 32 out of 67 sections of footway will not meet the ‘desirable minimum’ of ‘4 metres or wider’ set out in the Street Design Guidance (SDG). Two sections will not even meet the ‘absolute minimum’ of 2.5 m laid down in the SDG, the worst of which is at the very south end of Leith Street (east side) near its junction with Waterloo Place – a key pedestrian pinch-point. The latter is the result of accommodating three lanes of road carriageway, rather than reducing this to two lanes for bus and cycle use only. In a major development such as this, in the very heart of the city, it is unacceptable that the Council’s own minimum standards are not fully achieved.
  3. Junction of Leith Street/Waterloo Place: Following on from the inadequate pavement width noted above, we propose that Leith Street, south of the access to the car parks in Greenside Place and the St JamesCentre, should be restricted to buses, cyclists and pedestrians only until the ‘City Centre Transformation’ initiative has been completed. One benefit of this would be to allow widening of the footway pinch-point at the very south end of Leith Street (east side) near its junction with Waterloo Place by limiting the carriageway to two, rather than three lanes, for bus and cycle use only. Some consideration of the wider effect on traffic flows would of course be needed, and possibly measures such as street closures implemented to avoid problematic ‘rat-running’. However not all traffic which previously used Leith Street would in any case return after the current closure of Leith Street ends as some ‘evaporation’ of traffic would be expected. The current closure of Leith Street is an important opportunity to begin wider strategic consideration of traffic management in the city, which must not be missed.
  4. The proposed split footways on Leith Street north of the Calton Road junction reduce their effective width and utility for pedestrians. This would be even more inconvenient and hazardous for walking on the section between the Greenside Row and Calton Road junctions, where it is proposed that the cycleway should switch, mid-block, from one side of the footway to the other. This is a recipe for pedestrian/cyclist conflict, with the most vulnerable street users (including pedestrians who are frail or have a disability) likely to come off worst.
  5. We maintain our previous objection to the RSO as stated in the appendix.

 

David Hunter
for Living Streets Edinburgh Group
Thorn House
5 Rose Street
Edinburgh
EH2 2PR

11 December 2017

 

Apendix

RSO/17/13 Leith Street, Calton Road, Greenside Row, Waterloo Place

Living Streets Edinburgh Group objects to RSO 17/13 on the following grounds:

1) All – pavement widths

Leith Street is designated as a Strategic High Street, according to the Street Design Guidance adopted by the Council in 2015 (i). This specifies that the pavement should be a minimum width of 3 metres (2.5 metres allowed only in short sections), with a desirable minimum width of 4m or wider. We cannot determine the exact pavement widths from the drawings, but it is clear that the pavement widths proposed in the order are far below the Council’s own specified standards on both sides of the street.

(i) http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/download/550/edinburgh_street_design_guidance

 

2) Crossing point of Leith Street East at Greenside Row

The drawing seems to imply that the entire pavement both the north and south sides of the Greenside Row corner is re-determined as cycle way from both footway and carriageway (10, 12, 16, 13). This leaves no footway whatsoever exclusively for pedestrians crossing Greenside Row. The drawing suggest that pedestrians are expected to wait in a designated cycle way before crossing Greenside Row. This is a busy pavement at all times – and is already excessively busy at certain times of the year (eg during the August festivals). It is unacceptable that pedestrians at this location should mix with cyclists. Of course, it would also be also extremely unhelpful for cyclists to encounter pedestrians on the cycle track.

 

3) Junction of Leith Street East at Greenside Row

The corner radii of Greenside Row (at 10, 16) are excessively large, which will encourage vehicles to travel fast when entering and exiting Leith Street. This is an inappropriate design for a 20 mph street. The Street Design Guidance (see above) specifies that the maximum radius for a corner of this type of street is 3 metres, and although not shown, the radii proposed are clearly far in excess of this.

 

4) Cycle manoeuvres, Leith Street (west) to Greenside Row

We are unclear what manoeuvres cyclists are expected to make heading north from the west side of Leith Street (6) to join the cycle track on the east side (10). We are concerned at the risk of conflict between cyclists and pedestrians involved in this manoeuvre.

5) Junction of Leith Street (east) at Calton Road

It is our understanding that the junction of Leith Street and Calton Road will be governed by a signalised crossing, although this does not appear to be indicated on the drawings. We would support this, so long as adequate pedestrian priority is provided in signal timings to permit the heavy pedestrian traffic to proceed effectively north/south. However, we have concerns that the cycle track on Leith Street heading south ends abruptly at Calton Road (10). There could be conflict at this junction between pedestrians and cyclists wishing to continue south, for example to the Bridges,

 

6) ‘Floating Bus Stop’ Leith Street (East).

The drawing shows a ‘floating bus stop’ (17). Living Streets’ opposes the further introduction of this feature until an objective and thorough monitoring is completed on the first such floating stop, introduced on Leith Walk (ii). This is because we are concerned at the risk of conflict between pedestrians (especially elderly and or disabled bus passengers alighting from a bus) and cyclists, where the cycle way lies between the bus stop and the pavement. This would be especially the case if the cycle way is, as we think 2-way, so downhill (northbound) cyclists may be going quite fast. No such monitoring has yet taken place or been planned to our knowledge and so we therefore oppose the redeterminations introducing this feature.

(ii) http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2016/02/08/living-streets-edinburgh-backs-floating-bus-stop-pilot-on-leith-walk/

 

David Hunter
for Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Thorn House
5 Rose Street
Edinburgh
EH2 2PR

17 October 2017

Response To Picardy Place Consultation – December 2017

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. The consultation process
  3. The fundamental problem: the gyratory system
  4. Specific design issues
  5. Summary of recommended design changes
  6. Conclusions

1 – Introduction

Living Streets Edinburgh is the local voluntary arm of the national charity which campaigns for improved conditions for ‘everyday’ walking. Our manifesto for the 2016 Council Elections set out four key aims for Edinburgh:

  • invest much more in walking
  • make a comprehensive transport plan for the city centre
  • pedestrianise George Street
  • transform street management.

With regard to the latest (17 November) Council proposals for the Picardy Place area, while we welcome some planned improvements over the present highly sub-standard conditions for walking and cycling, we also have major concerns.

Living Streets Edinburgh has long been worried about two key aspects of this scheme: first, the unsatisfactory nature of the ‘consultation’ process; and second, the 1960s’ approach to traffic management, constructing a three-lane road gyratory roundabout system which would be a barrier to walking and cycling.

 

2 – The consultation process

 Unlike the good level of consultation on other adjacent projects such as the West-East cycle route, in the case of Picardy Place – which will be a major change to the public realm – the level of consultation to date has been most unsatisfactory. There appears to have been no formal public consultation between a pre-application consultation in 2013 and a consultation exercise in summer 2017. The ‘ground rules’ seem to have been set dating back to the tram proposals from 2009.

There is a lack of transparency about the relationship between the Council and the developer, with big decisions on traffic and parking being taken behind closed doors before local people and citizens as a whole can have their say. The Council appears to be constrained in its transport decision-making by a historical agreement with the developer which was not open to public scrutiny.

The Council’s latest consultation has only been tinkering at the edges of the traffic scheme, with the central component – the gyratory – evidently not up for discussion.

 

3 – The fundamental problem: the gyratory system

 (I) The proposal

The central component of the Picardy Place traffic plan – and one which has a major impact on space for, and the convenience of, walking and cycling – is a gyratory / roundabout system, with three vehicle lanes on all three sides of a ‘triangular island’ (other than a very short two-lane stretch at its north-east corner).

(ii) The national and local policy context

Key relevant policy documents include the Scottish Government’s ‘Designing Streets’ (2010) which sets out the need for street design to change the emphasis ‘ towards place-making and away from a system focused upon the dominance of motor vehicles.’

The Council’s ‘Edinburgh Street Design Guidance’ (2015) includes commitments to ‘follow a design process that starts by considering the street as a place for people and recognising that streets have an important non-transport role’ and that the Council ‘will always prioritise improving conditions for pedestrians, especially for those with mobility impairments or other disabilities, for cyclists and for public transport users.’

The outcomes set out in the Council’s ‘Local Transport Strategy 2014-2019’ include a transport system ‘with an emphasis on encouraging walking, cycling and public transport use and a high quality public realm’, which is ‘part of a well planned, physically accessible, sustainable city that reduces dependency on car travel, with a public transport system, walking and cycling conditions to be proud of’, and in which ‘everyone should be able to get around the city regardless of income or disability.’ Elsewhere (Section 4.5) the document notes that: ‘Although this strategy is about moving around, it is also about reducing the need for motorised travel, especially car travel. Less car traffic helps make a city a safer and more pleasant place to live, as well as an attractive place to invest.’ This qualitative objective is reinforced by a specific quantitative aim to reduce the car’s share of all vehicular traffic on the city’s streets from 42% in 2010 to 29% in 2020.

It should be noted that these policies are succeeding, as evidenced by the 2011 Census, Spokes traffic counts and other data. Edinburgh now has higher proportions of people who walk, cycle and take the bus to work than anywhere else in Scotland, and a declining proportion of people who drive to work.

The Council’s City Centre Transformation process is intended to lead to substantial reductions in city centre vehicle traffic. New developments such as the St James Centre and the associated Picardy Place traffic plan should be helping to maintain the admirable recent modal shift trends and achievements, not putting them at risk by accommodating excessive levels of car traffic.

(iii) The problems with a gyratory

Acceptance of a gyratory undermines the Council’s wider transport mode share and mode prioritisation objectives. By providing for predicted traffic levels – ‘accommodating’ rather than ‘restraining’ traffic in line with policy objectives, and prioritising the associated flow of vehicles – the gyratory inevitably has impacts on other competing users of street space: pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. It should be noted that London has a comprehensive programme for removing major gyratory roundabouts due to their impacts on pedestrians and cyclists. Edinburgh should not be re-inventing the gyratory!

Many of the detailed flaws of the latest Picardy Place design can be traced back to the impact of the gyratory on (a) a finite amount of street space, and (b) the obstruction of key pedestrian ‘desire lines’. These are examined in some detail in Section 4 below.

It has been claimed by Council officials that replacing the gyratory with a T or Y junction (removing the western traffic arm of the gyratory) cannot accommodate predicted traffic levels. But the traffic modelling is based on 2014 traffic levels, and with Leith Street closed to vehicular traffic for 44 weeks, a significant proportion of this traffic will simply not return as and when the road re-opens.

To avoid conflict with the Council’s strategic transport objectives, it should be looking to reduce the future demand for car journeys in this important part of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site – by cutting planned road capacity and maximising the opportunities for public transport, walking and cycling.

The Picardy Place scheme should be an integral part of a forward-looking city centre transport and traffic plan, not designed in isolation. Reducing road capacity in the Picardy Place area needs to be carefully planned on an ‘area-wide’ traffic management basis to avoid problems of crude displacement of traffic from one street to another.

 

4 – Specific design issues

1 – While we welcome the planned reduction of vehicular space compared to the current, highly unsatisfactory situation, there is still far too much emphasis on providing capacity for vehicles.

Three-lane provision at the main gyratory intersection is ‘accommodating’ rather than ‘restraining’ traffic in line with policy objectives, and is not conducive to safe walking or cycling.

The Council should be considering the potential to remove through traffic on Broughton Street, north of its junction with Picardy Place and York Place – or making it bus only – to simplify the number of traffic movements the junction has to accommodate. This is an important ‘high street’ area and should not be seen simply as a transport corridor. Such considerations need to be part of the city centre transformation plans, and should not be pre-empted by the Picardy Place gyratory.

Given that Leith Street will have been reduced to two lanes for a year, and closed for nearly another year, we question the need for the carriageway to be three / four lanes wide – some of this width would be better allocated to pedestrians and cyclists (see below), including the section of Leith Street where no cycle path is provided.

The option to make the southern section of Leith Street only available for buses, pedestrians and cyclists should be modelled, as should be the impact of permanently re-routing certain bus services (eg No. 5 and No. 34) via Waterloo Place, with de-congestion and journey time benefits.

2 – The gyratory – and accommodating associated traffic levels – creates multi-stage, inconvenient pedestrian crossings, notably at: the north-east corner of the gyratory island (four stages replace two at the current crossing by the Playhouse); the north-west corner (three stages replace two); and at the southern corner (two stages).

The first two of these crossings are circuitous and ignore key ‘desire lines’ for pedestrians; in the case of removing the crossing in front of the Playhouse this would encourage people to risk cutting straight across the cycleway, three traffic lanes and, potentially, two tram tracks. There is no evidence that the Council has modelled the impact of these circuitous crossings on journey times for key pedestrian routes – all the modelling appears to relate to vehicular traffic.Crossings appear to inter-mingle pedestrian and cyclist flows – but these should be segregated to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

While the proposed widening of certain footways is a welcome improvement on the current sub-standard arrangements in much of the area, there appear to remain too many narrow sections of footway on stretches with very heavy footfall. Detailed widths around Picardy Place and the gyratory area are not clear in the latest design plan, but the planned cycleway along York Place (south side) appears to significantly reduce the current footway width.

The layout promoted in the current TRO and redetermination orders for Leith Street shows that 32 out of 67 sections of footway will not meet the ‘desirable minimum’ of ‘4 metres or wider’ set out in the Council’s Street Design Guidance (SDG). Two sections will not even meet the ‘absolute minimum’ of 2.5 m laid down in the SDG, the worst of which is at the very south end of Leith Street (east side) near its junction with Waterloo Place – a key pedestrian pinch-point. The latter is the result of accommodating three lanes of road carriageway, rather than reducing this to two lanes for bus and cycle use only.

4 – Like Spokes, The Lothian Cycle Campaign, we are concerned at the very large areas of footway and public space proposed for conversion to ‘shared space’ between pedestrians and cyclists: first, at three corners of the York Place / Broughton Street / Picardy Place junction; second, adjacent to, and south east of, Little King Street; third, at the crossing of Leith Street at the southern end of the gyratory island; and fourth, at both sides of the Greenside Row junction with Leith Street. This is a recipe for conflict, with the most vulnerable street users (including pedestrians who are frail or have a disability) likely to come off worst.

5 – Pedestrian safety and convenience would be compromised by the proposed creation of some sections of cycleway running through the centre of footways (rather than one being adjacent to the other), also forming a barrier to pedestrians using key bus stops on Leith Street (east side) and Broughton Street (in front of the cathedral). From the pedestrian perspective, it is far preferable to have properly segregated cycleways adjacent to – but not part of – footways.

The proposed split footways on Leith Street north of the Calton Road junction – reducing their effective width and utility for pedestrians – would be even more inconvenient and hazardous for walking on the section between the Greenside Row and Calton Road junctions, where it is proposed that the cycleway should switch, mid-block, from one side of the footway to the other!

6 – While the latest design iteration plan retains much of the important green space and public realm which would have been lost in front of the cathedral, this is compromised from a walking perspective by the cycleway bisecting this space.

To accommodate road vehicles and trams, the entire area of green space and mature trees on the north side of Picardy Place is lost in any conceivable design option. This loss could however be balanced by scrapping the gyratory, removing its south to north-west arm and the isolated ‘island’, and thereby extending north-eastwards the public space in front of the cathedral.

7 – Scrapping the gyratory would also allow improved future interchange between bus and tram (and enhanced connectivity on foot between the proposed tram stop and the St James Centre, encouraging people to arrive by public transport and not by car). Astonishingly, there appear to be no bus-priority measures in the immediate Picardy Place area shown in the latest design plan. As all bus users start and complete their journeys on foot, this is a concern for Living Streets.

5 – Summary of recommended design changes

  1. undertake traffic modelling for a T or Y junction, based on constraining car traffic and enhancing the alternative modes
  2. model journey time impacts for key pedestrian routes affected by the proposed circuitous, multi-stage pedestrian crossings
  3. explore options for (i) bus-only access on the south section of Leith Street (and some bus re-routing along Waterloo Place) and (ii) banning through traffic on (or making bus-only) Broughton Street north of its junction with Picardy Place and York Place
  4. redesign pedestrian crossings to provide high-quality connectivity along pedestrian desire lines – without multiple stages – with pedestrian and cyclist flows segregated
  5. ensure that all footways meet the Street Design Guidance ‘desirable minimum’ width of 4 metres or more
  6. eliminate ‘shared space’ for pedestrians and cyclists, replaced by segregated provision
  7. move segregated cycleways out of the centre of footways, relocating them between the footway and the carriageway
  8. enhance the public realm and green space, by eliminating the gyratory (removing its south to north-west arm and the isolated ‘island’)
  9. improve future interchange on foot between bus and tram, and on foot from bus / tram to the St James Centre, by eliminating the gyratory.

 
6 – Conclusions

The key to securing enhanced facilities for walking (and cycling) is elimination of the gyratory and the associated over-provision of road capacity for cars – both of which are entirely inconsistent with the Council’s own strategic transport objectives for the city centre and Edinburgh as a whole. The current Picardy Place scheme is a traffic plan – but it should be a transport and place plan. We urge the Council to work towards a design which is both a symbolic and very practical demonstration of the importance of (i) walking and (ii) ‘place’ rather than ‘movement’, in this highly-visible and much-used area of the city centre and World Heritage Site.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group / December 2017

Pedestrian Campaigners Call For Picardy Place Gyratory To Be Replaced By ‘People-Friendly’ Solution

Local pedestrian campaigners have urged the City Council to scrap the proposed gyratory roundabout at Picardy Place and replace it with a ‘people-friendly’ street layout. In its formal submission [1] to the Council’s consultation on the controversial traffic proposals for the Picardy Place area, Living Streets Edinburgh Group [2], argues that the gyratory is ‘entirely inconsistent with the Council’s own strategic transport objectives for the city centre and Edinburgh as a whole’ and should be scrapped in favour of expanded public space, wider pavements, and more direct road crossings linking bus stops and a future tram stop with the new St James Centre development. The Group’s Convenor, David Spaven, said:

‘The current Picardy Place scheme is a traffic plan – but it should be a people-friendly plan. We are urging the Council to work towards a design which is both a symbolic and very practical demonstration of the importance of walking and ‘place’ rather than ‘movement’, in this highly-visible and much-used area of the city centre and World Heritage Site.

‘The Council have an overall aim of reducing the car’s share of Edinburgh’s transport [3] – but sticking with a three-lane gyratory at the heart of the city around Picardy Place would simply encourage yet more car traffic. And London has a comprehensive programme for removing major gyratory roundabouts, due to their impacts on pedestrians and cyclists. It would be tragic if Edinburgh were to head in the opposite direction, endorsing dis-credited 1960s approaches to urban transport planning.’

 Other measures in the group’s recommendations to the Council include:

  • exploring options for bus-only access on the south section of Leith Street
  • redesign of pedestrian crossings to provide high-quality connectivity along pedestrian ‘desire lines’
  • ensuring that all footways meet the Street Design Guidance ‘desirable minimum’ width of 4 metres or more
  • eliminating ‘shared space’ for pedestrians and cyclists, replaced by segregated provision
  • moving segregated cycleways out of the centre of footways, relocating them between the footway and the carriageway.

MORE INFO: David Spaven on 0131-447-7764 or 07917-877399

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

[1] Living Streets Edinburgh Group consultation response is attached.

[2] Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local voluntary arm of the national charity campaigning for better conditions for ‘everyday’ walking. See: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/about/about-living-streets/

[3] The City of Edinburgh Council’s ‘Local Transport Strategy 2014-2019’ refers to ‘reducing the need for motorised travel, especially car travel. Less car traffic helps make a city a safer and more pleasant place to live, as well as an attractive place to invest.’ This qualitative objective is reinforced by a specific quantitative aim to reduce the car’s share of all vehicular traffic on the city’s streets from 42% in 2010 to 29% in 2020.

END OF RELEASE