Union Canal to Meadows Link: comments by Living Streets Edinburgh

A. 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.

We have a particular interest in this much-delayed scheme. The 2015 Tollcross Street Audit , which we led, involving partners Tollcross Community Council and Edinburgh Access Panel, was chosen partly in order to influence the design of this scheme. We hope that all recommendations of the audit (link) will be fully reviewed and considered in introducing this scheme.

A further fundamental point is that all proposals and designs must explicitly conform to the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG) for the category/categories of street. We have also appended our generic ’Walkability Criteria’ for the assessment of street design proposals

B. General observations.

Positive aspects:

We welcome much of the proposed design, which will significantly improve the walking experience in the busy Tollcross area. Especially welcome are the extensive use of continuous pavements, the widening of several footways, the addition of new and/or improved pedestrian crossings and the creation of a small pedestrianised zone at the west end of Tarvit Street. We very much welcome the inclusion of Tollcross Primary School as an important component of the scheme, and we support (though would want to extend) the measures proposed to improve the walking environment in its vicinity.

Traffic

We acknowledge that the scope of this scheme is limited, in aiming principally to provide a better link for cyclists between the Meadows and the Canal, along with pedestrian improvements. This scheme raises several issues about traffic management and vehicle space and the need for a wider review of traffic around Tollcross, as noted in our submission to the ‘City Centre Transformation consultation (bit.ly/2yK61sU) . However, we believe that this scheme represents a number of important immediate opportunities to further reduce the space given to motor vehicles, in addition to those included in the preliminary design. We therefore propose:

  • Gilmore Place at the Kings junction: reduce eastbound lanes from the current two to one. As traffic will generally no longer be exiting Tarvit Street, eastbound traffic from Gilmore Place will be able to turn right or left without a need for separate lanes.  This will enable the extremely narrow and congested corner footways on both sides of Gilmore Place (at the TukTuk and Trenchtown restaurants) to be widened.
  • Ponton Street: reduce this three-lane one way system outside Tollcross Primary School to two-lane. This would enable significant widening of the western pavement outside the school.
  • Home Street to the north of Lochrin Terrace: We understand that there is an alternative, updated design which retains two lanes of traffic, widened footways and no build-out at the pedestrian crossing here. We welcome the tightened radius of the Home Street/Lochrin Terrace junction, which should deter northbound traffic on Home Street turning left here at speed, as happens currently.

Continuous footways:

We generally welcome these design features and are pleased to see several examples of them in the plans. However, some of the locations where they are proposed (possibly including Lochrin Place at Home Street, for example) may have a significant amount of traffic crossing them, while others (eg access to the Valleyfield St garages) may have very little. We strongly suggest that careful thought is given to whether some tactile warning is needed to warn blind pedestrians that there is a risk that they could encounter vehicles at the potentially busiest locations and that consultation with visual impairment groups takes place.

Footway loading bays:

We note that footway loading bays are proposed in two locations: Home Street (east) and Leven Street (west). We are concerned that these features are becoming more prevalent in street design (eg on Cowgate and Fountainbridge) and in general we oppose them. They send a signal that pavements can be parked on. We see no case for the Leven Street example, where a normal loading bay can apparently be provided without unduly narrowing the pavement. Any footway loading bays should be bounded by bollards to avoid vehicle encroaching on to the footway proper.

Seats:

There is currently nowhere to sit in Home Street, or Tollcross more generally, including at the city-bound bus stops. This undoubtedly reduces the appeal of the street for older people and many people with mobility impairments. The scheme should include provision of new seating at a number of locations. The pedestrianised Tarvit Street area is one such location, but seats should also be installed on both the west and east sides of Home Street.

Footway widths:

While we recognise (and welcome) a number of footway widenings, there appear to remain several footways which fall below the ‘absolute minimum’ standard specified in the Street Design Guidance, and one where the an extremely busy pavement is actually being significantly narrowed, from 3.9m to 2.5m (Home St west). This is not acceptable in a flagship walking and cycling scheme, and it is unlikely that there will be any other opportunity in the next 10 or 20 years to rectify this inadequate legacy. Meeting minimum standards in such a densely-populated and diverse area should be an absolutely fundamental requirement of the scheme. Streets which we think will still fall short of these standards are:

  • Lochrin Place (west)
  • Lochrin Terrace
  • Ponton Street
  • Home Street (western side, between Lochrin Place and Gilmore Place)
  • Home Street (eastern side, by loading bay near Tarvit St junction)
  • Gilmore Place
  • Tarvit Street (east)
  • Drumdryan Street (whole length)
  • Valleyfield Street.

Pavement clutter:

We assume that a full de-cluttering exercise will be carried out on all streets included within the scheme. There are many signage poles which are no longer needed, inappropriately-sited cycle racks (Home Street at Lochrin Place (N) and a redundant parking display (Ponton St). We query the need for considerable sections of guardrail, for example on Lochrin Terrace (where the guardrails have quite recently been renewed).

Pedestrian/cycling conflict:

We generally oppose shared pedestrian/cyclist areas (as do Spokes) owing to the potential conflict and especially the intimidating effect this can have on vulnerable pedestrians such as older people and those with visual impairments. However, long-established shared spaces are at both ends of this project (ie in the Meadows and on the Union Capital) and we consider the proposals are generally reasonable. Detailed design, including signage and any speed-reducing measures should take into account the risk of conflict however at key locations including the Lochrin Place/Home St junction and at both ends of Tarvit Street. Signs and road markings should require cyclists to ‘Stop’ – rather than ‘Give Way’ where the cycle way crosses a footway / continuous footway.

C. Location-specific observations

These observations (broadly from west to east) relate to specific changes which we would like to see to the initial design; in general, we are therefore happy with the proposals except where stated above or below.

West Tollcross:

  • There are two incorrectly-installed tactile pavings on the south side of W Tollcross, and a continuous pavement should be installed between these to the vehicle access point.

Ponton Street:

  • We would like to see footways significantly widened on this street. The western pavement outside Tollcross PS is only 2.15m wide, and is further constrained by guardrails. We would therefore like to see the traffic lanes reduced from 3 to 2 which would enable significant widening of both pavements. The large bus stop on the east side of Ponton Street which is used for the layover of East Coast Buses should be moved (possibly just to Lochrin Terrace) to facilitate this.
  • At the northern end of Ponton Street, there is currently no ‘green man’ facility whatsoever to  allow people to walk across Fountainbridge, an inexplicable omission at a busy junction adjacent to a primary school. The signals here should therefore be replaced as part of the lane reduction measures proposed above, to include a signalled crossing of Fountainbridge on both sides of Ponton Street.

Lochrin Terrace:

  • Lochrin Terrace has a lot of wasted space and we welcome the extended footway with loading area on the south side (a suitable location for seats). At its western end (before the W Tollcross/fire station junction), the road should be narrowed to reduce the distance for pedestrians to cross the road (there is only a single lane on traffic heading into Lochrin Terrace, so there is no need for the carriageway to be so wide).
  • At its eastern end, both the north and south footways are too narrow – the southern pavement is only 1.75m wide, further reduced to 1.35 clear walking zone by the railings (compared to a footway ‘absolute minimum’ of 2m and a ‘clear walking zone absolute minimum’ of 1.5m in the ESDG).  A bin on the northern side routinely blocks adequate access to this pavement. We would like to see the guardrails removed from both sides of the street. We expect that the presence of the fire lane eastbound may be a specific reason for the rails on the northern pavement, but can see no reason for retaining the railings in the southern pavement.

Lochrin Place:

  • We welcome the widening of the northern pavement at the eastern end and the buildout on the southern side at Lochrin Autos. However, we would like to see a number of additional improvements including the installation of regular build-outs as specified by the Street Design Guidance. There are four incorrectly installed pieces of tactile paving with inappropriate crossfall on the north side of Lochrin Place (at apartment bin stores) which should be remedied. At its western end, the southern pavement should be continued towards the canal towpath; at present, the pavement does a right angled left turn away from the main desire line to the canal.

Home Street:

  • We are very disappointed to see the proposal to reduce the western footway between Lochrin Place and Gilmore Place in width from 3.9 to 2.5 metres, presumably to accommodate the segregated cycle lane, which we consider unacceptable and contrary to the spirit / letter of Council policy and the ‘movement hierarchy’ in Scottish Planning Policy.
  • We note the intention to move the signalled pedestrian crossing currently located immediately to the south of Lochrin Place to the south of Lochrin Terrace. We would like an assurance that this will be ‘green man on demand’ unlike the current ‘dumb’ crossing which is activated by the Home St / Gilmore Place junction signals.
  • We oppose the ‘footway loading bay’ on the southern part of the east side of Home Street. This leaves only 2.5 m of footway clear for pedestrians and will encourage footway parking in the vicinity outside the designated bay, unless bounded by bollards.
  • There is a need for a shelter with seating at the bus stop on the western side outside the Cameo cinema.
  • We would ask that the decluttering exercise which will be conducted extends north on both sides of Home Street to the Tollcross junction.

Gilmore Place:

  • The pavements at the junction of Gilmore Place with Home/Leven Streets are very busy and congested and need to be improved. As suggested above, we advocate reducing the eastbound lanes out of Gilmore Place from two to one in order to achieve this. The northern pavement close is currently 2.3 metres wide, with a minimum clear walking zone of 1.8 metres; wholly inadequate for a place where many people gather to cross the road. The southern pavement is only 1.6 metres wide (ESDG requires an ‘absolute minimum’ of 2m). In the longer term, the council should consider compulsory purchase and demolition of the ugly building extension occupied at present by part of the TukTuk restaurant. This would improve the corner visually, but more importantly would free-up significant road space for walking and potentially cycling.

Tarvit Street (inc. Drumdryan St):

  • We welcome the concept of closing Tarvit Street to general traffic (expect bicycles) and introducing a small pedestrian zone at its western end. We believe that this, currently unlovely, space would be much improved as a pedestrian area, and should allow the potential of the Kings Theatre to have a positive impact on its immediate area to be exploited. However we have some concerns or queries about how it will operate.
  • It is designated as a “Traffic Free Street (except for loading)”.  This raises a number of questions: Will any vehicle ‘loading’ be permitted to use the street? Are there limits intended to the times when loading is to be permitted? (The bay is marked as suggesting this is only between 22.00 and 10.00 hours). How will enforcement be carried out? (Edinburgh’s record in similar streets like Castle Street and Grassmarket is not encouraging). Presumably loading vehicles (including HGVs servicing the Kings Theatre) will have to exit Tarvit Street westbound, and that there will therefore need to be traffic signals (which will apply also to cyclists)? We note that the southern footway remains extremely narrow and below the Council’s ESDG ‘absolute minimum’ standard of 2m. This would not necessarily be a problem if part of an effectively pedestrianised street, but would not be desirable if vehicles are frequently in the loading bay.
  • East of the junction with Drumdryan Street, the pavements on both side of Tarvit Street appear to fall short of the “absolute minimum standard” specified by the Council. The pavements here and on all streets included within the scope of the project (including all of Drumdryan Street) must be improved to meet this standard at the “absolute minimum”. If this cannot be delivered in a once in a generation ‘walking and cycling scheme’, it never will. An informal crossing with dropped kerb/tactiles should be installed at the eastern side of the Drumdryan/Tarvit Street junction, to facilitate pedestrian movement from the south side of Tarvit street to the northern pavement at this junction.

Brougham Place:

  • We welcome the provision of a new Toucan crossing to the south of Tarvit Street which is on a pedestrian desire line.
  • We note that the western footway of Brougham Place between Tarvit Street and Leven Terrace is 2.3 metres wide. Currently, the width of this pavement is significantly reduced by a hedge. It is essential that there is a firm commitment by the Council to enforce the obligation of frontagers to restrict vegetation from encroaching on pavements. Otherwise, this footway will need to be widened.

Valleyfield Street:

  • Minimum footway widths must be provided; at the eastern half of the street, the northern footway is currently 1.8 metres wide, and the southern 1.75m, where there is also a Clear Walking Zone of only 1.2m at the lampposts, further reduced to 0.8 by the hedge at the eastern end. This compares to the ESDG standard of footway ‘absolute minimum’ width of 2m and a ‘clear walking zone absolute minimum’ of 1.5m.
  • Continuous footways should be provided on the south side at two garage entries.

Leven Terrace:

  • The closure of Tarvit Street to vehicles coming from Melville Drive direction is likely to increase traffic on Leven Terrace. Measures which might need to be considered include traffic calming, and changing the ‘Give Way’ at the junction with Valleyfield St, so that Leven Street traffic must pause or stop.
  • We note the intention to provide new, separate routes for walking and cycling across the section of park between Leven Terrace and the Meadows.  We would seek confirmation that this will not involve the loss of any mature trees, and also that the most direct route (which is the walking desire line) is designated for walking, rather than cycling (otherwise, people will continue to walk in the cycle lane).
  • We also note that there is no intention to add a footway to the eastern side of Leven Terrace, which is currently missing entirely. The need for this should be assessed.

D. Conclusion

We welcome the improvements to the Tollcross area which will bring many benefits to local pedestrians, children attending Tollcross Primary School and visitors to attractions such as the Kings Theatre and Cameo Cinema.

We think, however that some bolder, though incremental, measures can be included in this scheme to reduce the dominance of traffic and the space given to accommodate it (especially Ponton Street and Gilmore Place).  There are also many missed opportunities to widen inadequate footways in residential streets, and we strongly oppose the reduction in footway width in a section of Home Street which would worsen the walking experience in this important part of the Tollcross ‘town centre’.

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Appendix: Living Streets Edinburgh ‘Walkability Criteria’

Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) is keen to ensure that all types of transport and public realm schemes – whether routine maintenance or new initiatives – improve the walking environment. We would like to see each scheme satisfy the following fundamental aims:

  1. compliance with the Council’s Street Design Guidance [http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/download/550/edinburgh_street_design_guidance] – at the very least, its minimum standards, eg on footway width and frequency of pedestrian crossings, and,
  2. compliance with the transport hierarchy set out in Scottish Planning Policy (2014) – https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-planning-policy/pages/8/including ‘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’.

LSEG does not have the resources to examine and comment in detail on every transport and public realm proposal; our view on whether a scheme design has satisfied these fundamental aims will be determined by Council answers to the following questions on ‘walkability’ criteria:

  1. How does the design contribute to the Council’s strategic objective to promote walking [as set out in the Active Travel Plan http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20087/cycling_and_walking/1791/cycling_and_walking_projects/1]?
  2. Does the scheme comply in detail with the Council’s Street Design Guidance, for example with regard to footway widths, frequency of pedestrian crossing points, decluttering, continuous footways over side street junctions, and junction corner radii (amongst many other issues)? Where does it fail to comply?
  3. Are pedestrian crossing points convenient in terms of proximity, waiting times, directness and time to cross, especially for less able users?
  4. Does the scheme as a whole improve road safety, especially in terms of vehicle speeds at junctions and crossing points?
  5. Has an Equality Impact Assessment been carried out? If so, what are the chief impacts on disabled or elderly pedestrians?
  6. Which walking elements of the scheme represent a quantitative / qualitative enhancement or deterioration of current walking facilities, eg footway widths?
  7. In what ways does it avoid pedestrian conflicts with other road users (including motor vehicles and cyclists), eg by providing dedicated and well-defined space for pedestrians and avoiding ‘shared spaces’?

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.