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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’.

***

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’?

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.

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

Introduction:

Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local voluntary arm of the national charity, Living Streets, which campaigns for better conditions for ‘everyday walking’. In LSEG our key aim is to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around the city.

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

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

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

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

General parking:

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

Blue Badge parking:

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

Crossings:

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

Cycle lane:

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

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

Management and Enforcement:

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

’Plazas’:

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

Trees:

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

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

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

Space:

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

Crossings:

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

Equalities:

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

Public realm:

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

Impact of traffic:

10. If the area is a residential or shopping street or busy pedestrian route the speed limit is 20mph and the design helps to achieve this as a maximum speed in practice.
11. The level of parking and access to motor vehicles is appropriate and does not dominate the space.
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Edinburgh: connecting our city, transforming our places – Consultation response

Response to the City of Edinburgh Council Consultation

Edinburgh: connecting our city, transforming our places

28 October 2018

(The full document can be downloaded as a PDF here – 1mb)

The Role of Living Streets Edinburgh

1.1 Living Streets Edinburgh is the local group of Living Streets, the national charity for everyday walking. We aim to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around Edinburgh.

1.2 To achieve this we want to see:

  • Walking given the top priority over other forms of travel in all council transport and planning policies
  • Reduction in the volume of motorised traffic and its impact on people using the street
  • Better designed and maintained pavements, road crossings and other pedestrian facilities
  • More effective and joined-up monitoring and inspection of the walking environment by Edinburgh Council
  • Planning policy which encourages dense, sustainable housing over car-dominated development
  • More effective implementation of pro-walking policies ‘on the ground’.

1.3 Within this context we respond to consultations by the City of Edinburgh Council on plans and policy that impact on the walking environment and we also comment on planning applications.

1.4  The publication of the prospectus “Edinburgh: Connecting Our City, Transforming Our Places” is the most significant consultation that the Council has ever carried out in terms of:

  • Its timing against a backdrop of international, national and local acknowledgement that climate change and human health issues must be addressed now and cannot be left for future generations; and
  • As a consequence, the scale and nature of change required to our streets and public spaces, transport infrastructure, and the behaviour of everyone using them if Edinburgh is to be a city that truly has people at its heart.

1.5  Living Streets Edinburgh Group therefore wholeheartedly welcomes this consultation, the opportunity to contribute to the discussion, and looks forward to working with the Council and others towards meaningful change in our city.

Response to the Prospectus

The Big Picture

2.1  Sometimes bold decisions are required.

2.2  Now is such a time for the City of Edinburgh Council following publication of the Prospectus “Connecting Our City, Transforming Our Places”.

2.3  It won’t be the first time that a radical decision and change of direction has been taken to improve life for the people of Edinburgh and allow the city to prosper.  The 18th century saw the city fathers embark on the New Town development in response to overcrowding, poor quality buildings and insanitary conditions.  Not only did this improve the lot of citizens, it enabled the city to maintain its place amongst its European counterparts during the Age of Enlightenment, a time when Voltaire said “we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization.”  One wonders if he would say that if he walked around Edinburgh today.

2.4  Having created one of the most outstandingly beautiful cities in the world we have, since the advent of motorised transport, increasingly eroded the ability and opportunity for people to enjoy it.  Not only that, we have created an environment that is crowded, unsafe and unhealthy. The very attributes that the New Town sought to address.

2.5  In 1895 there were 15 motor vehicles in the whole of UK, by the 2011 census there were 181000 cars owned by Edinburgh residents alone.  Factor in additional commuter/visitor traffic, HGVs/commercial vehicles, buses and the scale/nature of the problem is apparent.  Instead of using the motor vehicle as a tool to be managed for the greater good, it has been allowed to dominate and shape our environment and dictate our relationship with it.  Some of us use cars, but all of us are pedestrians. Yet people are directed to move around the streets and public spaces in a way that minimises disruption to traffic flow – motor vehicles remain in charge.  This is a far cry from the philosophy of Patrick Geddes, who contributed so much to Edinburgh and the world and recognized the fundamental relationship between folk and place.

2.6  Our statutory planning system has now been in place for 70 years, yet this situation has been perpetuated across the country, including Edinburgh, and continues in the face of widespread evidence of the negative impacts and the existence of Scottish Planning Policy, which clearly prioritises travel modes  – walking, cycling, public transport, and cars in that order.  Despite being Scottish Government policy, this hierarchy has yet to underpin the local development plan and decisions on planning applications.

2.7  Disregard of the hierarchy and the need to change our behaviour is borne out by analysis of 2017 Household Survey Data for Transport Scotland that shows Edinburgh has experienced a sharp decline in walking as the main mode of commutes under 5 miles to work.  This is in contrast to the position in Glasgow and Scotland as a whole where walking has at least remained more or less constant.

2.8  There has been a realization elsewhere in Europe and further afield that this is no way to plan for cities and towns.  Slowly, but surely, streets and public spaces in many cities are being reclaimed for the people who use them, a process that in some cases has been underway for decades.  If municipal authorities in cities as diverse as Melbourne, Copenhagen, Ghent, Bologna, Utrecht, Madrid, Oslo and New York are able to face up to the challenge and pursue a transformational agenda that benefits people and local economies, then surely Edinburgh can do likewise.  It could be the beginning of a New Age of Enlightenment focused on people and place.

2.9 People and place: people are designed to walk, so provide places conducive to walking and the benefits that follow are significant.  Not only in terms of health, but also by facilitating people coming together, fostering a sense of community and helping to address social exclusion.  More than that, it is better for the local economy with greater footfall more likely to spend than those who drive past.  Look to Jan Gehl whose starting point has always been to design and plan for human proportions and speed of travel.  The Council is directed to the Living Streets report “The pedestrian pound –  The business case for better streets and spaces”. https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/1391/pedestrianpound_fullreport_web.pdf

2.10  It is accepted that the initial decision will require courage by the City of Edinburgh Council in the face of inertia, vested interests and fear of change.  But other cities have done it, Edinburgh has in the past, and can do so again.  Take a lead from the Spanish city of Pontevedra where a new mayor provided the catalyst to swiftly address longstanding problems and in a very short time radically transformed the historic city on the basis that cars don’t have an automatic right to occupy public space.  As César Mosquera, that city’s head of infrastructure so eloquently put it: “How can it be that the elderly or children aren’t able to use the street because of cars? How can it be that private property – the car – occupies the public space?”

2.11  Taking a wider perspective, the climate change agenda requires positive action at every level from Government down to the individual; we are all in it together.  However, with transport we are going backwards.

2.12  The independent Committee on Climate Change reports on Scotland’s progress towards meetings emissions targets, as requested by Scottish Ministers under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.  The most recent report found that transport emissions had actually increased by 2% in 2016.

2.13  The City of Edinburgh Council air quality monitoring identifies an overall reduction in vehicle pollutants, but acknowledges that there are many locations within the monitoring areas where safe levels are actually being exceeded.  Anyone experiencing Edinburgh streets as a resident or pedestrian knows that air quality is poor within the city centre and along several other routes in the city.

2.14  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC.   The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.  Closer to home the UK Government has committed to having zero emission new cars by 2040 and in light of latest evidence is under pressure to bring this forward to 2032.

2.15  Against this background, the consultation is timely and Edinburgh has an opportunity to once again be at the forefront of city planning.   As Councillor Lesley Macinnes says in her foreword to the Prospectus:
“Reducing congestion and vehicle-borne air pollution, improving journey times by public transport, realising the lifelong health benefits of walking and cycling, and creating streets and public spaces that support city living for all are key to sustaining our inspiring capital city.”

2.16  No one would argue with that and the case contained within the Prospectus clearly points towards the need for a radical change in direction.  The Prospectus states unambiguously that no change is not an option, but then offers business as usual and a strategic approach as choices which in effect amount to no change, given the scale and nature of the circumstances that face us.

2.17  Thankfully, transformational change is presented as the third option and it is clear on reading the document that this is really the direction the authors and Council consider to be necessary and hope to pursue if they receive support. The Prospectus states that a transformational approach would involve a radical rethink of how the city moves and operates.  Well, a radical rethink is exactly what is required; the time for tinkering around the edges and ignoring the evidence has long since passed.

2.18  The Prospectus sets a date of 2050 for achieving the kind of city we aspire to.  In light of the issues facing us as a city, nation and planet this is not nearly ambitious enough.  Once the decision has been taken to pursue transformational change, a date of 2030 should be set.  This will enable everyone involved to focus on planning and realising actions within a timeframe we can all relate to and benefit from.

2.19  Transformational change is an overarching decision of principle that should then provide a framework and context for the Mobility Plan, Low Emission Zones, Local Development Plan and other strategies/plans that follow.

2.20  Whilst it is appreciated that work on information gathering and identification of potential allocations has to continue, it is disconcerting to hear that the next Local Development Plan is currently being prepared in parallel with this Prospectus rather than taking a lead from it.  Transformational change will necessitate a fundamental rethink on, for example, movement patterns and infrastructure and the location of allocated sites.  It makes better sense for this to be reflected in the Main Issues Report (MIR): consequently publication/consultation on the MIR should not take place until the fundamental decisions on transformational change and likely range of consequential actions have been taken.

Comments on the Themes and Ideas

2.21  In broad terms the 3 themes and 15 ideas in the Prospectus should of course all be pursued, although there will be instances where the detail will need revision or adjustment to reflect the position of walking at the top of the movement hierarchy and to reflect comments in this submission.  One fact is abundantly clear; all of this can only be realised by transformational change.  In many ways the ideas therefore have to be more radical.

2.22  In terms of the position of walking in the movement hierarchy, and to reflect that this is a citywide aspiration, Idea 1 should simply refer to A Walkable City as the intention, with recognition in supporting text that the city centre has particular issues that must be urgently addressed. In this regard, Living Streets Edinburgh has adopted a 10 point plan for the city centre (Appendix 1 attached) which should be taken on board as part of the transformational change project.

2.23 The opening words of Idea 1, “reducing the dominance of vehicular traffic”, effectively constitute an overarching objective which will in turn enable the realisation of the other ideas in the Prospectus.  Recent actions such as the reconfiguration of Picardy Place and re-opening of Leith Street accommodate and perpetuate the dominance of vehicular traffic – so the Council really has to markedly change direction to show it is serious about this Prospectus.

2.24  A relatively straightforward early demonstration of intent would be the phased removal of a significant amount of on street parking.  The local transport strategy has a target of reducing car commuting from 42% to 29%.  The new St. James Centre will have parking for 1700 cars, so there is off-street parking available.  The removal of on-street parking, in and around the city centre in the first instance, is an action wholly within the Council’s control.  A similar programme is well underway in Oslo and has led to an increase in walking and wider active travel.  The removal of on street parking will in turn allow for the creation of wider pavements, on street cycle lanes and associated reconfiguration of streets to remove vehicle priority. These actions will complement other measures taken under Idea 14, Controlling the Impact of Commuter Parking.

2.25 Although it may be implicit in sections of the Prospectus, it is suggested that the document would benefit from a section on equality and the application of the Equality Act (2010) setting out how proper consideration has been taken during work on the Prospectus itself and how it will be intrinsic to the plans and actions that follow.  This is critical as transformational change has to benefit the whole community, including those who have been previously been forgotten when designing simple details for pavements, street furniture, pedestrian crossing times etc.

2.26 Under Idea 3 Strengthening our town centres, the economic benefits that tourism brings could be distributed more evenly by encouraging accommodation and associated provision across the city, with enhanced public transport and walking routes for people to get to the popular destinations.  This would alleviate pressures on the city centre, which, in tandem with prioritising walking in line with the Scottish Government hierarchy, would contribute to the wider transformation agenda.

2.27 Buses are a strength and a real success story for Edinburgh compared to other cities.  The Council should recognise this and build on it.  Idea 4 as written runs counter to this and potentially to Ideas 5 and 11.  There will certainly be scope for some rationalisation and route modifications as part of prioritising the city centre for pedestrians.  However, great care has to be taken to maximize the scope for through routes, as having to change buses will be a disincentive for many users and will run counter to the intention of Idea 4 to create better accessibility.

2.28 Contrary to what is implied in Idea 4, buses are not in themselves the problem. Given the air quality challenges and emission targets, it is better to concentrate on transforming the whole bus fleet to zero or low emission.  This along with some rationalisation, removal of cars and reduction in commercial traffic will help secure the improvements required in the city centre.

Conclusion

2.29  Transformational change requires the City of Edinburgh Council to state unambiguously that movement across all of Edinburgh will be based on the hierarchy set out in Scottish Planning Policy, with walking the first option, and that this will be reflected at all levels of decision making.

2.30  In preparing and consulting on this Prospectus the City of Edinburgh Council has taken an important step in securing transformational change for residents, visitors and the local economy.  It is critical that momentum is maintained and the transformational change becomes a reality, thus maintaining the tradition that started with the New Town, continued with being the first Scottish local authority to appoint a Medical Officer of Health in 1862, and more recently the implementation of smoke control areas, ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, and the introduction of 20mph speed limits across the city.

2.31  Living Streets Edinburgh would very much like to sit down with the City of Edinburgh Council and others to work on the detail of the various ideas and a full implementation programme for bringing about transformational change by 2030.

2.32  Thank you again for the opportunity to contribute to this discussion. When the responses to the consultation are reported to the Council, Living Streets Edinburgh respectfully requests that this submission be reported in full without editing or précis.

Living Streets Edinburgh
28 October 2018

Tram Extension to Newhaven: Further Comments by Living Streets Edinburgh

 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. This note supplements the responses we made to the initial public consultation in April (http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2018/04/27/commentary-on-taking-trams-to-newhaven-consultation/) and July 2018.

In general, we remain supportive of the tram extension and further investment to improve public transport in Edinburgh. This is essential if the city is to become less car-dependent while at the same time growing by at least an expected 100,000 people in the next 20 years.

Positive aspects

We are encouraged by a number of new elements in the proposed tram design, as shared with us on 11 October 2018. Together, these will represent significant improvements as part of the process of making Edinburgh a truly ‘walkable city’:

  • General adherence to the Council’s Street Design Guidance (SDG), with many tightened junctions, continuous pavements, etc.
  • Three or four locations where roundabouts are being replaced by traffic lights with signalised crossings, which are easier for pedestrians to cross.
  • Major improvement of Elm Row and the awful London Road junction.
  • New ‘public realm in several few areas, eg Bernard Street, Ocean Terminal rouddabout.
  • Many more crossings (signalled and informal) across Leith Walk (north end).
  • On Leith Walk, all lamp-posts will be relocated to the (1.8m wide) central reservation, aiding comprehensive pavement decluttering.

Remaining areas of concern:

  • Some pavements are very narrow, especially at three bus stops at the north end of Leith Walk (one on the west side, two on the east); here the pavement is approximately 2m wide (with bus stop ‘floating’). This is inadequate and fails to meet SDG standards; we support the tram team’s suggestion that pavements are widened to 2.4m, by ‘pinching’ the one-way cycle path further at these bus stops.
  • We continue to have concerns regarding widespread use of ‘floating bus stops’ throughout the scheme, at a time where the promised evaluation of the first such bus stops in the Pilrig to McDonald Rd area remains outstanding. We also understand that there is insufficient room for this type of bus stop design to comply with SDG standards at these three bus stops. A lack of space could create conflicts for cyclists and pedestrians, especially if there isn’t grade separation – as per the Pilrig to McDonald Rd section design.
  • We are concerned that New Kirkgate is still an ‘option’ for a cycle route. Although we understand why northbound cyclists will be banned from entering Constitution St (because cycling will not be permitted through a tram stop) the Kirkgate is not a suitable place for commuter cyclists, or any other non-walking through-traffic.
  • Pavements in the central part of Constitution St at North Leith church must be maintained at 2 metres wide or more. Any provision of loading facilities which reduced either pavement below this would be unacceptable.
  • There is some shared cycle/pedestrian space proposed at Newhaven (extending an already shared space). We support investigation of options to provide separate cycle and walk spaces.

Next steps:

  • We welcome the proposed setting up of an ‘Active Travel Group’ to look at detailed designs, involving stakeholders such as Spokes, Sustrans, Edinburgh Access Panel and LSEG. We will contribute to this as far as possible; however, our default position is that designs must adhere to SDG standards.
  • We understand that consultants will prepare a report identifying exceptions to the standards in the SDG, which will be shared with the Active Travel Group.
  • Funding has been secured to consider cycle route options from Foot o’ the Walk to Ocean Terminal. Again we will participate as necessary with this, but we query the proposition that Ocean Terminal is necessarily where most cyclists want to head to from Leith Walk at all? We expect that there will be a range of destinations for cyclists leaving Leith Walk northwards (to east and west as well as north) and these may be more important desire lines for cyclists than Ocean Terminal.
  • We ask the Council to report on the evaluation of the Floating Bus Stop designs on Leith Walk.
  • While we welcome the greatly-improved design of Elm Row, including the stopping-up of Montgomery Street, we suggest that a modelling exercise is undertaken in order to understand the effects of any traffic displacement on other streets in the vicinity.
  • We welcome a number of potential opportunities to secure other street improvements which are beyond the immediate scope of the tram project such as: improved public realm at Ocean Terminal; traffic management of streets between Easter Road and Leith Walk; removal of the roundabout at foot of Easter Road at Leith Links; and re-instatement of historic ‘Boardwalk’ along the coast.

 

The full response can be downloaded as a pdf file here – Tram Extension to Newhaven Further Comments by Living Streets Edinburgh