Tag Archives: Pavement Width

Response to Meadows to George Street: Concept Design Consultation

LSE strongly supports and welcomes the general thrust of the City Centre Transformation proposals and is making a separate submission to that effect. With regard to this consultation, the design proposals embodied in the Concept Design for the Meadows to George St. Project are particularly welcome. The enhanced priorities for walking, cycling and public transport envisaged are essential for the improvement of the Meadows to George St. Route and for the city centre as a whole.

Traffic Reduction and Pedestrianisation

The proposals to remove general traffic from George 1V Bridge and part of the Mound, and to eliminate the outmoded Forrest Rd./Teviot Place/ Bristo Place gyratory scheme are particularly welcomed. So too is the intention to restrict access along Forrest Rd primarily to walking and cycling, with restricted loading/ unloading hours for deliveries. This would release the potential to create a vastly improved environment for pedestrians in and around Forrest Rd.  The extent to which that potential is realized will depend on there being effective management and enforcement regimes in place regarding both access for deliveries and the disposal of waste. All too often such good management and enforcement have been lacking to date.  We therefore would expect to see proposals for effective scheme management and enforcement advanced in parallel with the detailed designs for this scheme.  We also have reservations as to whether all bus services should be removed from Forrest Rd, as discussed below.

The diversions of general traffic away from George1V Bridge via Chambers St and Market St are very welcome in principle, but it seems obvious that this will mean higher traffic levels on the Bridges and Jeffrey Street. Not all of the diverted traffic can realistically be expected to evaporate. It therefore seems reasonable to expect to see some analysis of the expected impact, especially on the Bridges route, since it is already operating under stress, with a poor accident record, being often congested, and where current conditions for pedestrians are as bad as or worse than those on George 1V Bridge. Until these impacts are clarified, we cannot unreservedly support these traffic proposals.

 

The Cycleway

The design concept proposals envisage a 3 metre wide, 2-way cycleway along the east side of the route, through George 1V Bridge, the Mound and Hanover St. This is preferable to the alternative of 1-way cycleways along both sides of the street, in that it allows more space for wider pavements, and reduces the conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists at bus stops, halving the number of such locations. There remain nevertheless some serious difficulties associated with the floating bus stop design, and at the east side stop at the foot of the Mound in particular.

Floating Bus Stop Provision

Our concern over floating bus stop design centres on the conflicts they introduce between cyclists and pedestrians crossing the cycle lane to board a bus, or alighting from buses into the cycle lane. It is worth noting that the recent re-introduction of rear door exit buses by Lothian Buses is almost certain to make the alighting conflicts greater. Moreover we are still awaiting the findings from the promised evaluation of the Leith Walk floating bus stop.

We are not aware of any precedents of busy two-way cycle lanes at floating bus stops, either in Edinburgh or elsewhere in the UK. The Council’s own street design guidance (Factsheet C4, Segregated Cycle Tracks) only addresses one way cycle tracks at bus stops. This design therefore does not appear to conform to Council design standards.

The proposed design for the crossing points at the floating bus stops has included some highly desirable elements that LSE would regard as essential. The two raised and zebra striped crossings of the cycleway, linking to the floating platform on either side of the stop/shelter position, are of vital importance. Sufficient width, height, and ramping will all be critical to how well they help to reduce conflicts with cycling. A standard crossing width will not be adequate given the peaked nature of crossing at bus boarding times, and we suggest that they should be of at least twice the standard width, if not more when based on current and forecast passenger pick up and drop off levels.

At the foot of the Mound, and to a lesser extent in Hanover St., cyclists would be approaching the bus stop downhill, at speed in many cases, and creating severe conflicts with pedestrians at the stop. This is unsafe. At the 3rd June workshop cycling representatives also raised concerns about the suitability of the 2-way cycleway provision over this steep downhill section, and it was suggested that downhill cyclists should use the carriageway instead. We would strongly endorse this suggestion, as it would reduce the most severe conflicts that are otherwise likely to arise.

The platforms associated with the proposed floating bus stops would provide some additional space for awaiting passengers, but at the busy stops and pavements involved there is concern that this space would still be inadequate to allow for the concentration of conflicting pedestrian movements, and for safe interactions with cyclists in particular. Moreover those concentrations are being intensified at some of the busiest stops, in Hanover St and at the bottom of the Mound, by having a single stop and a single shelter for all bus services. The loss of already inadequate shelter and seating space at these stops will inevitably mean worse conditions for waiting pedestrians, and for those with mobility impairments in particular. We can see no justification for this and wish to see these losses compensated for by the provision of additional shelter and seating. That provision should be informed by an analysis of pedestrian flows and passenger usage at peak times of the year for the stops involved.  It is difficult to believe that this has been undertaken for these stops to date (if it has can we please see the results?), but it should become a routine procedure wherever a reduction in stop and/or shelter/ seating provision is under consideration.

Other Bus Services and Stops

A similar reduction in provision of bus stop facilities is seemingly proposed in shifting the provision of bus services from Forrest Rd. to Teviot Place, and gives rise to similar concerns. This shift is also likely to result in longer walks to most destinations and have adverse effects on the growing proportion more vulnerable bus users who are mobility impaired as pedestrians. We would wish to see a thorough analysis of this issue being undertaken before a commitment is made to the move. More generally this is an important issue that has not been receiving sufficient attention as yet in developing the wider City Centre Transformation proposals.

At the workshop we were informed that under the revised bus stop arrangements there would be no breaches of the CEC standard for the maximum walking distance between stops, which we understand to be 400m. It is understand that only one bus stop is to be removed under the concept design proposals, that being at the uphill stop on the Mound close to the junction with Market St. LSE does not object to this change since this stop is little used and does not serve any significant destinations. However, with no compensating changes being made to the stop locations along the route on either side, the distance to the next southbound bus stop (National Library) is about 500m. There will be pedestrians undertaking a longer and steep uphill walk, so there should be seating provided at intervals to help ease them on their way. The additional space proposed for pedestrians at the junction with Market St., and in association with the welcome closure of St Giles St. to traffic from Bank St., would seem to offer suitable locations. Such provision is especially important given the heavy demand for bus passengers and other pedestrians to visit the High Street.

Pedestrian Crossings

The loss of the median strip, which currently enhances the crossing opportunities for pedestrians throughout George 1V Bridge, is regrettable, but is seen to be acceptable given the wider pavements and reduced 6.5m carriageway width envisaged, provided that the current number of locations for crossing facilities is retained.

More formal enhanced crossings are proposed, light controlled at the Chambers St junction and with a zebra facility approximately half way along. It seems that dropped curb crossing points are envisaged at the other locations, but it is not clear from the on-line consultation drawings that this is the case, so we would appreciate clarification. There is a high demand for crossing next to the Victoria St. Junction and a clearly designated crossing facility is needed at this point in particular.

The proposed crossing of Bristo Place, Bedlam to the Museum, will provide a welcome and much needed facility.

Pavements

Wider pavements and other additional pavement space are an integral and very much needed feature of the concept proposals, and we look forward to the detailed development of these proposals.

There remain nonetheless some pavements where widths that are sub-standard remain; specifically along the Mound beside the RSA and National Galleries, and in Bristo Place. The space available at the east side Hanover St junction with Princes St also remains inadequate for the intense concentrations of pedestrians wanting to cross there.

The Mound galleries section is a particular concern. It is only ~ 2m wide, in contrast to the 3m minimum desirable width specified by the Council’s Design Guidance. This pavement serves many pedestrians, especially at peak seasons for visitors.  Those numbers can only be expected to increase, and a wider pavement should clearly be provided here. It would also be running alongside the proposed 3m wide cycleway serving many fewer cyclists, unless that section is modified to allow downhill cyclists to use the carriageway. Such a modification would have the added advantage of making it easier to accommodate the widened pavement that is needed.

The Bristo Place east side pavement is only ~ 2.5m wide, and can be expected to have to accommodate substantially more pedestrians if the relocation of the Forest Rd bus stops to Teviot Place goes ahead. We would therefore wish to see a wider pavement included here in developing the detailed designs. All the more so, and essential, if a loading area is to be  part of the design. From the exhibition drawings it would appear that a loading area is envisaged that overlaps with the existing pavement, and would take up most of the existing pavement width! This would be totally unacceptable for pedestrians.

It is claimed that a SUSTRANS analysis concluded that “all pavements reach the desired comfort level of the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance”. It is difficult to understand how this conclusion could have been reached in regard to these particular sections of pavement, and we can only surmise that the analysis was undertaken at an off peak time of year and with no allowance for the increases in activity that are to  be expected over the years to come. We would like some clarification on this and would appreciate the analysis being made available.

Greyfriars Bobby

The numbers of worshipers arriving at the wee dug’s statue, to stand and stroke and photograph him, have long resulted in severely obstructed space for pedestrians with crowds spilling over into the carriageway much of the time. The increased space it is proposed to provide will help to alleviate the current conditions, but will not eliminate the problems. Those problems moreover can only be expected to grow as the numbers of tourists continue to increase. It is surely therefore  time, in association with this project, for Bobby to be provided with a new home, away from the street and safer for all concerned. Preferably perhaps this should be in Greyfriars Kirkyard, where he can  be re-united with his master and where the worship can take place in appropriate peace. Please make him party to the project too.

 

 

 

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

Bank of Scotland grounds at Holy Corner – footpath closure

The Bank of Scotland grounds at Holy Corner have been used as path off the main road to Bruntsfield on a daily basis for many years by cyclists and pedestrians. The narrow pavements in the area have meant that the preferred safe route for local people has been through the bank grounds.

Residents have raised concerns that the public access across the Bank of Scotland site may be lost when the land is sold. Local Councillor Melanie Main is working with residents to safeguard public access: the public have been using this as a route for very many years, and it may well therefore be a Right of Way.  A recorded Right of Way would safeguard continued access across the site, which may be important if there were proposals for changes, e.g: a building development in the grounds in the future. To establish the right and have it registered it is necessary to provide evidence from those who have used the route.

Local city of Edinburgh councillor Melanie Main is seeking evidence that the path has been open and used by people – this can then be taken forward to ensure the path is made a permanent right of way.

Please see the attached questionnaire

2017-08-08-BoS-Holy-Corner-Path-Questionnaire

New Johnston Terrace Pavement – only 1.5m wide

New-Narrow-Pavement-1We were appalled to see how narrow the pavement is on the Castle side of Johnston Terrace, after the works to install a ‘rock trap’ to catch falling rocks from Castle Rock were finished recently. The pavement is only 1.5 metres wide – well short of the 2.5 metre “absolute minimum” required by the Council’s own (excellent) Street Design Guidance.

Having looked into the history of this, it is almost as appalling to read the report to the Development Management Sub Committee 14 January 2015, which states

“Whilst this width is below that recommended in the council’s …guidelines it is considered, given the relatively low use of this footway, to be an be acceptable departure from standards in this instance. However as two wheelchairs or buggies will be unable to pass each other on a footway of this width the applicant was advised that uncontrolled crossing points on either side of the narrowing were required.”

We have raised this with the Council – not only the inadequacy of this pavement (which is far from “low use”) but also the wider issue of how keen the Council appears to be to ignore its own guidance.

Before (Picture from Google Streetview)

Google-Streetview-Johnston-Terrace-2010

After

 

Existing-Path-BottomNew-Narrow-PathNew-Narrow-Pavement-1Rock-Trap-Top

New-Narrow-Pavement-2Existing-Pavement-Top