Tag Archives: Pedestrian Priority

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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Council Transport Delivery ‘Seriously Imbalanced’ Against Pedestrians

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

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

 The Group’s Convenor, David Spaven, commented: Continue reading Council Transport Delivery ‘Seriously Imbalanced’ Against Pedestrians

Picardy Place Scheme Must Be Safe For People On Foot, Says Walking Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

Active Travel Campaigners Welcome Council Move On New Picardy Place Junction

Cycling and walking campaign groups have welcomed the decision of the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) to look at new options to boost active travel in the re-design of the controversial Picardy Place / Leith Street junction associated with the St James Quarter development. Following a presentation [1] by a deputation from Living Streets Edinburgh [2] and Spokes [3], CEC’s new Transport and Environment Committee today backed a motion from Green Party Councillor, Chas Booth [4], which argued that:

‘ the redesign of a significant city centre junction and surrounding streets presents an opportunity for traffic reduction, development of active travel infrastructure, and improvement of the public realm’

The Committee agreed to receive a report within one Committee cycle, setting out options for achieving these objectives in Picardy Place and surrounding streets, and reporting on the decision-making processes to date on the Picardy Place junction, the proposed future decision making, and what the democratic oversight of the process has been to date.

David Spaven, Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh commented:

‘We’re delighted that the T & E Committee has decided to look at the options for better provision for cycling and walking at this important new junction. At present, conditions for active travel are highly sub-standard in the area – but we hope that all interested parties and the public at large can now work towards a final design which is both a symbolic and very practical demonstration of the importance of first, walking and cycling, and second, ‘place’ rather than ‘movement’, in a highly-visible and much-used area of the city centre.

‘The Census and other surveys show that the Council is making progress on its targets to reduce car use and to boost cycling, walking and public transport.  It would be tragic if this success was jeopardised by a traffic-dominated design at this major city centre location.’

Martin McDonnell of Spokes commented:

‘There are a number of aspects of the currently proposed road design which give us cause for concern. We believe there is still too much emphasis on providing space for vehicles. While the provision of a dedicated cycle path and wider pavements is welcome, the cycle path and some pavements will narrower than they should be for these busy streets. It is also most unwise to incorporate shared cyclist / pedestrian space, particularly as many cyclists will be on ‘A to B’ journeys rather than mingling. This is a recipe for conflict, with the most vulnerable users (including pedestrians who are frail or have a disability) likely to come off worst.

‘Important green space and public realm (including mature trees) would be lost in front of the cathedral and on Picardy Place itself, in order to accommodate three lanes of traffic and the large island in the centre of the gyratory roundabout.

‘In light of concerns about the large gyratory intersection, which would be dangerous for cycling, and the loss of public space, we feel there is a great opportunity to explore removing the entire island at the centre of the proposed roundabout and the associated gyratory system from the design, thus creating improved conditions for cycling, and allowing the public realm and footway width to be increased on all three sides of the junction.

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

[1] The 2-page Living Streets / Spokes briefing paper to the T &E Committee can be found here.

[2] Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local voluntary arm of the national charity which campaigns for improved conditions for ‘everyday walking’. http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/

[3] Spokes is the Lothian Cycle Campaign. http://www.spokes.org.uk/

[4] Councillor Booth’s motion (with minor amendments, not shown here) was as follows:

[The Committee]

  1. Notes the decision of council on 10 March 2016 in regard to the regeneration of the St James Quarter, including a decision on the future governance of the Growth Accelerator Model (GAM) works programme and cross-party members’ oversight of the project;
  2. Notes that the Edinburgh Tram Extension and Leith Programme all-party oversight group has not met since the council election in May;
  3. Expresses concern at the lack of public consultation on changes to a significant element of the city’s transport infrastructure;
  4. Agrees that full public consultation on proposed changes to the Picardy Place junction should take place as soon as possible;
  5. Agrees that the redesign of a significant city centre junction and surrounding streets presents an opportunity for traffic reduction, development of active travel infrastructure, and improvement of the public realm;
  6. Therefore agrees to receive a report within one cycle setting out options for achieving this in Picardy Place and surrounding streets, and that this report will also set out the decision-making process to date on Picardy Place, and the proposed future decision making, and in particular what the democratic oversight of the process has been.’

END OF RELEASE

Princes Street – lengthy pedestrian crossing wait times

Princes Street is the heart of Edinburgh and its busiest street for people on foot. But pedestrians get a very raw deal as they proceed along the street.  We have recorded video footage of this junction in September 2015 and found that it can take to FOUR MINUTES 22 SECONDS for people to wait for the green man phase to cross just the Frederick Street junction. This is an unacceptable wait time for people on foot and not only leads to delays for the great number of people on foot but is dangerous as some people will inevitably seek to cross before the ‘green man’ phase comes on, resulting in frequent ‘near misses’.

The problem lies with the timing of the traffic signals. According to council policy, “absolute priority” is given to trams; this has had a knock-on effect of increasing the time that pedestrians have to wait to cross the roads which join Princes Street. However, the Council has responded to our concerns by tweaking the signal timings and we understand that pedestrian wait times have reduced recently. We will make more video recordings in the future, so that the pedestrian experience and actual wait times can be accurately documented and monitored. We also want to ensure that, should trams be extended to Leith or Newhaven in the future, there is no detriment to the pedestrian experience on any other part of the tram route.