We 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.
Some cycling campaigners have indicated that we are opposed to segregated cycle ways. This is categorically not the case. After walking most of the proposed Edinburgh East to West cycle route, and auditing the design, we have supported the vast majority of the proposal and recommended some detailed design improvements. However, we have concerns about two sections of the route, due to impacts on the safety and convenience of walking.
The first concern is that Roseburn Terrace will not be able to accommodate a well-designed cycle bypass / floating bus stop which minimises conflicts with pedestrians queuing, alighting from or getting on buses. Conflicts of this nature will not be good for cyclists either. So far, the experience of such infrastructure in the UK has not been good, especially TFL’s efforts in London, where Living Streets has observed significant problems at a number of busy high streets. We are especially concerned at the effect on elderly and disabled bus passengers who will not be expecting to encounter cyclists on alighting.
We have suggested an alternative route for this short section – which actually links better with the Family Friendly route through Roseburn Park. We also believe widening both pavements at Roseburn Terrace is a priority for improving the public realm and maximising active travel benefits. We suggest further work is needed with all parties on the design of this section of the route and are happy to work with cycling groups to understand their perspective and look at options which address our concerns.
Our second concern is that the east end of Princes Street proposal – running straight through the middle of the pavement – is highly problematic due to the sheer volume of pedestrians and the inevitable conflicts which would be created. We want to see re-allocation of road space to accommodate cycling and minimise conflicts.
We look forward to supporting the project as a whole and ensuring it maximises benefits to pedestrians as well as cyclists. Where there are problems, we will work constructively with other interests to resolve them.
Living Streets Edinburgh objection to planning reference 15/04445/FUL- Mixed use development comprising hotel, bar, restaurant, cafe, retail and commercial uses and alterations to India Buildings, 11-15 Victoria Street and Cowgatehead Church. | 1 -15 Victoria Street 18-20 Cowgate Edinburgh EH1 2EX
Living Streets Edinburgh has a number of concerns about this application, which lead us to object to it. Our reading of the application leads us to believe that the developer has not fully considered the implications of their proposal for pedestrians, and where they have considered them, they have ignored key issues.
Our main objection relates to the issue of loading/unloading in the Cowgate and Victoria Street, but we highlight below further concerns about access to bus stops, and general pedestrian accessibility.
Loading & Unloading
The planning application proposes that coaches and goods vehicles will use the Cowgate for loading/unloading of goods and people. They’ve included a very narrow loading bay to facilitate this. However, the Cowgate is simply not wide enough at this point to accomodate vehicle loading.
The proposed loading bay will take away valuable pavement space. The pavements in this area are already very narrow – and are on a busy road. They’re currently 1.8m (at the back of this site ), and yet the developers want to NARROW them further, which seems likely to take them to the very minimum advised in the council’s own street guidance, given that the Cowgate is demarcated as a secondary retail/high st.
At present, deliveries to the site use the lane at the back of the Central Library up to the back of ‘Espionage’. They do not use the street as in the current proposal. The Cowgate is one of the only east / west roads left in the city center open to general traffic. Any blockage would have major knock on effects through the Cowgate and Grassmarket. Any vehicle loading or unloading would cause severe congestion within minutes. The proposed narrow loading bay would not facilitate 2 way traffic.
As can be seen elsewhere in the Cowgate, delivery vehicles frequently park on the pavement, forcing pavement users into the road. The damage caused by delivery vehicles can be seen throughout the Cowgate. It would be extremely deleterious to the pedestrian experience of Edinburgh, as well as costly to the council, if this practice were to be expanded any further.
For example, at the back of the recently opened Soco development an attempt was made by developers to build a loading bay on the pavement. This has not worked as vehicles often take up the entire loading bay AND pavement, again blocking the pavement for legitimate users.
We also note that the site is within the night time road closures of Cowgate. There is no mention of this in the planning application. If a delivery vehicle or bus requires access 10pm till 6 am where do they park? If a vehicle does go through the no entry signs, parks on the Cowgate, how would it leave the site? Reverse out or drive through the closed road? Any of these options would again be disadvantageous to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians.
Narrow pavements and expanded footfall
This proposal will inevitably increase the number of pavement users on the Cowgate. No mention of this has been made in the application. To the east of this development the pavement narrows to just 85cm under George the 4th Bridge on both sides of the road. To the west pedestrians have to negotiate the very wide junction at the bottom of Victoria street.
With regards to Victoria Street the road narrows at the front of the development / behind the G&V Hotel. As can be seen in some of the photos in the application the pavements in this area have been badly damaged by delivery vehicles parking on them.
Victoria st junction
Any hotel guest trying to travel north will have to cross the 2 lanes of traffic at the top of Victoria Street. During the rush hour it can be difficult to cross this junction on foot. The increased number of vehicle movements on this street as a result of this development will only make the issue worse.
We are also concerned about the knock-on effects on Victoria St, which is likely to be used by coach or other delivery vehicles, especially those relying on SatNav. The street runs the risk of being overwhelmed if large vehicles attempt to negotiate this narrow street and become blocked.
Bus facilities- George IV bridge
The planning application makes note of the bus facilities nearby for use by its customers. It does not mention that you have to cross 4 lanes of heavy traffic on George IV bridge to get to them.
Our advice would be that if the development is approved, it should be on the condition that
An off-street loading / unloading / drop off point should be created off the Cowgate. The site is big enough for this. There’s an example of an off road delivery bay at the Smart City Hostel further along the Cowgate.
The pavements should be widened along this part of the site to at least the far side of the George the 4th Bridge.
A pelican crossing should be installed on George the 4th Bridge at the top of Victoria St to allow people to cross the road without having to walk up to the junction with the Royal Mile to be able to cross the road safely.
All pavements surrounding the site should be protected by bollards to prevent vehicles parking on the pavement. The upkeep and maintenance of these bollards and the paving stones should be met by the development.
During construction pedestrian traffic should be maintained on both sides of the road.
The bottom of Victoria Street at the junction with the Cowgate should be narrowed to allow pedestrians to cross the junction safely.
Along Victoria Street and the Cowgate more crossing points should be provided to allow pedestrians safer access to the development.
CAMPAIGNING GROUP CALLS FOR DELAY IN ‘FLAWED’ NEW BUS SHELTER PROGRAMME
The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) should call a halt to its new bus shelter programme  while numerous breaches of Council space standards for pedestrians by contractors are investigated, says the walking campaign group, Living Streets Edinburgh . In a letter to CEC Transport Convenor, Cllr Lesley Hinds , Living Streets say that “in random sampling in a few areas of the city we have identified a range of locations  where the pavement space left for pedestrians does not met the minimum standard in CEC’s Bus-Friendly Design Guide. which states that ‘an unobstructed width of at least 1400mm must be provided along any length of footway adjacent to a shelter’”. The group’s Convenor, David Spaven commented:
“We’ve found some shocking examples where contractors installing new shelters have seriously failed to meet the Council’s own standard that ‘an unobstructed width of at least 1400mm must be provided along any length of footway adjacent to a shelter’. This is highly inconvenient for people on foot and in wheelchairs, and flies in the face of the Council’s claim to be prioritizing the needs of pedestrians. The bus shelter programme is clearly flawed and we’ve called on Cllr Hinds to delay the implementation programme until CEC can be assured that implementation will be such as to (a) meet CEC’s minimum standards and (b) at the very least not make conditions worse for pedestrians at the bus stops.”
MORE INFO: David Spaven on 0131-447-7764 or 07917-877399
 Letter from Living Streets Edinburgh Group to Cllr Hinds sent 11 October 2015:
‘Living Streets Edinburgh is concerned that a number of the new bus shelters now being installed by JC Decaux are failing to meet even the absolute minimum space standards specified for pedestrians in CEC’s Bus-Friendly Design Guide, let alone providing much needed improvements to allow reasonable space for pedestrians. In random sampling in a few areas of the city we have identified a range of locations (see foot of letter) where the pavement space left for pedestrians does not met the minimum standard in the Guide, which states that ‘an unobstructed width of at least 1400mm must be provided along any length of footway adjacent to a shelter’.
‘We are aware of two instances, at Constitution Street and at Buccleuch Street, where the shelters have apparently been installed in the wrong positions, and where remedial action is being taken, or is planned, after this has come to the attention of CEC staff.
‘But there are other locations where the minimum standards have clearly also been breached, such as Crewe Road North (at Selex) and Lindsay Road (at Annfield), and a number of others where the absolute minimum width requirements are barely met, but where the shelters could readily have been positioned to give more space. Examples of the latter are on Ferry Road (at Wash & Valet, Morrisons and Pilton Drive). In these instances the shelters could have been positioned at the rear of the pavement where an unnecessary c. 0.5m gap has been left (supposedly for cleaning purposes, despite there being no need for such a gap and none usually being left when installing CEC funded shelters).
‘It would seem that JC Decaux and their contractors cannot be relied upon to have any regard for the needs of pedestrians, or for the Council’s standards, even at the most basic level. In the circumstances we are seeking your intervention to delay the implementation programme for the new shelters until CEC can be assured that implementation will be such as to (a) meet CEC’s minimum standards and (b) at the very least not make conditions worse for pedestrians at the stops.
‘In view of the importance of this issue, we will issuing a media statement, embargoed until 10.00 Tuesday 13th.