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 welcome this significant investment in active travel. We perceive the principal aim of this scheme as providing safe and attractive cycling routes to the Gyle and Edinburgh Park business areas from the north and south, taking opportunities to enhance the local pedestrian environment. We would like to see these opportunities maximised, which will benefit all people in the residential area, not only those who wish to cycle. A fundamental point is that all proposals and designs must explicitly conform to the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance for the category/categories of street. We have agreed the appended general ’walkability criteria’ to assess street design proposals, and would ask that they are also applied here.
We would suggest that the objectives of the scheme need further clarification; in particular, we note that the project website states “efforts will be made to preserve…the flow of vehicles”. While we certainly agree that the effect on traffic flows needs to be carefully considered, we think that the scheme should try to reduce some motor traffic, especially commuting by private car to the Gyle/Edinburgh Park areas.
B. General observations.
We welcome many aspects of the proposed design, such as new pedestrian crossings (eg Glasgow Road, Maybury Drive, Wester Hailes Road, Clovenstone Road) and the bridge over the railway line at Gyle Park. We welcome exploiting all opportunities for pedestrian ‘short cuts’ for example potentially from S Gyle Access to S Gyle Crescent via Flasshes Yard, and Dell Road to the Water of Leith. We would like particular attention to be given to enhancing walking links (in terms of safety, accessibility and convenience) to the schools in the vicinity of the project. However, we would like to see a number of walking improvements included, as set out below:
The current and proposed width of footways on the many streets included in this scheme is not generally shown on the maps provided but many are too narrow. We wish to see any footway which is currently below the minimum width as specified in the Street Design Guidance widened to meet the “absolute minimum” standard – and of course, the aim should be to exceed absolute minimum standards. As a flagship ‘walking and cycling scheme’ meeting agreed minimum standards should be an absolutely fundamental requirement the scheme.
The residential areas in the scheme area were designed before the ‘Designing Streets’ 2010 guidance and thinking, and long before 20mph became the norm for local streets. They often feature wide junction splays and long corner radii. These make it more difficult and unsafe for pedestrians to cross side streets, as there is further to travel and the geometry encourages higher vehicle speeds. There are probably dozens of such junctions in the scheme area and we would like to see the maximum possible improvements to these, including at the junctions where raised tables are proposed.
Similarly many road junctions in residential areas lack dropped kerbs (eg N Gyle Drive at N Gyle Road). These should be installed as a matter of course as part of the scheme. We understand that the Council has a full database of ‘missing’ dropped kerbs which should be used to address this. Tactile paving should be installed where required.
We note (and welcome) the proposed use of raised tables at several junctions (for example Craigmount Grove). We would support wider use of traffic calming measures on streets where local communities perceive speeding and rat-running as a significant problem.
Shared Use pavements
There are several places where it is proposed to share the footway between pedestrians and cyclists (eg Westburn Avenue, S Gyle Access). We are opposed to this design in principle, which we believe builds in conflict between the two modes, although we accept that this is viable in some park/footpath settings (as opposed to pavements). We note that Sustrans has now also adopted this policy position.
Public transport interchange
Measures should be taken to improve the routes to the bus and tram stops (particularly Bankhead which has a complicated multi stage crossing to Edinburgh college / Napier campus). This needs to be simplified with more frequent and generous pedestrians phases. Ideally these should coincide with tram arrival times – an opportunity to use ‘smart’ signal technology? technology.
We have long had concerns that ‘floating bus stops’ pose a risk to pedestrians – particularly bus passengers alighting who will not expect the possibility of encountering cyclists. We agreed to support their installation on Leith Walk in 2016, on the understanding that a full and objective evaluation of this perceived risk is carried out. As this has still not been published we therefore continue to oppose the installation of further floating bus stops, including as part of this scheme.
We would like to see seats installed at suitable locations throughout the area, which will encourage less mobile pedestrians to use the streets, knowing that there are opportunities to rest at suitable locations, especially where it is hilly or there are steps. One such location would be the proposed Gyle Park bridge.
We assume that a full de-cluttering exercise will be carried out on all streets included within the scheme, removing unnecessary signage poles, inappropriately-sited cycle racks and redundant guardrail, for example.
We welcome the proposed improvements to the pedestrian environment throughout the route; however, we note that there are very many other opportunities to improve walking in local areas from Wester Hailes to East Craigs. Although this scheme has a significant budget, we appreciate that it will not be possible to fund all the walking and cycling improvements which are desirable. The extensive new development in west Edinburgh is also an opportunity to ensure that more investment for improving pedestrian infrastructures achieved through the planning process and consents. We would ask that the prioritisation of spending between measures which principally benefit walking on the one hand and cycling on the other is done transparently and takes account of the number of people likely to benefit. There should be no presumption that ‘walking measures’ – such as widening pavements and dropping kerbs – are necessarily secondary to ‘cycling measures’.
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:
- 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,
- 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:
- 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]?
- 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?
- Are pedestrian crossing points convenient in terms of proximity, waiting times, directness and time to cross, especially for less able users?
- Does the scheme as a whole improve road safety, especially in terms of vehicle speeds at junctions and crossing points?
- Has an Equality Impact Assessment been carried out? If so, what are the chief impacts on disabled or elderly pedestrians?
- Which walking elements of the scheme represent a quantitative / qualitative enhancement or deterioration of current walking facilities, eg footway widths?
- 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’?