Welcome to Living Streets Edinburgh

Edinburgh, with its generally dense population and walkable distances, could be a European exemplar of a pedestrian-friendly city. But the many sensible walking-related policies of the City of Edinburgh Council too often don’t translate in practice into a safe and attractive walking environment on the streets. Motor traffic continues to dominate the vast majority of the city’s streets – yet there are clear economic, environmental and social benefits in prioritising pedestrian movement within a high-quality public realm.

Our overall aim is to:

Promote walking (including ‘wheeling’) as a safe, enjoyable, accessible and healthy way of getting around Edinburgh.

To this end, we want to see:

  • walking given the top priority over other forms of travel in all council transport and planning policies;
  • a 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 CEC;
  • planning policy which encourages dense, sustainable housing over car-dominated, dispersed development;
  • more effective implementation of pro-walking policies ‘on the ground’.

Our priorities for action in 2021-22 are to:

  • campaign for increased budgets (capital and staffing) for the pedestrian environment by CEC;
  • influence the annual CEC capital maintenance programme, to maximise the benefits for walkers;
  • support the continuation of successful Spaces for People schemes, including supporting LTNs and proper, wider, and uncluttered permanent pavements;
  • seek improvements in road safety, including reducing the volume and speed of traffic;
  • influence signalled road crossings to give pedestrians more priority;
  • support location-specific campaigns including carrying out local street audits;
  • grow the number of our supporters and campaigners.

If you would like to get involved in our work in any way, please email us at:
 edinburghgroup@livingstreets.org.uk

 

Slower Speeds, Safer Streets summit, October 2921

Living Streets Edinburgh Group held an online summit on ‘Slower Speeds, Safer Streets’ on 23 October 2021. Chaired by, and the brainchild of Mark Lazarowicz, former MP and Edinburgh Transport Convener, the event aimed to put the spotlight on how we can make traffic slower and streets safer, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. Some 60 people participated in lively discussion, hearing from Cllr Lesley Macinnes (Transport and Environment Convener of City of Edinburgh Council), Steven Feeney, (Head of the Scottish Safety Camera Programme, Transport Scotland), traffic expert Professor John Whitelegg and Action Zero campaigner Jeremy Leach.

Among highlights of these talks were Cllr Macinnes describing the administration’s ambitious £118 million Active Travel Programme over the next five years, while Steven Feeney described how the Safety Camera partnership works. Professor Whitelegg pointed to much more radical approaches in Sweden and Germany, which reduced road casualties and appeared to have high levels of community support and involvement.  Jeremy Leach described a lot of the detailed work to reduce traffic and traffic speeds in London, much led by Living Streets activity there.

The event also allowed representatives of political parties to comment on their approach to making streets safer. In addition to Cllr Macinnes (representing the SNP) the panel was joined by Cllr Scott Arthur (Labour), Cllr Chas Booth (Scottish Green Party) and Christine Jardine, MP for West Edinburgh (Scottish Liberal Democrats). The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party weren’t able to be represented.

Several themes attracted widespread support among participants including:

Street Design: It is not enough to set speed limits, the engineering of the road (for example, to introduce narrow traffic lanes and ‘tight’ corners at side roads) needs to be changed to ensure driver compliance.

Enforcement: there is a widespread perception that 20 mph limits, while welcome, are widely broken; the traffic camera regime especially faced criticism for the number of ‘bagged’ cameras and inability of fixed cameras to be used in 20mph zones.  There was a lot of scepticism that the national Scottish approach to deciding when and where to locate cameras (based on average speeds) was appropriate as this can mean tolerating significant levels of speeding traffic.

Budgets: The meeting was told that across Scotland, the Safety Camera Partnership had an annual budget across Scotland of £5 million; a proportion which was widely felt to be out of kilter with Transport Scotland’s overall £2.5 billion budget. Locally, residents report being told that road changes can’t be made because of council budget constraints.

Community Speedwatch: there was significant interest in – and support for – communities being involved in measuring and enforcing speed limits; in promoting awareness (eg through stickers on wheely bins) and in being involved in decisions on where to deploy speed cameras.

Cycle infrastructure: there was significant support for providing segregated cycle infrastructure as part of safer street environments.

Technology: there were a number of interesting ideas about the use of new technology to achieve safer streets, for example, the potential for more use of Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) to control and limit the speed of council vehicles, buses and taxis; or to deter ‘rat running’ behaviour (eg to avoid speed camera or through satnavs).

The meeting concluded with lots of positive feedback from participants and speakers alike, and thanks were expressed to Living Streets Edinburgh Group for organising the event. LSEG is preparing an ‘Action Plan’ to reduce speeding and traffic danger and this event will help to inform it. Hopefully, it will also influence the City of Edinburgh Council’s next statutory Road Safety Plan, the last one (2010-20) having expired. Of course,  time will tell how these aspirations, ideas and plans will translate into action to make streets safe from traffic danger.

Message to City of Edinburgh Council Planning Convener and Chief Officer on planning policy

As you know Living Streets Edinburgh Group has longstanding concerns regarding the priority given to walking in the planning process and the provision that is made for walking both in planning policy and in consideration of individual development proposals.

Walking is at the top of the movement hierarchy in Scottish Planning Policy and the National Transport Strategy; in 2020 the Council stated that ‘pedestrians are at the top of the urban transport hierarchy.’  Indeed, the Highway Code has also recently been revised to reflect this position.

CityPlan2030 offers an opportunity to review the position in terms of policy and allocations, but this will mean little in practice without a change in mindset across the authority and amongst developers.  COVID-19, COP 26 and the ongoing energy crisis add weight to the case for providing for walking at a level commensurate with its place at the top of the hierarchy.

We will obviously be reflecting this when we respond to the forthcoming consultation on the draft CityPlan2030.  In the meantime, we consider that there are steps the Council can take immediately to demonstrate its commitment to its own stated policy position.

When assessing planning applications under current policy there is already considerable scope with reference to documents such as Designing Streets and the Council’s own parking standards to secure, for example, car free developments and layouts focused on pedestrians. Whilst the situation is slowly improving, there is much more that can be done, particularly if it is made clear in pre-application discussions and is then in turn reflected in decisions on applications.

On a more practical note, we are all aware of the limitations of existing pedestrian infrastructure and the pressures put on it, directly and cumulatively, as a result of new development.  This can be directly by generating increased pedestrian movements or indirectly from additional vehicle movements which in turn require safer footways, crossings etc for walkers.  The Council has limited resources and maintenance/upgrading of pedestrian infrastructure is not a priority, even in the active travel budget.

The Council has Supplementary Guidance on Developer Contributions which currently provides for contributions for road improvements, but hardly at all for pedestrians other than as part of active travel projects.  This does not reflect the hierarchy in Scottish Planning Policy or the Council’s own position, so it will need to be updated in tandem with CityPlan2030.  

Circular 3/2012 (as amended) gives guidance on developer contributions for, inter alia, community benefits/infrastructure which can presumably include improvements to pedestrian infrastructure so long as the relevant tests are met.  This can provide a basis for the Council to develop a structured approach to assessing the requirement for contributions towards pedestrian infrastructure from development proposals. Depending on the type and scale of development this can be a specific contribution for an identified project directly related to the development.  In other cases it could be a proportionate financial contribution towards an area based programme justified by cumulative impact of developments.

Contributions for off site pedestrian infrastructure could form part of a Section 75 Planning Obligation along with any other contributions; or an upfront contribution (agreed with the developer) following determination, but before the issue of a decision; or perhaps under other legislation such as the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.  It should be possible for the Council to put together area based programmes setting out actions required by different levels of additional development, identify the costs and set out thresholds for contributions.  Once collected they could be ring fenced until sufficient funding is available and then spent within an agreed timescale or else returned.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group is happy to discuss any or all of this further and work with the Council on detailed area programmes as well as advise on improvements that would benefit everyday walking. In the meantime we look forward to your thoughts on our suggestions.

Low Emissions Zone – LSE Response

Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) welcomes the Council’s plans to move forward with introducing a Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) in Edinburgh but we are concerned that the current proposals are not sufficiently ambitious and will have a serious detrimental impact for some residents, particularly those that live outside the boundaries of the currently proposed City Centre LEZ. We strongly believe that the boundaries of the LEZ should be increased in order to benefit a larger proportion of the residents of Edinburgh.

The area of the proposed LEZ currently covers only 2.5% of the City and excludes many areas of the City with the greatest density of residents. It will also not include the designated Town Centres, which form such an important element in the development of 20-minute neighbourhoods outlined in the recently approved City Mobility Plan. In setting the boundaries of the LEZ, more consideration has been given to providing convenient diversionary routes for non-compliant vehicles than maximising the health benefits for people living in Edinburgh. Pollution levels have been considered on an absolute basis without any consideration of the number of people that will be exposed to that pollution. LSEG is particularly concerned that there is no recognition of the risks to pedestrians from vehicular emissions in areas outside of the proposed LEZ; some of which have very high levels of walking including children walking to school.

The Council report that was considered by the Transport and Environment Committee at their June 2021 meeting states non-compliant vehicles will increasingly use the roads immediately outside the LEZ resulting in increased pollution on these routes. The SEPA forecast attached to the report shows an increase in atmospheric pollution on Queen Street, London Street and Abbeyhill; all areas on the edge of the currently proposed LEZ. We note that the Council has included an objective to “minimise the impact from traffic displacement across network, related to LEZ scheme”. No detail is provided on the mitigating actions that will be taken or how achievement of this objective will be measured. Before any final decision is taken on introducing a LEZ it is critical that there are clear plans in place to limit the negative impact of displaced traffic to reassure residents living near the LEZ.

The current plans are focussed on reducing levels NOx pollution from vehicles within a small part of the City to meet current legislative limits. In our view, this goal does not go far enough. Other forms and sources of pollution need to be both more closely monitored and reduced, in particular the levels of particulate pollution and continued use of temporary diesel generators within the LEZ. We would like to see the Council setting more ambitious and wide ranging targets for reducing pollution given the accepted health benefits of such a reduction. This is the time for bold action that supports the Councils plans to encourage walking, wheeling and cycling across the City.

Despite the title of a ‘low emission zone’, the proposals do not address the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Plans that only address pollution are essentially backward looking, whereas we should be looking forward to a future where fossil-fuel vehicles are completely eliminated and levels of all motor traffic are reduced.

Finally, while we recognise that the plan includes proposals to encourage compliance with the new restrictions for vehicles entering the LEZ, it is critical that enforcement is rigorously applied. There have been too many Council transport-related initiatives (e.g. 20mph speed limits, parking and loading restrictions, prohibition of idling stationary vehicles) that have foundered due to lack of effective enforcement. In the case of idling vehicles, it would be clearly wrong to turn a blind eye to such behaviour while at the same time introducing the significant controls required by the LEZ.

Finally, we note that the enforcement regime will be based on the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. From our review of Appendix 7 of the report presented to the 17 June 2021 Transport and Environment Committee meeting, we note that the recommended approach is to install these cameras on only 16 routes of the identified 48 entry points to the City centre LEZ. One mobile unit will cover the other 32 entry routes. Given that the LEZ is intended to operate 24/7, we are concerned that this approach will affect the levels of compliance required for the LEZ to achieve the intended reduction in atmospheric pollution and health benefits for those living and working within the City centre. We are further concerned that this approach will encourage the drivers of non-compliant vehicles to use the non-arterial routes to avoid detection thus increasing traffic further in the many residential streets bounding the proposed LEZ. We believe that to achieve the required compliance for the success of the LEZ, it is critical that enforcement is rigorously applied. There have been too many Council transport-related initiatives (e.g. 20mph speed limits, parking and loading restrictions, prohibition of idling stationary vehicles) that have foundered due to lack of effective enforcement. We do not believe that the currently proposed arrangements are adequate. 

CAMPAIGNERS SLAM ‘HOPELESS’ LEITH WALK PAVEMENTS

Campaigners for better walking in Edinburgh have slammed the plan for pavements alongside the tram on Leith Walk as ‘hopeless’. It has emerged that the pavements, which are being rebuilt as part of the tram works, will be so narrow that in many places they don’t even meet the council’s own standards for minimum width. The campaigners have been told that over 250 metres of footway,  in 11 different sections, will be below this minimum – in one place (just north of the Pilrig Street junction) as little as 1.8 metres wide.

David Hunter, Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh Group said: “We’re incredibly disappointed to learn of the hopeless final design for many sections of Leith Walk’s pavements.  These pavements should be at least 3 metres wide, with a stipulated minimum of 2.5 metres.  As the main link between Edinburgh and Leith, and an important local street in its own right, Leith Walk needs quality pedestrian space. We are big supporters of the tram project, and welcome the benefits it will bring to people walking in other places. But having engaged with the tram team regularly over the past two years, it’s a bombshell to hear – right at the point of construction – just how poor the the street will be for pedestrians.

This is frankly unacceptable and at odds with the repeated claims that “walking and wheeling” are top of the ‘Sustainable Travel Hierarchy’, both in Edinburgh and in Scotland as a whole. Even at this, the eleventh hour, we’re calling on the council to revisit the plans to give pedestrians the space they need.”

Climate Strategy consultation – Response by LSE

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 the opportunity to respond to this consultation, which reinforces the need for a number of our ambitions for the city such as to:

  • reduce the volume, size and speed of traffic
  • encourage planning policy to make walkable (’20-minute’) neighbourhoods
  • provide access to green spaces, inclusive environments (for disabled/older people etc)
  • enable walkable commutes to schools and workplaces, businesses (incentives?)

Section 3 – Vision

4)

Vision              AGREE

Principles        AGREE

Actions                        AGREE

5) Comments and suggestions:

Vision Charging hubs will need to be sited and designed very carefully should they not introduce new, additional hazards for pedestrians i.e. by increasing already problematic pavement clutter or leading to charging cables lying across walkways.

Principles We are encouraged to see that travel is mentioned in the Vision and Actions of the strategy but are concerned that it does not feature in the principles.  None of the principles can be met without wholesale changes to the movement of people and goods around the city.  A 20-minute neighbourhood for instance will only be possible if walking is made easier and more attractive.

Actions Whilst we welcome ’prioritising investment’ in expanding walking routes this is not ambitious or specific enough.  The actions should explicitly state which measures will be taken to make walking an attractive and accessible mode of transport i.e. wider pavements, removal of road-related clutter from pavement space and priority for pedestrians at road crossings.  Including more targeted/specific milestones would also be welcome.  Lastly, we question how the whole city can become net zero by 2030 if only TWO neighbourhoods will have been piloted by that time?

Section 4 – Citizens

6)

Strategic approach     AGREE

Outcomes                    AGREE

Next steps                   AGREE

7) What other actions could help you make sustainable choices?

Other positive actions include explicit and practical steps to facilitate walking and wheeling as a means of transport – vital to the 20-minute neighbourhood concept.  These actions would be removing clutter (e.g. unused or un-necessary signposts and poles or boxes) from pavements, removing other obstacles on pavements (i.e. illegally parked vehicles, illegally placed planters, chairs, tables and other business paraphernalia), extending green man times at signalled crossings, increasing all forms of pedestrian road crossings (esp. Zebra crossings), reducing traffic speeds (through narrower roads and enforcement of the 20mph speed limit), keeping hedges AND roadwork signs off pavements and ensuring minimum widths are maintained (especially during development and construction works). All this will require a dramatic improvement in routine street maintenance.

8) What barriers limit you from taking climate action?

9) Information about barriers?

10) How should citizens be involved in governance of the strategy?

Perhaps prioritisation to concerns of most vulnerable or marginalised citizens of the city?  i.e. poor, disabled and ethnic minority groups.  School pupils and young people could also be prioritised given that regrettably it is their climate to inherit… To (literally!) “walk the talk” a major programme on encouraging safe travel (especially walking) to school is needed (see later).

11) Other suggestions on engaging and empowering citizens

Transport is a huge source of carbon emissions.  If citizens are to reduce their footprints then it has to include more walking.  More citizens will walk (or wheel) further and more often if it is made safe, attractive and accessible.  This requires a reallocation of space, investment and attention from inefficient and polluting modes of transport like personal, private car use to walking, cycling and public transport.

Section 5 – Development & growth

12)

Strategic approach     AGREE

Outcomes                    AGREE

Next steps                   AGREE

13) Comments/suggestions:

Next Step (NS) 3 needs to recognise and prioritise the needs of pedestrians and other pavement users.  NS4 needs to recognise pedestrian needs –  too often during development and construction works the interests of pavement users are overlooked, sidelined or neglected.  Thinking also about how new developments can be reached on foot or on wheels would help many more switch to a more sustainable mode of transport.  NS5 needs to redesign infrastructure too (not just services); amenities need to be accessible on foot if the 20-minute neighbourhood is to be realised.  NS6 also needs to recognise that net zero housing developments will require adequate (i.e.  wide, pleasant and connected) pavement networks with easy and regular road crossings.  This should then be included in the demonstrator project of NS7.  Again the NS13 development will have to be accessible and navigable by pavement. Far too often, current Planning activity fails to secure S75 funding to improve the walking and wheeling environment.

14) What is LSEG doing for net zero, resilience and growth?

N/A

Section 6 – Buildings

15)

Strategic approach     AGREE

Outcomes                    AGREE

Next steps                   AGREE

16) Comments/suggestions

Strategic approach Given that “the greenest building is one that is already built”, we should discourage the construction of new, cheap, short-lasting buildings as is so common with student housing for example.  in the necessary building work to transform the buildings VITAL adequate provision given to pedestrians i.e. adequate space on both sides of the carriageway AND crossing points AND no signs on pavements etc.

17) What is LSEG doing in relation to net zero generation and energy efficient buildings?

N/A

Section 7 – Transport

18)

Strategic approach     AGREE

Outcomes                    AGREE

Next steps                   AGREE

19) Comments/suggestions

Outcomes In addition to making foot, wheel or bike the easiest and cheapest travel option a key, and currently missing aspect is that it should be the SAFEST option too.

Next steps great for EV advocates and public transport users but not currently enough listed for pavement users: priority at crossings, reduced (electric) vehicle speeds, reducing the size and volume of traffic (even once electrified).  For example, in line with the City Mobility plan and City Centre Transformation plans, removing large vehicles like bin lorries from as many city streets as possible. Further even those using public transport require need safe, usable and connected routes to and from bus and tram stops as well.  NS8 mentions a Workplace Parking Levy but none of the next steps explicitly address the School Run – what will be done to disincentivize driving cars to schools and opting to walk or wheel there instead?

We need a specific plan to encourage safe and sustainable travel for children to every school.  Edinburgh has one of the highest proportions of children walking to school at 61% (Scottish average 52% – TaTiS, 2019). This plan should include car-free areas and/or much wider pedestrian spaces at school gates.

20) What is LSEG doing in relation to net zero transport?

N/A

Section 8 – Businesses and skills

21)

Strategic approach     AGREE

Outcomes                    AGREE

Next steps                   AGREE

22) Comments/suggestions

Outcomes should be expanded to recognise that workers and consumers can participate in the city’s circular economy by foot or wheel.

Next steps NS3 businesses could reduce their emissions by encouraging and rewarding staff, customers, clients and partners to reach premises by foot or wheel.  One practical step to realign operations towards net zero would be to ensure premises are accessible by pavement and ideally incentivise all parties to use pavements.

A big omission in the plan is the approach to tourism. A complete review of tourism policy, post-pandemic, is needed to emphasise sustainability and inclusion. This would include travel. such as to reduce reliance on long haul inbound touring from overseas (to reduce air travel) and housing (avoiding over-provision of short term letting).

23) What is LSEG doing in relation to business and skills?

N/A

Section 9 – Investment

24)

Strategic approach     AGREE

Outcomes                    AGREE

Next steps                   AGREE

25) Comments/suggestions

Next steps NS5 should include Active Travel too if EVs are to get their own mention outwith the transport category then the preferable, lower carbon, option of walking/wheeling also needs to be explicit especially because the capital costs required, relative to the emissions saved per journey are much better from walking and other forms of active travel. Investment must reflect national and local ‘transport hierarchies’ – with walking and wheeling at the top – which it consistently fails to do at present.

26) What is LSEG doing in relation to investment in change?

N/A

Section 10 – Offsetting

27) Does LSEG currently offset emissions?

N/A

28) Do you think offsetting should…?

Other – be dealt with at all levels

29) What opportunities could a city-wide approach contribute?

The payments received could be put into active travel programmes – measures that will reduce rather than reallocate emissions.

30) What risks could a city-wide approach present?

A city-wide approach risks allowing for continued car and polluting vehicle/practices use by individuals and businesses/organisations.

Section 11 – Decision making

32) Comments/suggestions

Current processes are lengthy, sometimes extremely so.  Further, given the inequalities in the city’s current transport system (allocation of space and risk/safety due to the dominance of private motor vehicles) we would advocate for greater consideration to be given to the views of the most vulnerable modes of transport i.e. walkers and wheelers as well as people who cycle and public transport.

I am not sure we could say current processes are OK. There doesn’t seem to be enough weight given to all types of active travel, and the decision making process does seem extremely lengthy at time.

Section 12 – Equality and diversity

33) Positive impacts

If the strategy proposals lead to the realisation of 20-minute neighbourhoods across Edinburgh (not just in 2 pilot communities) then elderly and disabled groups will potentially benefit as well as those from poorer areas and lower income households.  If walking or wheeling, the cheapest, most sustainable mode of transport, is made pleasant, accessible and crucially safe then the city will be a more equal place because more of its citizens will have ready access to the services and facilities they need. The Council needs to demonstrate its commitment to inclusive travel and mobility through its actions in order to overcome the current significant levels of scepticism.

34) Negative impacts

The repeated mentions of provision for Electric Vehicles suggest that those who cannot afford, don’t have access to, or choose not to use an EV will benefit less from the strategy than those who do.  Similarly, although EVs produce less pollution than petrol/diesel powered vehicles their introduction does little to address the size, volume and speed of road traffic – it is these three dimensions that are crucial when organising to make walking and wheeling more attractive, accessible and safe.  For short journeys (i.e. within the 20 minute neighbourhood) there is no lower emitting mode of transport than walking or wheeling.

While we recognise the emphasis on engaging schools for training and skills programmes there appears to be a gap concerning journeys to and from schools in the city.  A negative impact of the strategy as it stands is that businesses, developers and investors benefit more from the proposals than students and young people who need clean, safe routes to school.

LSEG

August 2021