Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the various schemes to widen pavements in shopping streets (eg Corstorphine, Portobello, Morningside etc). This is a general response to all these schemes, although where we are able to, we will add supplementary comments on specific streets/locations.
First of all, we strongly support the initiative to widen pavements, which in many ‘town centre’ streets are grossly inadequate. This can only be done in many cases by removing on-street parking and loading, except for essential requirements (such as Blue Badge spaces where appropriate). We appreciate that some shops will want to see these parking and loading spaces retained, but crowded narrow pavements cannot possibly be an attractive environment for encouraging shoppers, may of whom arrive on foot or by public transport. Too much space in high streets is occupied by stationary vehicles.
We welcome the acknowledgment of the problems caused by clutter and guard rails and would encourage the council to take a much more vigorous approach to removing or relocating items including unnecessary phone boxes, royal mail boxes, telecoms cabinets etc as well as vertical signage on poles, many of which are no longer required since the Traffic Sign Regulations were changed in 2016. Decluttering should take account of the various surveys and audits which Living Streets and others have carried out in recent years in many of the locations.
Design details will need to carefully consider and monitor access at bus stops especially for disabled people. We generally support bus priority measures including bus gates.
Where more outdoor space for businesses is provided (eg ‘tables and chairs’) it is essential that adequate clear space is provided for pedestrians and that the benefits to walking of widened footways are not swallowed up by added obstructions. It may be that ‘tables and chairs’ should normally be on reclaimed carriageway space, allowing the pavements themselves to be kept clear.
While we appreciate that these are temporary measures which need to be installed urgently, the extensive use of cones, barriers etc will make many streets look like roadworks, and thus risk making shopping streets look pretty ugly – if we actually want them to contribute to moving discussion forward it’s important that opportunities are taken to make things look better. Suitable gateway features / signage information for the public on the purpose / benefits of the scheme would be useful.
Effective management of schemes is essential, so that cones or barriers that fall over are quickly dealt with. Enforcement of parking and speeding, including a visible role of Police Scotland is important too.
Temporary bike parking should be installed at suitable locations, where they do not add to pavement clutter.
Monitoring of schemes must collect robust data on walking/footfall.