Monthly Archives: October 2021

Slower Speeds, Safer Streets summit, October 2021

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.

You can view the presentations here

Deterring speeding – enforcement and compliance; Empowering individuals and community groups with data

Slower speeds…safer streets

Safety Camera Presentation – Current programme and future plans in Scotland

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.