Living Streets Edinburgh Group would like to suggest changes to the traditional approach taken to decision-making about pedestrian crossings which has been in place at CEC for many years. To date, this has principally involved a report every two years on a ‘Pedestrian Crossing Programme Update’ which seeks councillors’ approval for an updated list of pedestrian crossings. A report is due later this year.
We want see a new approach which more clearly recognises the agreed ‘sustainable travel hierarchy’ (with walking and wheeling at the top) and is set in the wider context of ambitions to reduce travel by private car, road injuries and deaths etc.
A new crossing has recently been installed on Corstorphine Road east of Kaimes Road which was originally approved in 2010! While we recognise that a number of legitimate factors can cause delays, the pedestrian crossing programme has systematically and institutionally suffered delays and backlogs for years. We need to honestly understand why this is and what can be done to improve it – especially in view to the promised (in Labour Manifesto) increase of 20% in the pedestrian crossing budget.
We also think that there is scope to invest more in upgrade signalling infrastructure which will not only increase the scope to improve the pedestrian experience, but could also benefit other high-priority modes such as bike and bus. There may be opportunities to benefit from Scottish Government funding for such investment as a result of the Strategic Transport Projects Review (2) or ‘smart cities’ initiatives. However, many improvements can be made quickly and cheaply.
We therefore make the following specific suggestions which we ask to be considered:
- The method that the council has been using to decide whether to put in a crossing or not, and what kind of crossing if so, is in our view obsolete. It is based on the so-called ‘PV2’ method – essentially calculating how many pedestrians (P) cross at present and how many vehicles use the road (V). This clearly fails to take account of ‘suppressed demand’ – people who currently don’t try to cross the road because they think it isn’t safe. We do however agree that some ‘objective’ measures are needed – if the methodology is just based on people lobbying for crossings, it is the middle class areas that will get all the crossings and poorer communities which may need them more, will be unfairly disadvantaged. LSEG would be pleased to contribute to detailed consideration of alternative methodologies for prioritising pedestrian crossings, particularly using the expertise of our long-standing supporter John Russell, a retired academic in urban design who has significant expertise in the subject.
- We would like the programme to not only identify which locations should be prioritised for use of the pedestrian crossing budget, but to also consider wider issues of ‘walkability’. In particular the programme should take account of both our own work recording the ‘wait times’ and ‘green man times’ over the last two years (https://bit.ly/35xMRHp) and also the work by the Jacobs consultant as part of the Spaces for People programme (appended). We want to see the methodology used by Jacobs extended to all signalled crossings in the city.
- This should result in a number of short-term, low-cost measures which will significantly improve the pedestrian experience at many sites. These would include:
- identifying opportunities to reduce the wait time for pedestrians;
- identifying opportunities to extend green man times, especially in areas with large elderly populations;
- identifying sites where additional green man phases can be introduced, such as at Royal Mile/South Bridge and Nicolson St/West Richmond St, giving pedestrians double the opportunity to cross;
- implementing all specific opportunities identified in the Jacobs report, such as a ‘walk with traffic’ option at the Chambers Street / South Bridge junction;
- ensuring that the that the Master Time Clock is set to enable school children to cross at ‘off-peak’ settings, which have better pedestrian priority than peak settings.
- We would also like to see longer-term consideration of ways to improve pedestrian crossings, especially to challenge current assumptions about the relative priorities of ‘traffic flow’ and pedestrian benefit. This should also link into the ‘Major Junctions Review’, currently being led by Anturas consulting on the Council’s behalf.
- We want to see more use of measures to assist pedestrians to cross side roads, to reinforce new provisions in the Highway Code. These should include engineering measures to ’tighten’ junctions, to install raised crossings and to pilot the use of cheap, ‘informal’ zebra crossings. We believe that the Council can and should be less risk-averse in seeking more opportunities to pilot these zebras.
- We want to see more use of cameras at junctions to detect and deter bad driver behaviour; far too many vehicles currently run amber and red lights with impunity. Some of our research referred to above identifies some specific sites where we recommend this.
- We advocate much more assertive use of planning mechanisms – both voluntary and Section 75 – to secure funding from developers for crossings (and indeed for other pedestrian facilities such as dropped kerbs and junction improvements).
- Finally, while the organisation of staff responsibilities is clearly a matter for the Council’s management, we suggest that consideration should be given to moving the pedestrian crossing budget from the road safety team to integrated it better with other facilities to encourage walking. This could be in the Active Travel team, or in a new team focussed solely on walking, or possibly under a new umbrella associated with developing ’20 minute neighbourhood’ work.
Addition October 2023
Why investing in traffic signals is a no-brainer
This report was produced by consultants commissioned by the Council during the Covid pandemic as part of ‘Spaces for People’. It shows clearly how much many junctions could be massively improved for pedestrians – reducing wait time by up to a half – without even impacting on other traffic and at minimal cost (certainly within existing budgets).
As our reports on these pages show, pedestrians often have to wait an age to cross junctions, especially the more complex multi-stage ones. The consultant looked at just a small number of corridors in the city but this assessment has still not yet been applied to all the other traffic routes through the city as we had hoped. Also unfortunately, the full consultant’s report wasn’t appended to the Committee papers, so even councillors may not be aware of the scope for such significant, cost-effective improvements.