Meadows-George Street: LSEG objection to TRO

Objection to TRO/21/32

The Living Streets Edinburgh Group reluctantly objects to this TRO. We recognise that the Meadows to George Street scheme is both complex and ambitious, putting into effect important aspects of the Council’s ‘Our Future Streets’ strategy, There are many aspects of the project which are very welcome including widening of George IV Bridge footways and the semi-pedestrianisation of Forrest Road.

However, we are very disappointed that the footways on the Mound are barely improved from the current unsatisfactory state. The eastern footway will be only 0.5 metres wider while the western footway remains below the ‘absolute minimum’ width of 2.5 metres. The Mound is designated in Our Future Streets as a ‘walking priority street’ and it is inconceivable to us that such a comprehensive and expensive scheme does not bring pavements up to at least the ‘desired’ width of 3 metres’ stipulated by the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance. The Council’s report from March 2020 rightly acknowledges that these streets “carry very high footfall levels throughout the year and especially during the festivals. This results in the pavements being often over-capacity and people having to stray onto the road.” (para3.5)

Footway widening should have more priority than installation of a very wide (3 metre) cycleway, given that the street has a 20mph speed limit, and especially given that most motor traffic will be removed owing to the bus gate, which makes cycling on the carriageway far safer and more appealing. We are also unhappy with the Hanover Street footways, which although widened significantly, are bisected by cycleways on both sides. Again, the low volume of motor vehicle traffic, owing to the bus gate, must call into question the need for these cycleways at all. We also are disappointed to see the footway significantly reduced on the east of George IV Bridge at the NMS Tower restaurant corner.

Other than footway widths, our main objection is to the floating bus stops, especially at the foot of the Mound and on Hanover Street where cycling speeds are likely to be especially high. National guidance Cycling by Design states that “Bus stop bypasses on steep downhill gradients should be avoided, as cycle users are likely to approach these at higher speeds, creating interactions that are more difficult to manage” (p97).

All design guidance notes that these bus stops can be problematic for pedestrians/bus users, especially the most vulnerable people who particularly value safe, walk-only space such as blind people, older people with poor mobility, dementia etc. We accept that this factor needs to be balanced against the argument that bypasses protect cyclists from potential collisions with traffic when overtaking buses. However, given the big reduction in motor traffic as a result of the bus gate, this argument is much diminished. We therefore wish to see traditional bus stop designs on these locations in particular.

The project must reflect the status of ‘walking and wheeling’ at the top of the movement hierarchy both nationally and locally. We have been raising the points above with Council staff for over five years without any significant change and we must now therefore object formally to the Traffic Orders. We hope that future major active travel schemes will ensure that more priority is given to improving all walking environments and we intend to object to any future scheme which fails to meet at least ‘minimum’ standards.