All posts by Living Streets Edinburgh

LSEG response to Council review of communal waste bins

CEC COMMUNAL WASTE BINS REVIEW Project: Comments from the Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG)

LSEG welcomes the current review of the location of Communal Waste Bins in the city, and the intention to create bin hubs and rationalise the scattered locations of the various types of bin. Under existing conditions there are far too many such bins that are poorly located or left mislocated on pavements, so creating unnecessary obstacles for pedestrians. In numerous instances they also collect other clutter items around them.  This review is timely in the context of the covid virus with  heightened concern over clutter and the need for more space on pavements to allow social distancing. The reduction of bin clutter is also central to the realisation of the council administration’s objective (27), to tackle clutter and pavement parking.

We have a number of questions and concerns however, about the specifics of the review and how successfully they will be translated into practice.

One particular concern is the intention to go with wheeled communal bins everywhere, rather than the ones with fixed positions that can then be lifted automatically with the lorry correctly alongside. The latter are all in the carriageway of necessity and, unlike wheeled bins, cannot be left out of position on pavements! Given the frequency with which wheeled bins are currently so left as obstacles to pedestrian movement, both on pavements and in the carriageway where blocking crossing points, we would wish to see fixed positions retained wherever this is practicable.

As of now wheeled bins are to be found out of position all over the city. Even when in the carriageway they are often to be seen too close to junctions or where they obstruct dropped kerb crossing points for pedestrians or block cycle lanes. They are left there after emptying by contractors, or they are subsequently moved or sometimes blown there.  Can we please therefore be informed as to what additional measures will be taken to ensure that bins are repositioned within the defined hub positions? Under the current regime, even where there are defined areas for bin location, all too often these are ignored or treated as only approximate indicators.  We are not convinced that the new bin hub settings will be sufficient to ensure that contractors do correctly reposition the bins. So without exception the hubs should be in roadway rather than on pavements. If gradients are a problem for this then regrading of the carriageway is the answer, not putting bins on pavements. Where there is a sufficient excess of pavement space to allow bin hubs to be located there without inconveniencing pedestrians, then it would be acceptable for that space to be used, but it must then be regraded to carriageway level in the process; otherwise there will still be out of position bins rolling around on pavements.

The current review is seen to only be covering communal bins. It does not embrace the residential or trade waste bins that are equally of concern for pedestrians, given that these bins are also frequently left on pavements for periods of time out of all proportion to the needs for collection, and in excess of the times authorised by the CEC.  We call for a complementary review to be undertaken of ways to reduce the problems and clutter associated with these bins also.

There are problems arising from both residents and retailers leaving bins out permanently or semi-permanently in some cases, and for excessively long periods in many others. The situation with trade waste bins does seem to have been improved somewhat over recent years, but the levels of regulatory and enforcement activities are still far from adequate. Woeful conditions for pedestrians are being created on pavements as a result, whereby wheelchair users and other vulnerable pedestrians are at times simply unable to use them. Council policy should make it clear that residential bins must be left on the roadway side of the kerb where the pavement width is less than 1.5m. The council should also seek powers to levy fines on residents who leave bins out permanently.

In many instances residents’ bins are also left blocking pavements after emptying by the contractors, and it is clear that insufficient efforts are being made to encourage compliance with or to enforce the rules. At the very least there surely should be clear instructions that emptied bins must not be left anywhere on pavements narrower than 2m, with penalties introduced for contractors who fail to ensure that their staff follow this in practice. Equally if bins are replaced on pavements where they are wider than 2m, there should be penalties imposed for placing them in obstructive positions.

 

There is also a need for the current review to be followed up with a much wider review aimed at minimising the extent to which bins of all kinds are located on streets in Edinburgh, where space is so often limited and in demand for multiple other uses, and in scarce supply for pedestrians in particular. There is potential for bins to be relocated off street in many places, and for space demands to be reduced by underground storage; as can be seen in a number of the cities with which Edinburgh both competes (e.g. for tourism) and likes to compare itself with. It is accepted that underground storage can be too expensive and will not be an option everywhere, but opportunities to introduce it arise continually in association with development and redevelopment processes, and CEC should initiate a system to take these opportunities.

This wider review should also embrace the waste management objectives set out in the finalised Edinburgh City Centre Transformation report of 12 September 2019, which approved early action to address waste collection through “operating plans for residential, commercial and public waste collection, including operators, vehicle restrictions, time restrictions and consolidation” (para 5.3.5). Potentially these plans will help deliver the aspirations in the ECCT to make a more walkable city, less dominated by traffic, especially heavy vehicles. 26 ton bin lorries have no place in many of Edinburgh’s streets and alternative ways of collecting waste must be explored, as already agreed by the Council.

Email to councillors: Walking priority, pavement clutter and bus stop infrastructure

Dear Cllr Webber and fellow councillors

Motion to Council 9.4 

We want to record our support for your motion 9.4 to Council on Tuesday. Firstly, we are pleased to see the reminder that ‘walking and wheeling’ are top of the transport hierarchy (1) – far too often this is given lip service in policy, but ignored in practice.

Pavement obstructions also represent a significant problem which deserves highlighting particularly when social distancing is a prime objective. We are currently finalising a report on pavement clutter which we will be pleased to share with the council shortly.

With regard to ‘floating bus stops’, we have long had concerns at the risk of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, as bus passengers have to cross a cycle path in order to board or alight from a bus (2). Even more concerning is the recent introduction in number of ‘Spaces for People’ proposals of the apparently new (to Edinburgh at least) concept of a ‘bus boarder’ where passengers step off the bus directly onto a cycle way (eg Pennywell Road, Causewayside). Unexpectedly encountering a cyclist at this type of bus stop could endanger or intimidate many bus passengers – who are invariably also pedestrians – especially if they are Deaf, blind or unsteady on their feet.  We assume that the motion covers these ‘boarders’ as well as ‘floating’ bus stops.

We recognise the benefits that these bus stop designs bring to cyclists, and that many cycling advocates will disagree with our stance. However as an organisation championing ‘everyday walking’ we have to balance the benefits to cyclists against the risks posed to pedestrians, especially those more vulnerable.

Now is not the time for a major, rushed roll-out of untested cycle infrastructure in Edinburgh which introduces those risks. We know that many disability groups share our concerns, including Edinburgh Access Panel, RNIB, and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Suspension of the current proposals will permit consultation, particularly with disability groups, and also allow proper consideration of reports evaluating the Leith Walk floating bus stops which we understand were produced some two years ago but which we have only recently received.

We also want to make it very clear that Living Streets Edinburgh supports measures to make cycling easier and safer, provided these don’t add unacceptable risks to pedestrians, especially the most vulnerable people. There is also huge common ground in the interests of walking and cycling in our shared goal of seeing lower volumes of traffic, lower speeds and better enforcement of traffic regulations. We also support the overall aims of the Spaces for People initiative.

We therefore hope that your motion will achieve the widest possible support across all parties.

yours sincerely

David Hunter

Convenor

1) National Transport Strategy; page 43

https://www.transport.gov.scot/media/47052/national-transport-strategy.pdf

General response to various cycle schemes under ‘spaces for people’

This is a general response to the various cycle schemes advertised under the ‘spaces for people’ initiative (eg Wester Hailes Road, Ferry Road, Comiston Road, etc).

We support improvements to cycling infrastructure which encourages cycling and reduces motor traffic, so long as it is not detrimental to the actual and potential walking environment. Organisations like Spokes have rightly been very clear that new space for cycling must come from space for motor vehicles, rather than for walking. We therefore wish to record our support for the overall programme. However, we have two significant qualifications.

Pedestrian improvements

It is hard to see *any* improvements for people walking in these schemes? While general pavement widening may be difficult to achieve simultaneously with installation of cycle lanes, this should be a priority where pavements are especially narrow (eg south side of Ferry Road). We would expect to see at least significant efforts to remove pavement clutter such as signage poles and guard rails and simple measures such as cutting back hedges, sweeps of roadworks debris (traffic cones, sandbags, etc.) We also want to priority for pedestrians increased at all signalled junctions. Given that almost everyone is a pedestrian in their own neighbourhood, such measures are also likely to increase local support for these schemes, including among people who don’t cycle.

Floating Bus stops

We note that there are dozens of ‘bus stop bypasses’ or ‘floating bus stops’ proposed in these cycle schemes, which route cyclists between the bus stop and the pavement, rather than on the road. There appear to be at least: 13 on Comiston Road, 10 on Ferry Road, 9 in Wester Hailes, 7 on Meadow Place Road and 5 on Fountainbridge.

As the Council’s Active Travel team is well aware, the Living Streets Edinburgh Group has never been happy with this design concept which means that bus passengers boarding – and especially alighting from – buses have to cross a cycle way and may therefore unexpectedly encounter a cyclist, possibly travelling at considerable speed. While we recognise the benefits for cyclists, this design can only disadvantage bus users and pedestrians, especially older people and blind people, many of whose representative organisations have objected to the design concept.

Living Streets Edinburgh did not object to the first Leith Walk examples, on the understanding that a full monitoring and evaluation was carried out. The Council eventually agreed to this in 2017 but although we understand that this exercise has long been completed, it has never been published. It is wholly inappropriate to use the Covid19 pandemic and ‘spaces for everyone’ programme as the means for the sudden mass installation of these controversial bus stop designs at virtually no notice and with minimal consultation.

We therefore strongly oppose their inclusion in the Council’s current proposals. We suggest that instead, a much wider review exercise is taken at a later date, to consider the use of floating bus stops in the city strategically, once evaluation evidence is in the public domain. This should involve all relevant interests – walking, cycling, bus passengers, disability groups, etc.

Shopping Streets – LSE response to Edinburgh Council

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.

Promoting walking during social distancing (supplementary paper)

1) Introduction

This paper supplements the ‘5 Point Plan’ we produced on 7 May 2020, outlining steps we’d like to see to make walking attractive, safe and accessible during the Coronavrus crisis and its aftermath. It should be read in conjunction with that Plan: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2020/05/09/a-5-point-plan-for-city-of-edinburgh-council-to-promote-walking-during-social-distancing/

We want to see early implementation of the measures outlined in the Council Report and amendment approved on 14 May, especially those which focus most on walking improvements: widening pavements, improving crossings, etc https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=135&MId=5511&Ver=4.

This paper adds to the suggestions in the ‘5 Point Plan’ following further feedback and highlights some specific locations we’d like to see given early and urgent attention to. Living Streets Edinburgh Group is keen to contribute ideas on how Edinburgh should respond, in line with council decisions of 14 May.

2) Pavement Widening

In addition to those already suggested, we want to see consideration given to widening pavements in all of Edinburgh’s ‘town centres’. These are now experiencing queuing on pavements as more shops open and often leave insufficient space for people walking.  Key public transport routes (notably at Waverley and Haymarket) should also be given priority. Other streets which should be widened include Broughton Street and Balgreen Rpad.

3) Road closures

Our ‘five point plan’ suggested closing many residential roads through barriers (‘filters’, which allow people to walk or cycle through) – rather than by banning motor traffic completely, (as at Silverknowes Road, Braid Road etc).  We would like to see a response to this suggestion which could transform many neighbourhoods.

We don’t support the plan to close Viewforth (canal section) to motor traffic, owing to the impact this will have on Yeaman Place, a busy pedestrian street (outside of school times) which is full or parked cars and lacking in any kind of pedestrian crossing facilities. We would prefer to see Yeaman Place itself closed; or at least with mitigation measures such as formal pedestrian crossings introduced.

We want to see the council to show some urgency re-opening the established right of way at Holy Corner, Bruntsfield/Morningside (McLaren’s pub, the former Bank of Scotland).  Signature pubs have illegally blocked this Right of Way for over six months and yet the council has taken no enforcement action, despite the added need for social distancing on the busy, narrow pavement.

4) Guardrails

We welcome the council’s plans to start removing some guardrails as part of temporary cycle schemes (such as Crewe Road South, Old Dalkeith Road). Guardrail removal should not be solely as part of cycle schemes but should also be undertaken where it has particularly adverse impacts on walking.  There are numerous suggestions for guardrail removal in the ‘Tackling Pavement Clutter’ reports sent to Locality Roads Managers in 2019. Other specific locations we want to see guardrails removed are:

  • Morrison Street / Gardners Cres (with associated widened footway). Also north side of Morrison Street, east of Dewar Place.
  • Slateford Road between Ashley Terrace and Robertson Ave (with associated widened footway).
  • Roseburn Street under rail bridge (with associated widened footway).
  • Murrayburn Road (West of Hailsland Road).
  • Polwarth (at roundabout).
  • Colinton Mains Road (at Tesco roundabout)
  • West Port (North side).

5) Enforcement

Many LS supporters have asked for more enforcement of traffic laws, especially speeding (a police matter). Parking enforcement is also going to become even more important to ensure that temporary pavements and cycle lanes are not compromised by illegal parking, loading or waiting. We suggest that a zero tolerance approach is take to such infringements (ie removing any ‘grace period’) so that motorists quickly understand that new traffic restrictions will be enforced rigorously.

In some areas, traffic calming should be introduced. In recent years, there has been too little focus on engineering measures to support compliance with speed limits and we would like to see measures introduced in speeding problem areas.

6) Schools

Although it appears that schools will not generally begin to open until mid-August, we want to see early planning for school re-opening. Measures that should be considered include:

  • extension of the Council’s ‘School Streets’ initiative to ban cars from near the entrances to more schools;
  • engagement with Police Scotland to ensure that a degree of police presence is available to achieve effective enforcement of traffic laws;
  • very clear and early messaging to parents encouraging children to walk, scoot, wheel or cycle. Car drop-off’s should be explicitly discouraged, and not permitted in the vicinity of school gates.

7) Other measures

We have not yet seen any response to our request for removal of street clutter as a ‘quick win’ to aid walking and social distancing. As with guardrails the Council already has a policy of de-cluttering which should be accelerated at the present time.

We want to see public campaigns by the council asking residents to cut back hedges which block pavements and are illegal. Many residents probably do not realise this, or the problems that encroaching vegetation can cause. The council should also take enforcement measures itself, recovering costs where voluntary compliance cannot be achieved.  Due regard should be given to protecting wildlife and nesting birds in particular.

We want to see urgent improvements for people to cross the road, especially in reducing ‘wait times’ for the green man. We look forward to seeing a list of locations where these will be trialled as soon as possible.