Category Archives: City Mobility Plan

LSEG: Comments on the City of Edinburgh Council’s Draft Public Transport Action Plan 2023

introduction and Summary

We broadly support the new draft Public Transport Action Plan and the central aim to increase modal share of public transport. Good environments for walking (and wheeling) are absolutely fundamental to successful public transport systems because (as acknowledged in this draft Plan) virtually every public transport journey (certainly for bus) begins (and ends) with a pedestrian phase.

However, as with other City Mobility plans (such as for Active Travel, Parking and Road Safety), we think that many of the proposed actions are too slow, too vague – and possibly too numerous. The proposals – and especially the envisaged timescales – cannot possibly deliver the scale of change needed to achieve the 2030 target of a reduction of car travel by 30%.

Delivery of essentially sound plans has been problematic for the Council for at least a decade and we suggest that the 40 “actions” should be reduced to the most important ones so that budgets, staff time and energy are directed to the most effective measures. Accordingly, we suggest that several ‘actions’ could be omitted: around ‘Behaviour change’ (PC1), MaaS (PT12), ‘Data Driven Innovation’ (PT13) and City Centre Transformation (PV 1 and 2) for example. We would favour a tighter focus on tangible service improvements to bus priority and public realm infrastructure including bus stops.

Safety and Accessibility

We welcome the intent to improve access to bus and tram stops (PT1), but the action should be more ambitious, in line with the EASI (Edinburgh Accessible Streets Initiative) outlined in the draft ATAP.  The focus on improved lighting is welcome, but other aspects of the quality and accessibility of pedestrian routes to stops need to be included too. Previous versions of the ATAP included targets (not delivered) to improve at least 20 routes a year to public transport stops and we would like to see a similar target maintained.

Bus Services

We strongly support the proposed measures to give buses more priority, particularly through PG3, PG4 and PG6. We want to see early implementation of the 7-7-7 model of enhanced bus lanes (bus lanes operating seven days a week, from 7.00am to 7.00pm). It should be noted that bus lanes also give significant improved protection to cyclists from other traffic. We would like to see the Plan say more about enforcement of bus lanes (and protection of bus stops from parking). We welcome the PG4 intent to give buses priority at signals and suggest that this should also consider enhanced pedestrian priority ‘ABC’ measures outlined in the ATAP.

We welcome the various references to the Bus Service Improvement Partnership and the Council’s intention to access the Scottish Government’s £500 million fund to promote bus use. However, we would like to see a clear explanation of what the Council’s plan is for this fund (or a date when it will be produced).

On the other hand, we do NOT support the notion of seeking to stop buses crossing the city (“to not through”, referred to on page 32); and we suggest that the action referring to ‘bus stop realignment’ (PG5) should be deleted. Bus stops which are unnecessarily close together can be removed but a wholesale programme to review the spacing of bus stops is unwarranted and would be a waste of valuable staff resource.

Bus stops

The plan does not give enough priority to the need to improve bus stops. PT7 focuses solely on ‘continuing bus shelter replacement’ which is inadequate. We need to improve the standard of bus shelters and seats. Crucially, build-outs (sometimes termed ‘boarders’) are needed at many bus stops. These ensure that passengers can have level boarding onto the bus, act as a strong deterrent to stopping/parking at bus stops and provide more space on the pavement for pedestrians to pass. The lack of such a programme is a serious omission in the plan at present.

The Plan (like the ATAP) is silent on the conflict with pedestrians which can be introduced at bus stops by cycle infrastructure. ‘Floating bus stops’ undermine the confidence of some bus users, especially blind people, to the extent that some people will avoid using them altogether. Their value in terms of providing priority and safety to cyclists needs to be balanced against the risk to pedestrians/bus users. We consider that the best way to manage these conflicts is to use floating bus stops sparingly: only where the case for cyclist safety is especially compelling. This may mean, for example that they should not be used in low-speed or low traffic streets (certainly, for example, where bus gates significantly reduce general traffic).

Trams

Living Streets Edinburgh has been a strong supporter of the tram for many years. However, with the welcome completion of the Newhaven extension, it would be prudent to pause and consider whether future major developments should take the form of tram or ‘Bus Rapid Transport’ (BRT). The cost, disruption and amount of public space taken up by the trams (which are poorly integrated with bus stops) are significant downsides. We note an inconsistency in the draft Plan which should be clarified: in the text, the section on Mass Rapid Transit (PR6) refers to a “mass rapid transit solution” which could be tram or BRT. However in Appendix A, PR6 refers only to tram.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group

June 2023

Edinburgh Accessible Streets Initiative (EASI): Proposal from Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Council officials have estimated that there are 17,000 inadequate or missing dropped kerbs in the capital. This makes pedestrian movement for many people difficult or impossible and is at odds with the ‘Equal Pavements Pledge’ signed by the Council in 2021 https://www.transportforall.org.uk/campaign/equal-pavements-pledge/. Step-free pedestrian surfaces have a crucial role in not only making a city inclusive for disabled people, but one which makes walking and wheeling easier and more attractive for everyone else too.

The ‘dropped kerb programme’ has been designated as a ‘high priority’ action in council plans since at least 2010, when the first Active Travel Action Plan was produced. However it is only in the last year that systematic progress has been realised on the ground, and it currently has the capacity to deliver no more than 20 – 30 new dropped kerbs each year. (It is recognised that in addition, an increasing number of missing dropped kerbs are also being installed through routine maintenance and major capital schemes.)

However, Council action to improve pavement accessibility is not at present of sufficient scale to make the improvements needed, faced with the city’s historic legacy of inaccessible footways. The recent experience of installing dropped kerbs has also highlighted the need in many places to not only ‘drop’ the kerb at side roads, yards, vennels and such like but to make other improvements. In many cases, especially where the side road carries little traffic, a continuous footway is a better solution than a dropped kerb and these have begun to be installed in Edinburgh (for example Lauriston Place). Many side road junctions would benefit not only from step-free kerbs, but also ‘tightening’ the splay, to reduce the distance which pedestrians have to cross, and to slow down turning traffic. This also helps other high priority road users such as cyclists.

The current programme budgets are not sufficient to fund interventions like continuous footways and improvements to junction geometry at scale. It is therefore proposed to develop a much more ambitious programme to elevate the current ‘dropped kerb programme’ efforts to a major initiative to improve pedestrian accessibility. The Mobility and Access Committee Scotland (MACS) has advocated such initiatives through its guidance ‘Small Changes Can make a Big Difference’ bit.ly/3zrT4AG.

The new programme could set a number of strategic goals, along the lines of to ensure that…

• within x years, all Retail High Streets and High Density Residential Streets (as defined in ESDG) are step-free;
• within y years, all (major) bus routes are step-free;
• designated ‘town centres’ will be step-free as part of 20 minute neighbourhoods.

The programme would need to operate at multiple levels, co-ordinating activity from different sections of the Council. It would include ensuring step free pedestrian space is included as part of major projects (like CCWEL), but also that small scale (and cheaper) improvements continue to be delivered as part of capital maintenance programmes and on demand, in addition to the more strategic goals such as those suggested above. Ensuring that developers pay for improvements where appropriate would be another important element, which would require significant change from the Planning department.

Monitoring will be another important aspect of the programme, so that accurate information is maintained on how many kerbs have been improved, and what still needs to be done. Comprehensive online maps should show step-free pedestrian routes. The programme could also be further extended to engage with the public for example through joining ’Project Sidewalk’ which enables citizens to comment on and evaluate accessibility through direct lived experience (see for example, Amsterdam: https://sidewalk-amsterdam.cs.washington.edu/ )

Implementation on a programme like EASI will almost certainly require external funding – for example from Sustrans, or directly from the Scottish Government either through direct Active Travel grants or associated with the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2). With a sufficiently high budget and scope, this programme could not only make a tangible impact on improving the experience for disabled – and indeed all – pedestrians in Edinburgh, but also act as an exemplar to raise the bar in our expectations for walking and wheeling across Scotland.

David Hunter
Living Streets Edinburgh Group

November 2022

City Mobility Plan – comments by Living Streets Edinburgh Group, February 2021

Due for approval by the Transport and Environment Committee on 19 February 2021, this Plan will guide the Council’s transport plans and investment over the next decade to 2030. The fundamental message is the need to shift how we move about, by reducing traffic, and increasing options for walking, cycling and public transport. With Edinburgh still growing fast, this can only be the right path to follow. Present levels of traffic cannot be sustained and already have a severe negative impact on the city; for example in terms of congestion, on public health and safety and the quality of the environment in all senses. It is good to see a heightened level of ambition in investment in public transport, especially an extended tram network and in the city centre public realm, so we unambiguously give our support to the Council in adopting, and of course implementing, the Plan’s goals.

We have two main reservations – and these are significant ones.  Unlike the previous Local Transport Strategy, the CMP contains no targets for ‘modal share’. It seems extraordinary that there is no assessment of whether those previous targets were met, and if not, why? The intention is to provide targets in a future ‘Technical Note’. But modal share targets are fundamental to a transport strategy, not a technical detail. The interventions required to double the use of walking, cycling or public transport for example, will be very different to the interventions required to bring about a 10% increase. 

Secondly, we remain sceptical that the Council grasps the scale of the challenge in renewing the pedestrian environment so that it is fit for purpose by 2030. There are a number of welcome comments about the importance of walking – for example by confirming walking’s primacy at the ‘top of the travel hierarchy’ (p24) and noting that “Walking is by far the most common way of making local journeys (i.e. to the shops, post office, doctors) in the city” (p31). But all over Edinburgh, there are pavements barely a metre wide, frequently with poor surfaces and blocked by all kinds of obstructions; with wide junction splays at side roads often without dropped kerbs. Pedestrians are hemmed into cramped ‘town centre’ pavements, which are at the heart of local communities. Tackling this legacy from 50 or more years ago must be central to making Edinburgh the truly world-class walkable city that it could and should be – pavements are far more important for everyday walking and wheeling for most people than shared walk/cycle ‘active travel’ routes. 

The Plan’s main policy measure (#14) for ‘everyday walking’ is a timid “Enhance and where necessary expand the walking/wheeling networks to serve and connect key destinations across the city”. This completely fails to acknowledge the dire state of pavements across the city in residential areas, not only ‘key destinations’.  There appears to be nothing about transforming the pedestrian environment in the Implementation Plan, where the ambition appears to be no more than ‘to maintain paths and streets’ within current budgets. Instead, we’d like to see an additional commitment that by 2030, all city pavements (except any formally exempted for specific reasons) meet the Council’s own standards, as set out in the excellent Street Design Guidance.