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.