Category Archives: Council Policy

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

The Wisp / Old Dalkeith Road

A Living Streets Edinburgh volunteer paid a detailed visit to this junction following social media reports. She described it as “one of the worse junctions I’ve seen. Truly shocking, and feels unsafe to walk across.
Pedestrian is vulnerable crossing three lanes of traffic with vehicles passing close by at up to 40mph. I would avoid using this crossing, and it would be especially risky for slower walkers, eg. with children, wheelchairs, sight impairment, or elderly, etc.”

Summary:
• Inadequate green man illumination (7 seconds).
• Wide splay, no islands, cyclists swirling along pavement.
• Small crossing signals, poorly positioned and difficult to see.
• Absence or invisibility of road sign for change of speed limit.
• Two cars observed speeding through crossing while woman was walking on Green Man phase.

Details:

Old Dalkeith Road (A7) / The Wisp
Traffic signals
Not automated
No audio (beeps)
Tactile cones – present and workoing
Max waiting time for GM: 59 seconds
Length of GM phase: 7 seconds
Date Fri 23/9/22
Time 12.30

Description:

This is a busy junction designed to ease vehicle flow, not protect pedestrians. The Wisp runs north-south onto Old Dalkeith Road which is in west – east direction (before bending south). There are two lanes of traffic both ways on Old Dalkeith Road travelling at 40mph. It is a complex traffic light system with filters for different traffic lanes going straight ahead or turning.

The speed limit changes at the junction, from 40mph on Old Dalkeith Road, to 30mph on The Wisp. There is a 30mph sign visible to vehicles turning right into The Wisp from east side of junction, but no sign is visible to vehicles turning in from the west. Without visible signage, vehicles turning left into The Wisp may continue to drive at 40mph in the 30mph zone past Danderhall village.

I’ve reported this speed signage problem to CEC and to Midlothian Council (as the junction is on the border).

Junction is splayed wide and traffic turns corner at 40mph.

There are two pedestrian crossings, operating separately from each other – south end of The Wisp, and Old Dalkeith Road at east side of junction. Both crossings span three traffic lanes with no islands offering protection. Pedestrian road markings are not easily visible, camouflaged by colour of road.

People must ‘cross with traffic’ which feels dangerous while vehicles alongside are moving through filter lights.

The new pavement on the west side of The Wisp is extra wide -maybe it is for shared use with bicycles? There are no signs on the pavement, but the pedestrian crossing includes cycle lights. Cyclists were observed using the pavement. (Not surprised – cycling on the road here would be hazardous or frightening, given the multiple traffic lanes and high speeds.)

There is a new housing estate under construction to the north-west of the junction.
The bus stop on the south side of Old Dalkeith Road is accessible only via the pedestrian crossing.

The crossing light for pedestrians is mounted at waist height and faces in the direction of the road, not the pedestrian’s crossing route, so the GM on the far side is not visible when walking across.
The GM is illuminated for only 7 seconds and changes to red before people have crossed the road, even when walking quickly.

By the time the pedestrian light on the far side becomes visible, it has changed to red, which is alarming since you have no way of knowing how long before traffic starts to move again.

Together with vehicles moving through the junction alongside while GM is illuminated, the pedestrian feels feels vulnerable and insecure.

Total cycle time varied from 1 minute to 1 min 45 sec, so the GM appearance was unpredictable. There are no beeps, and the pedestrian crossing light is small and poorly positioned, so it is easy to miss the change from red to green, and then have to wait another minute or more. It is also possible to miss the GM phase because it is so short, especially if watching the traffic to gauge when the lights will change.

I saw a person crossing without waiting for GM light, which is very risky because of unpredictable traffic flow from traffic filter lanes.

In one phase I saw two cars drive fast through the green man while a woman was crossing The Wisp. She was visibly shaken. She was on The Wisp crossing and the cars were turning left into The Wisp from Old Dalkeith Road (west) where traffic was moving at 40mph.

Either the drivers deliberately drove through their light on red, or they were confused by the filter lights (which were red for left but green for ahead). The cars went through the crossing a long time after the GM appeared, as the woman was already half way across.

Spoke to two women with pushchairs who were obviously frustrated with this crossing. They said it had been installed quite recently. The previous system had both pedestrian crossings green at the same time, and all traffic stopped at once, which felt safer as pedestrians could cross without vehicle movement. They miss the audio beeps that have disappeared.

The women were very glad to speak as they feel ignored by council and road planners.

Photos attempt to show poor visibility of pedestrian lights, and wide splay of roads at junction.

LSEG Suggestions on a new approach to Pedestrian Crossings, July 2022

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 () 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.

David Hunter

July 2022

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.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging : Living Streets Edinburgh Group views (April 2022)

1.  LSEG welcomes the rollout of EV charging for the city.

With the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) passenger vehicles due to be stopped from 2030, we urgently need to develop green alternatives and the necessary infrastructure to support them. This will not in itself reduce congestion or the dominance of streets by motor vehicles, or road safety.

Encouraging a switch from private cars to shared vehicles and improved public transport, cycling and (of course) walking and wheeling, is vital. The ‘Sustainable Travel Hierarchy’ (with walking and wheeling top, and private cars last) must be respected.

2. With regard to proposals for public EV charging, we support a street-by-street zoned approach. Incentives should be available to encourage owners of EVs to charge at home, with standard and fast chargers using off peak electricity when possible.

3. We recognise that many residents in the inner city do not have garages or driveways where they can charge their vehicles. For these users we support on-street carriageway build-outs (i.e. not on the footway) and lighting column EV chargers, where they are adjacent to the kerbside.

4. For commercial vehicles, taxis, LGVs, HGVs (and indeed buses) we believe rapid chargers should be located in special off-street hubs. Rapid and ultra-rapid chargers are large and not suited to either commercial or residential streets.

5. We do not support the siting of EV infrastructure on existing footways. The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) has recognised the problems of pavement clutter, as highlighted in recent years by LSEG and Living Streets nationally; mass installation of EV chargers on footways would run entirely counter to this policy.  No EV infrastructure at all should be sited on the city’s most historic streets such as the Royal Mile or George Street.

6. CEC should enforce prohibitions against laying wires between private properties and vehicles on the road.

7. At present, there is considerable uncertainty around many aspects of EV, due to the first units being commissioned before design guidance has been agreed, and the lack of zoning. We need to see that design guidance, after it has been written by CEC, and we need to know more about the processes and entitlements for the EV infrastructure proposals, for objecting to EV charger placement, etc?

8.   We look forward to continued engagement with CEC on this topic, which is likely to evolve quickly. We would also welcome public feedback, from ‘everyday walking’ perspectives.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group

April 2022

LivingStreets Edinburgh Group: our manifesto for Council elections May 2022

Please see our manifesto for the 2022 council elections. We hope that all parties and all candidates will adopt these policies, to make Edinburgh the wonderfully walkable city it should be. Please help get walking and wheeling given the priority it needs by asking your councillor and candidates for their support!

Living Streets Edinburgh is the local group of the national charity that campaigns for everyday walking and wheeling. Edinburgh is essentially a wonderful city for walking, thanks to its size, history and geography. However, the pedestrian environment is often substandard and overlooked by policy makers. We want everyday walking to be accessible, attractive, convenient and quick.

All parties in the current council agreed in August 2020 that walking is “top of the sustainable movement hierarchy”. But in practice walking is often given inadequate priority and funding, despite it being the greenest and most universal way that people travel.  We ask all candidates and political parties standing for election in May 2022 to support the following actions for the next council term:

Reduce motor traffic

  • Reduce road space for motor vehicles, including supporting low traffic zones and reducing on-street parking spaces;
  • provide better alternatives for people to travel by walking, cycling and public transport;
  • adopt a tougher approach to enforcement of antisocial parking – including at bus stops, schools and in bus and cycle lanes;
  • early and ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement of the pavement parking ban when it is introduced.

Improve pavements

  • Introduce proper wider pavements in all ‘town centre’ locations, replacing the temporary ‘spaces for people’ measures;
  • make pavements smooth and trip-free with a 20% increase in footway maintenance budgets;
  • set a new budget to remove pavement clutter, and stop adding to it (for example through EV chargers);
  • introduce at least 100 dropped kerbs (or continuous pavements) a year where they are missing.

Improve pedestrian crossings

  • Review every signalled pedestrian crossing to reduce the time people have to wait to cross;
  • increase the ‘green man time’ for pedestrians to a minimum of 10 seconds;
  • increase the pedestrian crossing budget by 20% and support the widespread introduction of low cost crossings such as ‘informal zebras’.

Make roads safer

  • Renew the council’s road safety plan with a vision zero approach – there should be no deaths or serious injuries from traffic collisions by 2030;
  • increase enforcement of road traffic offences such as speeding and red light jumping, with a big increase in the use of speed cameras;
  • introduce a safe travel plan for every school in the city which either removes traffic from the school gates or (where not possible) makes the pavement wider.

Use planning controls effectively

  • Encourage car-free housing on brownfield sites;
  • reject car-dependent applications including commercial ventures such as ‘drive through’s;
  • ensure developers pay a fair contribution to improving pedestrian spaces through voluntary or ‘Section 75’ payments.

https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk

November 2021