Category Archives: News

Slower Speeds, Safer Streets summit, October 2921

Living Streets Edinburgh Group held an online summit on ‘Slower Speeds, Safer Streets’ on 23 October 2021. Chaired by, and the brainchild of Mark Lazarowicz, former MP and Edinburgh Transport Convener, the event aimed to put the spotlight on how we can make traffic slower and streets safer, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. Some 60 people participated in lively discussion, hearing from Cllr Lesley Macinnes (Transport and Environment Convener of City of Edinburgh Council), Steven Feeney, (Head of the Scottish Safety Camera Programme, Transport Scotland), traffic expert Professor John Whitelegg and Action Zero campaigner Jeremy Leach.

Among highlights of these talks were Cllr Macinnes describing the administration’s ambitious £118 million Active Travel Programme over the next five years, while Steven Feeney described how the Safety Camera partnership works. Professor Whitelegg pointed to much more radical approaches in Sweden and Germany, which reduced road casualties and appeared to have high levels of community support and involvement.  Jeremy Leach described a lot of the detailed work to reduce traffic and traffic speeds in London, much led by Living Streets activity there.

The event also allowed representatives of political parties to comment on their approach to making streets safer. In addition to Cllr Macinnes (representing the SNP) the panel was joined by Cllr Scott Arthur (Labour), Cllr Chas Booth (Scottish Green Party) and Christine Jardine, MP for West Edinburgh (Scottish Liberal Democrats). The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party weren’t able to be represented.

Several themes attracted widespread support among participants including:

Street Design: It is not enough to set speed limits, the engineering of the road (for example, to introduce narrow traffic lanes and ‘tight’ corners at side roads) needs to be changed to ensure driver compliance.

Enforcement: there is a widespread perception that 20 mph limits, while welcome, are widely broken; the traffic camera regime especially faced criticism for the number of ‘bagged’ cameras and inability of fixed cameras to be used in 20mph zones.  There was a lot of scepticism that the national Scottish approach to deciding when and where to locate cameras (based on average speeds) was appropriate as this can mean tolerating significant levels of speeding traffic.

Budgets: The meeting was told that across Scotland, the Safety Camera Partnership had an annual budget across Scotland of £5 million; a proportion which was widely felt to be out of kilter with Transport Scotland’s overall £2.5 billion budget. Locally, residents report being told that road changes can’t be made because of council budget constraints.

Community Speedwatch: there was significant interest in – and support for – communities being involved in measuring and enforcing speed limits; in promoting awareness (eg through stickers on wheely bins) and in being involved in decisions on where to deploy speed cameras.

Cycle infrastructure: there was significant support for providing segregated cycle infrastructure as part of safer street environments.

Technology: there were a number of interesting ideas about the use of new technology to achieve safer streets, for example, the potential for more use of Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) to control and limit the speed of council vehicles, buses and taxis; or to deter ‘rat running’ behaviour (eg to avoid speed camera or through satnavs).

The meeting concluded with lots of positive feedback from participants and speakers alike, and thanks were expressed to Living Streets Edinburgh Group for organising the event. LSEG is preparing an ‘Action Plan’ to reduce speeding and traffic danger and this event will help to inform it. Hopefully, it will also influence the City of Edinburgh Council’s next statutory Road Safety Plan, the last one (2010-20) having expired. Of course,  time will tell how these aspirations, ideas and plans will translate into action to make streets safe from traffic danger.

CAMPAIGNERS SLAM ‘HOPELESS’ LEITH WALK PAVEMENTS

Campaigners for better walking in Edinburgh have slammed the plan for pavements alongside the tram on Leith Walk as ‘hopeless’. It has emerged that the pavements, which are being rebuilt as part of the tram works, will be so narrow that in many places they don’t even meet the council’s own standards for minimum width. The campaigners have been told that over 250 metres of footway,  in 11 different sections, will be below this minimum – in one place (just north of the Pilrig Street junction) as little as 1.8 metres wide.

David Hunter, Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh Group said: “We’re incredibly disappointed to learn of the hopeless final design for many sections of Leith Walk’s pavements.  These pavements should be at least 3 metres wide, with a stipulated minimum of 2.5 metres.  As the main link between Edinburgh and Leith, and an important local street in its own right, Leith Walk needs quality pedestrian space. We are big supporters of the tram project, and welcome the benefits it will bring to people walking in other places. But having engaged with the tram team regularly over the past two years, it’s a bombshell to hear – right at the point of construction – just how poor the the street will be for pedestrians.

This is frankly unacceptable and at odds with the repeated claims that “walking and wheeling” are top of the ‘Sustainable Travel Hierarchy’, both in Edinburgh and in Scotland as a whole. Even at this, the eleventh hour, we’re calling on the council to revisit the plans to give pedestrians the space they need.”

Tackling Pavement Clutter: Concluding Report by Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Introduction

In 2019, Living Streets Edinburgh Group launched a major project to tackle pavement clutter; this essentially had three distinct phases. The initial phase involved trying to understand what is ‘pavement clutter’, what causes it and what the council (in particular) can do about it. We identified 293 items (original target 100!) and reported this to the council.

The second phase of the project involved production of a report and video in 2000 to share awareness of the project and the problem that pavement clutter causes more widely. These resources and further links can be accessed on our website here: https://bit.ly/38GtAVW. We are grateful to both the City of Edinburgh Council and Paths for All for their support and funding (Smarter Choices Smarter Places).

However, until 2021, very little action had been taken to actually remove pavement clutter, including the 293 items which we originally identified. It was not until January 2021, after persistent lobbying by LSEG, that the City of Edinburgh Council identified a specific budget (£300,000) to remove unnecessary pavement clutter, as part of the Spaces for People scheme. By June 2021, when the scheme ended, the Council reported (https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/cuttingstreetclutter) that the following items had been removed:

226 bollards
139 signs and poles
300m of guardrail
64m of barriers
18 large car park signs
2 cycle racks

This has been very welcome; however there has been a degree of mis-match between the clutter removed by the Council and the main types of problem identified by our own ‘Cut the Clutter’ report: the latter found that the most prevalent problems were signage / poles, followed by vegetation, bins and then guard rails. The first and last have been tackled by the Council, but not the widespread problems with vegetation and bins. Bollards did not figure as a problem in our report, but appear to have been the Council’s main focus.

We were delighted that Living Streets took our local campaign to a national (UK) level (https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/cut-the-clutter). We hope that this will contribute to a change in culture among the professional roads community nationally which values clear pavements more highly. Of course, there are also other important changes needed to streets which are connected to pavement obstructions – notably, the need for wider footways (the problem of clutter being especially severe where pavements are narrow – as too often in Edinburgh). There is a fundamental need to reallocate road space from vehicles to pedestrians.

However, this paper aims to draw our current project on ‘tackling pavement clutter’ to a conclusion by recording some specific ‘lessons learnt’ and by making a number of detailed suggestions to the City of Edinburgh Council for better management and reduction of pavement clutter in the future. Despite the welcome progress by the council in removing clutter noted above, only £180,000 of the council’s Spaces for People budget was spent; and hundreds of items of clutter, both fixed and temporary, continue to litter Edinburgh pavements.

Recommendations

1) Request a report to committee reviewing the approach to identifying managing and removing pavement clutter. The aim should be ensure council practice follows best practice including the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG), the communal bin policy and the statutory Traffic Sign Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD 2016, which specifically aimed to reduce signage clutter).

Key recommendations should be to:

  • ensure that new clutter – especially signage poles – is minimised (saving money as well as protecting pedestrian space),
  • ensure that decluttering is an integral part of all routine road maintenance operations
  • establish a dedicated decluttering budget as part of the new Active Travel Action Plan
  • put in place a stronger street management regime, with a clear focus on surveys, monitoring and enforcement.

2) Request that the council shares widely our ‘Cut the Clutter’ video/report among staff, contractors and other stakeholders; reinforce through internal training.

3) Utility companies (especially telecoms) – ask for the council to take a tougher line on the location of cabinets etc.

4) Phone kiosks – engage with BT to maintain damaged phone kiosks and remove unneeded ones (collaborating with appropriate national groups, including Living Streets, either in Scotland or ideally across the UK).

5) Royal Mail – establish where postal ‘holding boxes’ are no longer used and ask for removal (again, collaborating with appropriate national groups, including Living Streets, either in Scotland or ideally across the UK).

6) Roadworks – use existing agreements with utility companies, liaison with the Scottish Road Works Commissioner etc to improve the enforcement of statutory roadworks guidance standard of roadworks, to reduce signage clutter on footways etc. CEC should also press the Scottish Government for the stronger powers (including tougher penalties) that would make such action cost-effective.

7) Hedges/vegetation – council to initiate a programme for monitoring/cutting back hedges. Involve residents, community councils, etc. with the aim of residents understanding the problems caused by encroaching vegetation, and taking action themselves.

8) Bollards – remove where unnecessary, unless specific safety requirement. But take into account risk of pavement parking and also introduction of pavement parking ban, possibility of enforcement through ANPR camera etc.

9) Guardrails – remove unless there is a specific safety requirement which justifies their retention; for example at schools gates. A systematic process of assessment and removal needs to be continued, within a fixed timeframe, until all guardrails citywide have been covered.

10) Cycle parking – in line with new detailed Street Design Guidance adopt a presumption that cycle parking is to be located on carriageway rather than footway.

11) Goods /merchandise on display – need for co-ordinated action to enforce Section 129(9) of the Road Scotland Act 1984 which forbids the placement of goods for sale on the public sections of the street.

12) Bins – ensure domestic and commercial bins do not encroach onto pavements, or block crossings (especially where ‘dropped’) etc.

13) Tables and chairs outside cafes and restaurants – Following the pandemic, re-assess permits (many of which will have been granted a long time ago) to ensure that the balance is right between clear, safe walking space for pedestrians and the amenity offered by outdoor eating and drinking facilities.

14) Signage: generally, signs should not be mounted on their own poles unless absolutely necessary. There should be a presumption against some specific types of sign:

  • “No loading” (without time limit – no longer policy/required);
  • All signs on double poles;
  • Pairs of signs/poles on each side of the road – eg for ‘dead end’ sign, 20 mph etc (single signs have been legal/recommended since revision of TSRGD in 2016);
  • Repeated bus lane signs;
  • ‘City centre attractions’ (usually on double poles – replace with smaller ‘city centre’ sign on lamp posts);
  • ‘Temporary’ signs mounted on 1000kg yellow concrete blocks should be discontinued (they are often in place year after year). They should generally be mounted on lighting columns etc.

15) Other signage policy to be reviewed:

  • Cycle lane signs only to be attached to existing lighting columns etc (not mounted on separate poles);Review size (and number) of Controlled Parking Zone signs ;
  • Review the need for Greenways signage as part of a renewed bus priority strategy – for example “No Stopping at any time” signs which are very common in many streets;
  • Remove remaining obsolete parking real time displays (eg Dalry Road at Haymarket) and redundant VMS signs;
  • Remove ‘Safer Routes 2 School’ signs erected circa 2000;
  • Clear away old yellow housing development signs;
  • Review all ‘new roundabout ahead’, ‘new junction ahead’ signs – many have been in place for years; IT systems should flag up all such signs for automatic removal after (at most) 2 years;
  • Review need for large directional traffic signs, invariably on double poles, and in line with increased use of Satnavs etc.
  • Many street signs have their own lighting – but this is no longer required in most case (by law). Can we have a wholesale review to reduce the number of lit road signs (replacing them with reflecting surface) to reduce maintenance costs, energy consumption, etc?

16) Ensure that the risk of new types of clutter – for example from e-scooters or EV charging points – is identified and managed to ensure pedestrian interests are protected.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group
August 2021

Living Streets Scotland – Miles Better – Waverley Station to Holyrood

Our colleagues at Living Streets Scotland were asked by the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Walking, Cycling and Buses to survey the pedestrian route from Waverley Station to the Scottish Parliament building, through the heart of the Old Town. 

You can read the findings here 

This highlights many problems for everyday walking and wheeling which need to be tackled as part of the ‘City Centre Transformation’.

We will work with LSS, the local community and other stakeholders to promote solutions which put people first.

Cut the Pavement Clutter!

In 2019, we launched a project about the problems caused by pavement clutter – and what we can do about it [ https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2019/10/18/tackling-street-clutter-through-locality-working/ ]. We’re now delighted to launch a new video and report about the project. “Cut the Pavement Clutter” looks at a number of questions:

  • what is pavement clutter?
  • why does it matter? and (most importantly)
  • what can we do about it?

We hope that these resources will be used as widely as possible to raise awareness of the problems which cluttered pavements cause, and to raise the bar in making streets better for everyday walking.  Anyone is welcome to use them freely – for example in presentations, conferences, seminars or staff training events.

Of course, we need more fundamental transformation of many of our streets too, but most streets in Edinburgh, Scotland and the UK would be better places almost overnight, if we could ‘cut the clutter’.

 

The video can be found on our YouTube channel here – https://youtu.be/_owjs7clKfk

The full Cut the Clutter report can be found here (PDF, 5.5mb) – Living-Streets-Edinburgh-Cut-The-Clutter

You can watch the launch event here: https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/cuttheclutter . There are contributions by Mary Creacgh, Chief Executive of Living Streets, Cllr Lesley Macinness, Convenor of Transport and Environment Committee, City of Edinburgh Council, and Tom Rye, Professor of Transport Policy, University of Molde, Norway. The event includes a wider discussion of how to design streets fit for everyday walking and was chaired by our Convenor, David Hunter, whose blog can also be found at this link.

Thanks to Paths for All for funding from the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places fund, and to Living Streets Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council for their support for the project.