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Dalry Living Well – LSE Comments

Introduction

Living Streets Edinburgh Group welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation on ’Dalry Living Well Locally’. [1] We strongly support the concept of the ’20 minute neighbourhood’ – with the philosophy that most everyday services and needs are located on your doorstep and reached within a c.20 minute round trip walk. We recognise that the idea is in its infancy and that quite what a 20 minute neighbourhood looks like is still subject to debate.

To be successful, a “20 minute neighbourhood” needs to provide high quality infrastructure for pedestrians. We are thinking here not just of the fit and able, but the mother wheeling a pushchair and leading a toddler; the elderly who are finding walking more difficult and maybe using a wheeled aid; the users of wheelchairs and powered mobility chairs. A major concern with the proposed scheme is that a high-quality pedestrian infrastructure is not provided consistently throughout the area.

In this context, we do have serious misgivings about the approach proposed by the City of Edinburgh Council both with regard to the overall concept, and to design details, which we outline below. We hope that these comments will help the council to develop an improved vision of a ’20 minute neighbourhood’, and what features should be included in the Dalry scheme.

Overall concept

We are surprised at the scale of the project – from Haymarket to the Westfield area of Gorgie. This is over a mile long and is in our view far too large to be considered as a local neighbourhood, even accepting that this is proposed in separate ‘chunks’ (this section being from Haymarket to Tynecastle High). We would prefer to see designs based on much smaller neighbourhoods, such as the ‘town centre section’ in this scheme (from Caledonian Road to Dalry Place).

The scale of the proposal suggests that the project is envisaged more as a travel corridor than a neighbourhood improvement. If the mantra of ‘place not movement’ is to have any meaning, surely it must be for a neighbourhood placemaking scheme? The Council commissioned a ‘Public Life Assessment’ of Gorgie Dalry in 2016, presumably at significant expense, which includes a lot of useful, detailed observations and suggestions for placemaking. [2]  We see little or no influence of these suggestions on the scheme and recommend that it should be revisited.

One consequence of the ‘travel corridor approach’ is that, apart from the small ‘town centre’ section, there appears to be a perceived need to include segregated cycle ways along the whole route (because it is conceived more as a ‘route’, than a ‘place’). While we of course want to see more and better facilities to encourage cycling, this is problematic in that it forces compromises to be made in all other uses of the street and modes – including walking and wheeling. This contradicts the ‘sustainable travel hierarchy’ and in some respects, mirrors the widely-discredited approach taken in Leith Walk.

Another consequence is the bus gate at Haymarket, which will stop motor traffic other than buses and taxis using Dalry Road in the daytime. We certainly want to see less traffic on Dalry Road and other busy residential streets, and agree with the strategy to divert as much traffic as possible onto the Western Approach Road. We recognise that there is a case for a bus gate to achieve this. However, we would want to understand much more about how much traffic will be diverted to other streets, and where. The closing of such major road artery to general traffic will have significant consequences for traffic across western Edinburgh, especially given the 1.5 ton weight restriction on the WAR.

Requiring general traffic from the east, as well as the west, to access Dalry Road at the Ardmillan Terrace junction will put enormous pressure on this junction and we are sceptical that it will be able to cope. There is also the issue that traffic entering Dalry Road from the west will need to do U-turns and exit the same way, putting further pressure on this junction. And of course, where will traffic including HGVs, bin lorries, etc.perform these U-turns safely during the restricted hours?

Finally with regard the bus gate, we know that the ’15 minute city’ concept has been subject to numerous conspiracy theories claiming that it is designed to stop people travelling outwith their neighbourhood. These concerns have broadly been dismissed, emphasising that the concept is rather about providing better access locally, The restrictions at Haymarket will affect all drivers (those who need to drive equally as much as those who have other options) and is likely to add weight to those conspiracy theories rather than dispel them.

Apart from the bus gate, the other particularly challenging aspect of the scheme will be parking. We strongly support the removal of all general parking from Dalry Road itself – this space is too valuable to be occupied by private car parking – although there will of course, need to be appropriate provision for loading and for blue badge holders. However, densely populated, tenemented streets have very little off-street parking available, in contrast to other areas of the city where many houses have driveways and garages.  Parking spaces are at a premium in Dalry. The local community may accept reduced parking capacity on Dalry Road more easily if some additional off-street parking – for example at the under-used Lidl car park? – can be found.

Details

We are pleased to see the plan feature a number of wider footways, especially in the central ‘town centre’ section. Adequate pavements should be the absolute priority of a ’20 minute neighbourhood’.  Similarly, we like the provision of seating, trees and sustainable drainage facilities, all of which will greatly enhance the town centre. The use of continuous pavements giving pedestrians priority at side roads is also very welcome as are numerous opportunities to cross Dalry Road, including the welcome use of zebras.

This ‘town centre’ section is the part of the scheme which in our view works best. If the scheme is to broadly remain in its current form, we suggest that it should be extended at least to include Dalry Primary School in the west and eastwards to Haymarket.

We are however, very disappointed that other sections of pavement do not meet these standards. There are long sections of pavement which are currently well below the council’s own ‘absolute minimum width’ of 2 metres as specified in the council’s own street design guidance. This is most obvious on the south side of Dalry Road at the cemetery. It is frankly inconceivable that these plans do not intend to address this: if inadequate pavements are not going to be improved in a scheme like this, they will never be. We have seen this failure to meet minimum standards in several other ‘sustainable travel schemes and this undermines the Council’s professed commitment to the sustainable transport hierarchy. We also understand that there is no widening of the extremely busy pavements towards Haymarket.

There are ten bus stops along the route, five on each side and of these eight will be of the ‘floating’ design, requiring passengers to cross a cycle way immediately when boarding or alighting. This design is known to present significant difficulties for blind and disabled people especially.  The explanation that “Bus stop bypasses will mean that bus users will not have to wait on the main pavement and allow pedestrians and cyclists to safely pass” is misleading at best: they offer no advantage whatsoever for pedestrians. The space at some of the bus stops is so constrained that we understand they do not conform to the Council\s own Design Guidance and have no shelters. We would like to see normal bus stops which do not require pedestrians to cross a cycle way throughout.

We have significant concerns at the suitability of the Ardmillan Terrace junction design, although we completely agree that it is dysfunctional at present. These concerns relate not just to the capacity as noted above, but also we query why a ‘CyclOps’ (‘cycle-optimised’) design is appropriate here, rather than one which gives pedestrians priority. Again, we believe that many pedestrians, including older people and those with visual impairments will find this junction hard to cross, as they will have to cross not only the road but also cycle lanes, sometime several times, in order to get to the other side. It is also not clear what pedestrian ‘wait times’ will be.

It must also be acknowledged that disabled people’s parking opportunities will be limited by the extensive use of segregated cycle ways. The Council has just established an Accessibility Commission, designed to “ensure the city’s streets are as accessible as possible to disabled people”. It is paramount that these concerns about the ability of disabled pedestrians to use the proposed streets are addressed.

Finally, we are very disappointed that our suggestion to develop a new western access point to Haymarket Station, probably from Distillery Lane, does not form part of the proposals. This would bring the station much closer to the Dalry community and encourage its use by pedestrians and cyclists. We understand that this has been explored and is supported by the Scottish Government, Network Rail and Scotrail in principle. We recognise that there are challenges (ownership of Distillery Lane, funding, etc.) but we believe that this is feasible if there is the will to bring partners together. We urge the Council to pursue this unique opportunity which will not come around again.

Conclusion

We support the broad aims behind the proposals – to enable the local community to access their needs and service easily and sustainably and to reduce the dominance of Dalry Road by traffic. However we think that there are very significant problems with what is being proposed; some of these are matters of detail, but others fundamentally stemming from a flawed vision of what a ’20 minute neighbourhood’ should be.

We would therefore encourage a fundamental re-think of the scheme, to direct resources to more local, tangible improvements especially to the pedestrian environment. We are open to the concept of the bus gate at Haymarket if the significant questions about the impact on both displaced traffic, and local access can be satisfactorily answered. If these can’t be, then we would like to see a more modest, cheaper but practical alternative based on bus lanes – which as well as providing much needed priority for bus passengers would also improve safety for cyclists.

June 2024


[1] https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/13951/consultation-opens-on-future-dalry-town-centre-proposals

[2] https://planningedinburgh.files.wordpress.com/2024/03/gorgie-dalry-r.pdf

Meadows-George Street: LSEG objection to TRO

Objection to TRO/21/32

The Living Streets Edinburgh Group reluctantly objects to this TRO. We recognise that the Meadows to George Street scheme is both complex and ambitious, putting into effect important aspects of the Council’s ‘Our Future Streets’ strategy, There are many aspects of the project which are very welcome including widening of George IV Bridge footways and the semi-pedestrianisation of Forrest Road.

However, we are very disappointed that the footways on the Mound are barely improved from the current unsatisfactory state. The eastern footway will be only 0.5 metres wider while the western footway remains below the ‘absolute minimum’ width of 2.5 metres. The Mound is designated in Our Future Streets as a ‘walking priority street’ and it is inconceivable to us that such a comprehensive and expensive scheme does not bring pavements up to at least the ‘desired’ width of 3 metres’ stipulated by the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance. The Council’s report from March 2020 rightly acknowledges that these streets “carry very high footfall levels throughout the year and especially during the festivals. This results in the pavements being often over-capacity and people having to stray onto the road.” (para3.5)

Footway widening should have more priority than installation of a very wide (3 metre) cycleway, given that the street has a 20mph speed limit, and especially given that most motor traffic will be removed owing to the bus gate, which makes cycling on the carriageway far safer and more appealing. We are also unhappy with the Hanover Street footways, which although widened significantly, are bisected by cycleways on both sides. Again, the low volume of motor vehicle traffic, owing to the bus gate, must call into question the need for these cycleways at all. We also are disappointed to see the footway significantly reduced on the east of George IV Bridge at the NMS Tower restaurant corner.

Other than footway widths, our main objection is to the floating bus stops, especially at the foot of the Mound and on Hanover Street where cycling speeds are likely to be especially high. National guidance Cycling by Design states that “Bus stop bypasses on steep downhill gradients should be avoided, as cycle users are likely to approach these at higher speeds, creating interactions that are more difficult to manage” (p97).

All design guidance notes that these bus stops can be problematic for pedestrians/bus users, especially the most vulnerable people who particularly value safe, walk-only space such as blind people, older people with poor mobility, dementia etc. We accept that this factor needs to be balanced against the argument that bypasses protect cyclists from potential collisions with traffic when overtaking buses. However, given the big reduction in motor traffic as a result of the bus gate, this argument is much diminished. We therefore wish to see traditional bus stop designs on these locations in particular.

The project must reflect the status of ‘walking and wheeling’ at the top of the movement hierarchy both nationally and locally. We have been raising the points above with Council staff for over five years without any significant change and we must now therefore object formally to the Traffic Orders. We hope that future major active travel schemes will ensure that more priority is given to improving all walking environments and we intend to object to any future scheme which fails to meet at least ‘minimum’ standards.

LSE Annual General Meeting – 6.00pm, Thursday 16 May 2024

Friends Meeting House, Victoria Terrace

The LSE Annual report can be downloaded here – LSE Annual Report 2024

AGENDA

  • Introductions / apologies
  • Minutes of last AGM, 14 November 2022.
  • Treasurer’s report (Isobel Leckie)
  • Convenor’s report (David Hunter)
  • Communications with supporters (Rachael Revesz)
  • Discussion: our priorities and how to achieve them*
  • Agreement of lead roles (Convener and Treasurer etc.)
  • AOB.

Finish: 7.15pm

  • Note: this will be the main item. After discussion, we will decide what
    officer positions (Convener, Treasurer, committee members etc) we
    need.

Pavement parking: deputation from Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Walking, disability and cycling organisations have campaigned for a ban on pavement parking for well over a decade, It is also now four years since the ban was legislated for in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019. On the eve of the ban finally coming into effect, it is essential that it is administered as effectively as possible, so that we see an end to vehicles parked on pavements and blocking dropped kerbs.

We would like to give full credit to councillors who adopted a policy last August that the ban should apply to all streets, with no exemptions. We are encouraged to hear the determination to stick to this position. We want to see the additional revenue generated by penalties re-invested in effective enforcement – especially in those areas in the city where parking attendants don’t currently patrol.

However the report before councillors is extremely disappointing. It not only fails to acknowledge this ‘no exemptions’ policy, but also asks councillors “to note” an approach which permits the possibility of exemptions – contrary to council policy.

The report seems to assume that current parking capacity must be accommodated; that the Council must ensure that people who currently park on the footway are able to either park somewhere else, or must be allowed to continue to park on pavements. How can a council with a target to reduce car use by 30% countenance such an approach?

When footway parking is no longer permitted, then the responsibility lies with the owner to find somewhere else to park safely and legally. No doubt many people who currently park on the pavement won’t be able to park outside their home and will have to walk further to a suitable parking space. But if someone has nowhere to park safely and legally, then it calls into question whether they should own that car at all.

The Council’s Project Centre consultants advise that they have recommended “cost-effective mitigation measures to alleviate footway parking” for all the problem streets which they have identified (Para 2.3.9 of the Appendix). One of these mitigations is ‘exemption’: in other words, to alleviate pavement parking, it should be permitted!! This is an incredible feat of logic. We have asked to see the full list of these recommendations and suggest that they must be made available to all councillors, and to the public.

The report makes no mention of the need to assess the impacts on disabled people of continuing to permit footway parking which we believe fails to conform to the Public Sector Equality Duty. The Scottish Government’s statutory disability transport advisors (the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland, MACS) has called for all councils to adopt a ‘no exemptions’ policy.

It would be unforgivable if the long-awaited ban on irresponsible parking was undermined at the eleventh hour by allowing streets to be exempted because of displaced parking. Cars belong in a driveway or garage, or on the carriageway. Pavements are not places where vehicles belong. It really is that simple.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group

November 2023

Minute of Living Streets Edinburgh Annual General Meeting

Quaker Meeting House, November 14, 2022
Approximately 25 people were present.

  1. A number of apologies were recorded
  2. The Minute of LSEG AGM 2021 was approved and adopted. There were no matters arising.
  3. David Hunter noted LSEG’S significant activity of the previous year.
  4. Isobel Leckie noted that financial activity this year was minimal. The bank account balance with Bank of Scotland is £1144.36.
  5. DH outlined the current structure of the Living Streets Edinburgh Group having no formal committee structure but individuals taking responsibility for particular aspects. A requirement of Living Streets is that local groups have two named office holders. It was agreed that David Hunter and Isobel Leckie continue in respective posts as Convenor and Treasurer.
  6. Guest speaker Cllr. Arthur made the point that personal transport is about having choices and that these should focus on sustainability. Although walking is the main mode for a third of the population it arouses least public comment. He wanted to get away from an ongoing battle between cyclists and motorists. and to focus more on walking and public transport.
  7. A number of questions were raised from the floor which Cllr Arthur responded to.
  8. DH spoke to a paper indicating LSEG proposed priorities for 2023:
    – Campaign for increased budgets for the pedestrian environment (capital and staffing)
    – Secure better enforcement of controls on parking
    – Support specific local campaigns for placemaking and traffic reduction – LTNs, 20 min – Neighbourhood plans
    – Develop walk friendly- environments at and around schools
    – Influence planning policy and practice to aid walking and wheeling and reduce motor traffic
    – Grow number of our supporters and range of our campaigns.
    – DH described ways in which individuals could become involved with LSEG campaigning and encouraged anyone interested to get in touch.
  1. There was no further business and the meeting was closed.