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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.

Email to councillors: Walking priority, pavement clutter and bus stop infrastructure

Dear Cllr Webber and fellow councillors

Motion to Council 9.4 

We want to record our support for your motion 9.4 to Council on Tuesday. Firstly, we are pleased to see the reminder that ‘walking and wheeling’ are top of the transport hierarchy (1) – far too often this is given lip service in policy, but ignored in practice.

Pavement obstructions also represent a significant problem which deserves highlighting particularly when social distancing is a prime objective. We are currently finalising a report on pavement clutter which we will be pleased to share with the council shortly.

With regard to ‘floating bus stops’, we have long had concerns at the risk of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, as bus passengers have to cross a cycle path in order to board or alight from a bus (2). Even more concerning is the recent introduction in number of ‘Spaces for People’ proposals of the apparently new (to Edinburgh at least) concept of a ‘bus boarder’ where passengers step off the bus directly onto a cycle way (eg Pennywell Road, Causewayside). Unexpectedly encountering a cyclist at this type of bus stop could endanger or intimidate many bus passengers – who are invariably also pedestrians – especially if they are Deaf, blind or unsteady on their feet.  We assume that the motion covers these ‘boarders’ as well as ‘floating’ bus stops.

We recognise the benefits that these bus stop designs bring to cyclists, and that many cycling advocates will disagree with our stance. However as an organisation championing ‘everyday walking’ we have to balance the benefits to cyclists against the risks posed to pedestrians, especially those more vulnerable.

Now is not the time for a major, rushed roll-out of untested cycle infrastructure in Edinburgh which introduces those risks. We know that many disability groups share our concerns, including Edinburgh Access Panel, RNIB, and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Suspension of the current proposals will permit consultation, particularly with disability groups, and also allow proper consideration of reports evaluating the Leith Walk floating bus stops which we understand were produced some two years ago but which we have only recently received.

We also want to make it very clear that Living Streets Edinburgh supports measures to make cycling easier and safer, provided these don’t add unacceptable risks to pedestrians, especially the most vulnerable people. There is also huge common ground in the interests of walking and cycling in our shared goal of seeing lower volumes of traffic, lower speeds and better enforcement of traffic regulations. We also support the overall aims of the Spaces for People initiative.

We therefore hope that your motion will achieve the widest possible support across all parties.

yours sincerely

David Hunter

Convenor

1) National Transport Strategy; page 43

https://www.transport.gov.scot/media/47052/national-transport-strategy.pdf

A 5 point plan for City of Edinburgh Council to promote walking during social distancing

Introduction

It is currently impossible for pedestrians to maintain social distancing on many Edinburgh streets, which have pavements that are not wide enough.  As ‘lockdown’ measures are eased, but social distancing requirements maintained with more people on the street, it will be even more vital to increase the amount of safe space for walking. This will be a particular challenge when schools eventually re-open. Wider measures – notably to encourage cycling – will also be needed when lockdown measures are eased to ensure safe, efficient transport, with a likely reduction in the capacity of Edinburgh’s bus network. However, now more than ever, action is needed to ensure that walking’s place at the top of travel hierarchies is put into practice.

This paper focus on five immediate measures to encourage walking.   Many of these measures could be introduced at little cost while the additional £10m funding from the Scottish Government could be used to fund others, including the removal of larger, more complex structures such as the obsolete ‘real-time’ parking displays.

There are a number of resources which the Council has commissioned in recent years which contain specific suggestions to improve the walking environment on streets, such as the ‘Street Life Assessments’, ‘Street Reviews’ by Living Streets Scotland and the recent work by LSEG on ‘Tackling Street Clutter’. We recommend that these resources are revisited and used to guide immediate measures.

 

1) Pavement Widening

We want to see a programme of temporary pavement widening, focusing on high footfall streets such as ‘retail/high street’ and public transport corridors. The classification of streets in the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance provides a ready strategic framework to assist in identifying such streets. This will in places require removal of parking/loading/waiting permissions. To complement this process, the following streets have been identified as potential candidates by the LSEG Committee members and also from social media (see especially:

  • South Bridge/Nicolson Street/Clerk Street
  • Great Junction Street
  • Ferry Road
  • St Johns Road/A8
  • Queensferry Road
  • George IV Bridge
  • London Road
  • Easter Road
  • Dalry Road
  • Milton Road East
  • Lower Granton Road
  • Niddrie Mains Road
  • Raeburn Place
  • Morningside Road
  • Morrison Street
  • Captains Road
  • Liberton Road
  • Burdiehouse Road
  • Frogston Road
  • Comiston Road
  • Colinton Road

 

2) Road closures

In residential areas, many streets could be closed to through traffic, while retaining access by motor vehicles to/for residents through barriers (‘filters’). This will reduce traffic on local streets, making walking and cycling safer. This may apply particularly in residential areas (eg Oxgangs, Bingham, Lochend, Stenhouse etc).

 

3) Guardrails

Guardrails which hem in pedestrians over long stretches of pavement (for example, Slateford Road bridge) are particularly inappropriate at present. The Council already has a presumption against these features unless there is a compelling need, but Edinburgh has a legacy of many such guardrails from earlier, outdated street design philosophies. A programme of removal should be introduced immediately to accelerate the removal of inappropriate guardrails.

 

4) Decluttering

Removal of streets clutter is a ‘quick win’ to aid walking and social distancing. As with guardrails the Council already has a policy of de-cluttering which should be accelerated at the present time. This could include ‘sweeps’ of roads to remove old roadworks debris such as traffic cones, sandbags, old signs etc which litter many streets, and also removal of redundant and empty signage poles (many of which have been notified to locality teams as part of LSEG’s ‘tackling Street clutter’ project).

 

5) Signals

Traffic signals, including signalled pedestrian crossings, should be reconfigured so as to give pedestrians priority – eg immediate ‘green man’, increased crossing time, single crossing of staggered crossings, etc. This will aid walking movement and also reduce the risk of pedestrian congestion at lights, islands, etc.