Response to consultation on Meadows to Castle Terrace cycle route proposal
Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) is the local voluntary arm of the national charity, Living Streets, which campaigns for better conditions for ‘everyday walking’. In LSEG our key aim is to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around the city.
We welcome the measures included in this proposal to improve walking, although these are often fragmented and largely incidental to the continuous corridor-based approach to the cycling design – a particular example being the lack of continuous footways (avoiding changes of level for pedestrians) across side streets where they join the cycle corridor, despite this being a requirement of the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG).
Worryingly, we have identified a number of other instances of the route design failing to comply with the ESDG. A fundamental principle of all such schemes is that designs should explicitly conform to the ESDG for the category/categories of street affected. Until the adoption of finalised Detailed Design Sheets for the ESDG, the latter’s Design Principles (as already adopted by the Council) should be adhered to, for example with regard to frequency of pedestrian crossing points, footway width, decluttering, crossfalls, improvements of currently sub-standard pedestrian crossing facilities and junction corner radii (amongst many other issues). These Principles are Council policy, and should also be adhered to in order to avoid the Council being subject to legal challenge under the Equality Act duty to make reasonable adjustments to assist protected groups.
LSEG wishes to make a number of points of principle – as set out in Section B below – which should apply to all cycling schemes which affect Edinburgh streets. In Section C we then address some of the detailed issues / concerns arising from the Meadows to Castle Terrace proposal. And in Section D we conclude by addressing three wider strategic issues.
However, over and above our written comments, in view of the substantial nature of the scheme – and some controversial elements – we suggest that a workshop or seminar should be held in order to get the design right for both cyclists and pedestrians.
Key points of principle
- An increase (or no net loss) of pedestrian space.
- Footways meet recommended widths.
- Conflicts with cyclists are avoided, with dedicated and well-defined space provided for pedestrians (including separated ‘tiger’ crossings).
- Junctions make foot crossing easier by being raised, with radii of corners and widths minimised
- In busier areas, controlled crossings are provided in convenient places, with acceptable waiting and crossing times.
- Pedestrian priority is made clear at all the key crossing points of the cycle routes, eg with continuous footways across side streets at junctions.
- The design incorporates features to assist people with disabilities, including dropped kerbs (where continuous footways are not feasible), seating and tactile paving.
- The footway is made free from clutter.
- Guardrails are avoided / removed.
Impact of traffic:
- If the area is a residential or shopping street or busy pedestrian route the speed is 20mph and the design helps to achieve this speed.
- The level of parking and access to motor vehicles is appropriate and does not dominate the space.
Meadows to Castle Terrace proposal
issues / concern
We welcome the fact that there will be improved crossing infrastructure at some of the junctions along the length of the route. We also welcome the design ensuring that people walking and cycling will be physically separated on Lauriston Place, Lady Lawson Street and Castle Terrace, as this will, as stated in the consultation document, ‘increase safety’, particularly for pedestrians.
Our key concerns are as follows:
- at the junction of the new route and North Meadows Walk at the south end of Chalmers Street, engineering measures will be required to ensure that cyclists passing from one to the other (i) reduce speed, and (ii) give way to pedestrians (who should have both ‘in theory’, and practical, priority) where cyclists cross the walking half of the path – particularly bearing in mind potential downhill cycling speeds on Chalmers Street
- continuous footways across side streets should be installed the length of Chalmers Street
- the footway on the west side of Chalmers Street (north end) is currently only 1.8m-1.9m wide – as this is less than the ‘absolute minimum’ set out in the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance it should be widened to take account of heavy footfall, including access to the Eye Pavilion and St Thomas Aquinas School
- the proposed footway on the north side of Lauriston Place, west of Chalmers Street, is shown as 3.1m wide, but in fact the footway is currently only 2m wide (the rest is accounted for by cobbles, bollards and trees that should not be counted as footway, as they cannot be walked on) and it therefore appears that there is no ‘spare’ footway width which could be alternatively utilised to widen the very narrow footway on the south side of Lauriston Place at the sub-standard bus stop (see below)
- the existing bus stop / shelter is sub-standard for the site, and the space available to pedestrians is grossly inadequate to cope with the volume of usage, with pedestrians constantly forced to walk in the carriageway – we understand from the Council’s public transport team that it is to be included in the remedial work programme and improved, but associated widening of the footway (by narrowing the carriageway) is essential (we are surprised that the cycle route project design team appears not to have liaised with the public transport team on this issue)
- the junction where Lauriston Place and Lady Lawson Street join should have a continuous footway along Lauriston Place – both across the road carriageway and the cycle route – with pedestrian priority clearly identified by road surface, markings and signage
- there should be continuous footway across the access road joining Lady Lawson Street from the Art College
- the pedestrian crossing of West Port is some distance away from the junction with Lady Lawson Street, whereas the cycle route exactly follows cyclists’ desire line – the same approach should be taken for pedestrians, but ensuring that a ‘tiger crossing’ physically separates cyclists and pedestrians
- on Lady Lawson Street (section north of West Port) the footway which is currently 3.5m wide would be reduced to 3.09m and 2.50m width – the space for the cycle route should instead be taken from vehicles
- to walk from Castle Terrace (north side, west of the roundabout) to Lady Lawson Street (west side) will involve pedestrians traversing one road crossing, two cycle route crossings and the unprotected junction of Lady Lawson Street and Castle Terrace; this is both inconvenient and potentially dangerous, and involves the cycle route running along the centre of the footway on Castle Terrace (south side) – continuous footways, with pedestrian priority, should underpin all these crossings
- to walk from Castle Terrace (west side, north of the roundabout) to the east side (Farmers’ Market, multi-storey car park etc) involves one road crossing and one cycle route crossing – this should be a raised crossing / continuous footway
- planned footway widths on Castle Terrace as it nears Lothian Road do not seem to be shown on the plans, but the current north side footway of Castle Terrace at its narrowest point is less than 1.6m, with a ‘clear walking zone’ at the lamp post of less than 1.3m. The Council’s Street Design Guidance stipulates an ‘absolute minimum’ of 2m and 1.5m respectively in such circumstances – the opportunity should therefore be taken to achieve these footway minima on this stretch
- the corner where Castle Terrace joins Lothian Road (next to the Kings Stables Road junction) is cluttered and, in the case of the latter, dangerous for pedestrians crossing – we suggest that (i) the Castle Terrace pedestrian crossing should be converted from staggered to continuous, and (ii) the Kings Stables Road junction should be blocked off to vehicular traffic
- the shifting north of the pedestrian crossing on Lothian Road appears to be linked to an assumption of increased cycle traffic from Grindlay Street to the east side of Lothian Road and then onwards to the west side of Lothian Road and Festival Square, but this (i) would involve movement across an existing ‘pedestrianised’ area where there would be increased danger of cycling / walking conflicts, and (ii) would encourage an unacceptable level of conflict between cyclists and pedestrians on the busy footways on both sides of Lothian Road
- the new crossing, to comply with Council Street Design Guidance, should not be staggered, but instead should be ‘continuous’, facilitating quicker passage by pedestrians – a guardrail island shared by cyclists and pedestrians of the nature proposed is totally unacceptable and we are deeply disappointed that such an option has even be considered (such an arrangement exists on York Place (Dublin Street) and is completely dysfunctional and causes particular problem for vulnerable users (anyone with a sight, or mobility problem or use of wheelchairs or buggies) where they are forced to share a confined space with people on bikes)
- a new continuous crossing of Lothian Road should not however exclude a (sufficiently wide) central refuge – such a refuge is likely to be essential to allow slower pedestrians to cross in two phases, and reduce the traffic barrier for them, otherwise it is likely to be prohibitive for many frailer, elderly pedestrians
- the increased Sheffield-style cycle parking should be sited in such a way as not to interfere with pedestrian desire lines
- the need to relocate the Lothian Road bus shelter should be taken as an opportunity to eliminate some of the worst features of the ‘advertising-friendly / bus passenger-unfriendly’ JC Decaux design – with clear markings for where (a) bus drivers should stop, and (b) passengers should queue.
While we welcome the extensive consultation exercise that the various current cycling scheme proposals represent, we find the extent of the present consultations somewhat overwhelming, especially when conducted all at broadly the same time. As a voluntary group, we do not necessarily have the information needed to assess each proposal in detail and to respond to each consultation individually in the time available. A more phased consultation would have been preferable.
A recurring feature of cycling scheme proposals is the steady introduction of shared-use footways for cyclists and pedestrians. We are very concerned about these in themselves, since there will be inevitable conflicts, with the most vulnerable street user – the pedestrian – typically coming off worst. They also send out the wrong message to a wider audience – that cycling on footways is increasingly acceptable. It is not, as it encroaches on core pedestrian territory. Instead, where extra space is required for new cycling infrastructure, it should be taken from vehicles, not from people on foot. More widely, we would also like the Council – and key partners such as Sustrans – to invest in strategic walking routes, separately from these schemes which are effectively based on the needs of cyclists.
We see a fundamental difference in the Council’s approach to walking – which is treated in an ad hoc and reactive fashion – compared to the treatment of cycling infrastructure, which is managed in a strategic, policy-led and pro-active manner. Walking deserves better treatment, commensurate with the theoretical priority it is given in the Council’s transport policies.
Living Streets Edinburgh Group / 5 December 2016