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.
A fundamental point is that all proposals and designs must explicitly conform to the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (SDG) for the category/categories of street affected. Until the adoption of finalised Detailed Design Sheets for the SDG, the latter’s Design Principles (as already adopted by the Council) should be adhered to, for example with regard to:
- 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 meets the requirements of the 2010 Equality Act by including the reasonable adjustments that the Council is legally required to implement in order to make the streets accessible to people with disabilities such as 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.
Saughton Park to Stenhouse Drive: general observations.
The route as a whole does not follow any natural pedestrian desire line and as such is clearly intended to generally benefit cyclists rather than people walking. We note that the scheme is designed to improve cycling on two routes (from west to east) ie east across Balgreen Road to Pansy Walk, and south to Saughton Park. Nonetheless, we welcome a number of incidental improvements along the route, especially the use of continuous pavements. We highlight again the need to complement schemes like this with a programme of improvements specifically aimed at major routes which pedestrians want to use in the city.
The main issues raised by the scheme from a walking perspective are:
- a widespread failure to adopt Street Design Guidance standards, especially with regard to pavement widths, but also excessive junction splays/corner radii etc.
- the further narrowing of pavements through encroaching hedges.
- the proposed extensive use of shared cycle/pedestrian surfaces, which we oppose.
- a reduction overall in ‘walking-only’ space.
Much of this area was designed in the 1930s and is typical of parts of suburban Edinburgh. These street designs are not conducive to ‘active travel’, presenting walkers with narrow pavements, wide side-road crossings and in many cases no dropped kerbs or other flat crossing. In several places, we observed how bins and fly-tipping render pavements impassable for wheelchair users. We appreciate that widening pavements to SDG standards (2.5 metres or 2m at ‘a minimum over short distances’) will be extremely challenging (not least because of the impact on car parking). However, if there is no intention to apply SDG standards in a ‘Cycling and Walking scheme’ like this, it calls into question the commitment of the Council to applying the SGD and to transforming the city’s streetscape to one designed for people.
Location-specific observations (west to east)
- At the westward end of the route, the excessively-wide bell mouth access to houses on the south side of Stenhouse Drive should be improved with a continuous footway.
- We oppose the extension of shared cycle/walking surface; this section is also an example of how the ‘walking only’ space is reduced (from 3.5 to 3 metres).
- There appears to be no improvement whatsoever to the wide crossing of Saughton Mains Street, on the south side off the pavement
- The drawings appear to suggest the removal of the popular bus stop on the north side of Stenhouse Drive, close to Stenhouse Avenue West; we would oppose this unless a suitable alternative, based on local consultation, was provided.
Stenhouse Avenue West:
- This street currently has pavements around 1.65 metres wide on each side, often further narrowed by encroaching bushes, which is unacceptable.
- A continuous pavement should be installed at the first side road/access to the west.
- At the junction with Whitson Road, consideration should be given to extending the continuous pavement across Stenhouse Avenue West.
To Whitson Crescent
- Excessively narrow pavements persist on all this section.
- Within the Crescent itself, there is extensive conversion of pedestrian-only surfaces to joint cycle/pedestrian surfaces, which we oppose.
- There is considerable engineering in this section (removal of pedestrian crossing, replacement by toucan, moving bus stop etc). We would query whether the improvements to cycling and the demand for access to Saughton Park justify the diversion south from the east-west Whitson Road route; we would prefer to see the available budget spent on the walking improvements we highlight here.
To Balgreen Road
- We are not clear from the drawings if the pedestrian crossing of Balgreen Road just to the north of Whitson Road is signalled?
- We welcome several continuous pavement on and around Balgreen Road. This section of road is very heavily dominated by motor vehicles and pavement parking appears to be a significant problem associated with the Primary School. Bollards should protect the junctions to deter this.
- The pavements on Balgreen Road are too narrow – especially outside the primary school itself. We appreciate that the design widens the pavement to 3 metres here, but we question whether this is adequate, especially given that this section is shared walking/cycling. We would encourage a more ambitious approach involving the removal on an entire traffic lane, and replacing with pavement on the eastern side of Balgreen Road. This would also permit the more extensive removal of guard rails which we see as an unfortunate necessity at present, given the narrowness of the pavement and the volume and speed of traffic.
- It appears that a net increase in the width of Stevenson Drive is proposed at the junction with Balgreen Road.
While we welcome a number of small-scale improvements, especially the installation of continuous pavements), there is very little improvement to the walkability of most streets. We are disappointed to see yet another scheme proposed which designs cycling on pavements; and that the proposals largely seem to ignore the council’s own Street Design Guidance, especially in terms of dealing with narrow pavements and excessively splayed junctions. These issues must be tackled if the scheme is to be credible from a walking perspective. The scheme also fails to make a significant contribution to reducing the domination of traffic on the busiest street – Balgreen Road – despite the presence of a primary school.