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

21/02941/PPP Gogar Link Road/Active Travel Route

Comments offering observations and suggestions.

The supporting planning statement indicates that the proposal “will also serve to improve active travel links within the wider area.” Within the boundary of the scheme, this does not appear to be the case. The link will however improve active travel links to HSG19 and HSG 20. The most direct active travel routes for the existing communities East of Maybury road will continue to be via Maybury junction on Glasgow Road which is dangerous and exposed to air pollution.

Living Streets ask the Council if there is an opportunity to work with the West Craigs developers to see if there is scope or feasibility for junction and crossing improvements of active travel links South and East of Edinburgh Gateway station.

There is also a concern that the proposals will encourage motorised users to use the link as an opportunity to avoid busier junctions such as the various other road approaches onto Gogar Roundabout.

We also ask if there is an opportunity to re-design the route layout to ensure a more direct route to the rail crossing to HSG19 and HSG20 and Myreton Drive. The current design indicates that the route is made unnecessarily longer for those wishing to walk or cycle to IBG.

We support the proposal’s inclusion of segregating cyclist and pedestrian users

LSE Response to Corstorphine Connections Consultation

While supportive of low traffic neighbourhoods in principle, we are disappointed that CEC has not taken on board many of the suggestions from our first consultation response submitted earlier in the year.

Living Streets Edinburgh has walkability criteria that we have assessed against south Corstorphine and feel that there is still ample opportunity for “quick wins” to help improve the pedestrian environment at low cost. This includes:

  • Adding double yellow lines to deter drivers from parking over dropped kerbs and obscuring sightlines for people walking
  • Addressing problem areas for pavement parking
  • Improving junctions and crossing points for pedestrians on key thoroughfares, such as Saughton Road North
  • The removal of barriers along traffic-free routes
  • The removal of pavement clutter and furniture along key pedestrian routes
  • The tightening of junction radii along key pedestrian routes

We provided a list of hot spots regarding these points in our first consultation response, and are disappointed we have not seen these quick wins and low-cost solutions implemented as part of the scheme designs. Is there scope to include any of our original suggestions for improvement?

We note that other suggestions to improve the pedestrian environment have not been addressed as part of the Corstorphine Connections designs. We are keen to see more applications of wider permanent pavements, resurfaced pavements and new signalised crossings across the area to ensure walking is an attractive and safe option for residents and visitors.

With respect to the designs as presented, we have split this into its constituent parts in order to comment. The vast majority of interventions proposed focus on a small section of the proposed LTN – is there a reason further pedestrian improvements are not being consulted on across the wider LTN area? Walking is at the top of the sustainable transport hierarchy and CEC has stated on multiple occasions that it is number one priority for transport policy – with this context in hand, it is disappointing that potential interventions are limited and we can’t comment on a more ambitious scheme with additional residential streets filtered to remove intrusive traffic, improve the pedestrian experience and increase local walking journeys.

Modal Filtering Featherhall/Manse Road

We are supportive of modal filters to help improve the pedestrian environment on the streets identified in the scheme designs. The removal of intrusive traffic on these residential streets will help to make the pedestrian environment safer and more accessible. We would like to see pavement widening and improvements along Manse Road in particular, as it is incredibly narrow and an important route to the local primary school for families.

Corstorphine and Carrick Knowe Primary School Streets

We are supportive of the school streets proposed, to help families walk, wheel and cycle to school.

The filters could do with being more attractive; at the moment they look like road works and it would be good to make the filters feel more welcoming to pedestrians.

Corstorphine High Street Option A/Option B

The better option for pedestrians is option B – the bus gate. The widened pavements and removal of through traffic would significantly improve this street for people on foot. There is the potential for drivers to use adjacent residential streets like Castle Avenue and Dovecot Road to avoid the bus gate, which would need to be addressed.

Placemaking

Placemaking interventions should include seating where appropriate for pedestrians who need to pause and rest. Any placemaking interventions need to avoid adding clutter to existing pavements, provide clear sightlines for pedestrians at junctions and give sufficient grip to the road/pavement surface (ie paint/decoration).

Kirk Loan

It’s surprising to see no attempt to tackle the persistent pavement parking problems at the north end of Kirk Loan. This is an important pedestrian route but has narrow pavements and is blighted by drivers blocking the pavement with their vehicles. The south junction tightening is welcomed – dropped kerbs should be provided here to help people with mobility aids to cross the road safely.

Saughton Road North Traffic Calming

This street is generally quite hostile for pedestrians. Traffic calming measures are welcomed in principle, but without details it is difficult to comment. It would be very helpful to see improved crossing options for pedestrians at the north end of Saughton Road North, between Dovecot Road and Kirk Loan.

A Wrong Step at East Craigs

Reflections on the Low Traffic Neighbourhood from an East Craigs resident

You always have a sense of unease when walking or cycling around Edinburgh West. Residents here are very aware of the proximity of strategic road transport networks in all directions, commercial districts popping up and huge developmental pressure on the green belt. 

On the arterial routes that encase the East Craigs community, you feel one wrong step, a mis-timed mirror check or mis-placed pedal could, at any point, lead immediately to fatal collision. Everyone in the area has a story regarding their own near miss. For parents of young children, the sense of dread is amplified. 

So is it any wonder that, as a resident, I should speak in favour of any traffic-calming or traffic-reducing proposals that protect residents from the development pressures in every direction? While such proposals were once firmly placed on the table by the Council, now, following a legislative back and forth on statutory consultation, we are back to square one, with nothing to show. There is currently no available option to move away from the status quo of increasing the neighbourhood’s exposure to congestion and the risk of pedestrian fatality. All plans have been dropped.

How we arrived at this point is explained by the fact that such measures were not initially proposals at all, but concrete plans brought forward by the Council under emergency legislation. The council mis-read the signs of what was being vocalised by the community, on what was deemed to be insufficient consultation. This was likely the spark that lit the powder keg of objections, led by voicesacross social media who would rather see nothing happen at all. 

Make no mistake, that there will be a place in society for car transport for years to come, and we at Living Streets Edinburgh and many advocates of active travel, recognise fully the importance of car transport for those with specific mobility issues. However, what must be considered is that our community is part of a wider city and in the regional crossroads of a country recovering from a pandemic and subject to significant developmental pressures. Having a choice of transport options available to get around is therefore essential, not least for those in the area that can’t afford to buy and run a car.

Inaction is not an option. To achieve the national and local objectives of mitigating climate change, local air pollution, congestion and adverse health consequences of our collective transport choices, meanwhile fostering community,  we have to see some degree of intervention from our local authorities. Interventions that prioritise pedestrians and active travel is essentially a ‘buy one, get five free’.

The common ground is that we all seek solutions to our local transport problems, so we have to have faith in any sort of process that challenges the status quo. Living Streets Edinburgh looks forward to the continued progress of the West Edinburgh Link, permanency of the SfP measures introduced thus far, and future proposals within East Craigs that encourage a modal shift to active travel and links with public transport. Placemaking and improvement should be at the heart of these proposals to encourage less everyday car use. Linking the community to other parts of the area is also sought, and the Council should consider safer and direct pedestrian crossings across all the busy arterial routes for more everyday access to the amenity in the wider area.

John Kennedy

Objection to Planning ref 21/02434/FUL – Pipe Lane

Living Streets is the UK Charity for Everyday Walking. Living Streets Edinburgh Group aims to promote walking as the safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around Edinburgh.

These comments on this application are from Living Streets Edinburgh Group.
https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/get-involved/local-groups/edinburgh

Scottish Planning Policy clearly sets out the hierarchy for transport modes (para 273) – walking, cycling, public transport and finally private cars in that order. It goes on to say that planning permission should not be granted for significant travel-generating uses (para 287) at locations which would increase reliance on the car, where walking and cycling networks are not available, and where public transport to local facilities involves walking more than 400m. Designing Streets: A Policy Statement for Scotland reinforces this policy and clearly states (pg15) that the street user hierarchy should consider pedestrians first and private motor vehicles last. The National Transport Strategy states (pg5) that walking, cycling and shared transport take precedence ahead of private car use. It goes on to illustrate this position with reference to The Sustainable Travel Hierarchy (Fig14 pg43) – walking and wheeling, cycling, public transport, taxis & shared transport, private car. So, the Scottish Government position is quite clear that people walking and wheeling are the priority, with the expectation that this is delivered by developers and local authorities via their planning and highways functions.

The City of Edinburgh Council Local Development Plan 2016 does not articulate or follow this national policy as it should, but there are references within it to providing for walking and cycling, new road space not encouraging greater car use, bringing accessibility by and use of non-car modes up to acceptable levels, opportunities for ‘car free’ housing developments e.g Policy Des 7, Policy Tra 1, Policy Tra 2. The Council has adopted Street Design Guidance which has much useful content and is stated as embracing Scottish Government’s Designing Streets document, but it is not always adhered to in practice.

The recent consultation on CityPlan 2030 has highlighted a wide preference for development of brownfield sites, greater provision for walking and cycling, reduced use of private cars and less car parking provision. The Council is currently proceeding to draft the next Local Development Plan on this basis and in 2020 stated that ‘pedestrians are at the top of the urban transport hierarchy.’

The COVID-19 pandemic, although a dreadful event, has provided an opportunity for people to take stock and consider what is important to them. There have already been changes to the way we all live and work, and the likelihood is that much of this, as reflected in the CityPlan 2030 consultation, will be here to stay.

Scottish Government Policy has clearly articulated walking as a priority for several years, whist developers and the Council have at best paid it lip service and often ignored it completely. Now that emerging Council planning policy and public expectations are becoming aligned with national policy it is vital that the opportunity is taken to reset the clock and reflect this in all planning decisions.

Having set out the context for consideration of this application, and without commenting on other non-walking aspects, Living Streets Edinburgh Group makes the following constructive comments:

  • The location of the site in Portobello is extremely accessible by walking, cycling and public transport.
  • The site adjoins the seafront and is accessed by a network of narrow streets already congested with parked vehicles.
  • The additional vehicle movements will compound an existing unsatisfactory situation when there is no need to do so.
  • The site therefore justifies a car free development which is permitted by Council policy and it is requested that approval is only granted if the parking spaces are removed, other than for disabled parking, and this will in turn give scope for more landscaping and amenity space.
  • The Council now acknowledges that pedestrians are at the top of the urban transport hierarchy, so to accord with Council expectations the proposals must reflect this position.