Cut the Pavement Clutter!

In 2019, we launched a project about the problems caused by pavement clutter – and what we can do about it [ ]. 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 –

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: . 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.

Pedestrian crossing report

In autumn 2020, we carried out some surveys of pedestrian crossings in Edinburgh to see how long people walking had to wait for a ‘green man’ signal, and how long they had to cross the road when the ‘green man’ was on.  We found that, at many busy junctions, people have to wait far too long to cross the road safely and often have only seconds to get to the other side.

We have sent this report to the Council and asked them to introduce more pedestrian priority at signalled junctions as a matter of urgency under the Spaces for People scheme to aid social distancing, and also make longer-term changes to give more priority to pedestrians, rather than motor vehicles.

 LSEG pedestrian crossing survey (PDF 155kb)




Spaces for People – Pedestrian Improvements, Tollcross – Morningside

Living Streets Edinburgh volunteers carried out an audit in late October 2020 on the ‘Spaces for People’ schemes from Tollcross to Morningside Station. These aim to improve conditions for pedestrians on ‘shopping streets’. The report concludes that there are significant improvements for people walking as a result of the scheme and also makes many detailed suggestions on how it could be improved further, which have been sent to council officers. You can read the full report here:  (PDF 9mb)

We have also sent the report to councillors and asked them to widen pavements on other busy streets. We also want to see much more done to reduce the time people have to wait to cross the road at pedestrian crossings, and to remove pavement clutter. We estimate that less than 30% of the £5 million budget has been allocated to these kind of ‘walking measures’ (compared to over 70% for cycling) and we want to see much more emphasis in ‘Spaces for People’ put on encouraging walking and social distancing.

Some good examples

Some omissions

LSEG response to Council review of communal waste bins

CEC COMMUNAL WASTE BINS REVIEW Project: Comments from the Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG)

LSEG welcomes the current review of the location of Communal Waste Bins in the city, and the intention to create bin hubs and rationalise the scattered locations of the various types of bin. Under existing conditions there are far too many such bins that are poorly located or left mislocated on pavements, so creating unnecessary obstacles for pedestrians. In numerous instances they also collect other clutter items around them.  This review is timely in the context of the covid virus with  heightened concern over clutter and the need for more space on pavements to allow social distancing. The reduction of bin clutter is also central to the realisation of the council administration’s objective (27), to tackle clutter and pavement parking.

We have a number of questions and concerns however, about the specifics of the review and how successfully they will be translated into practice.

One particular concern is the intention to go with wheeled communal bins everywhere, rather than the ones with fixed positions that can then be lifted automatically with the lorry correctly alongside. The latter are all in the carriageway of necessity and, unlike wheeled bins, cannot be left out of position on pavements! Given the frequency with which wheeled bins are currently so left as obstacles to pedestrian movement, both on pavements and in the carriageway where blocking crossing points, we would wish to see fixed positions retained wherever this is practicable.

As of now wheeled bins are to be found out of position all over the city. Even when in the carriageway they are often to be seen too close to junctions or where they obstruct dropped kerb crossing points for pedestrians or block cycle lanes. They are left there after emptying by contractors, or they are subsequently moved or sometimes blown there.  Can we please therefore be informed as to what additional measures will be taken to ensure that bins are repositioned within the defined hub positions? Under the current regime, even where there are defined areas for bin location, all too often these are ignored or treated as only approximate indicators.  We are not convinced that the new bin hub settings will be sufficient to ensure that contractors do correctly reposition the bins. So without exception the hubs should be in roadway rather than on pavements. If gradients are a problem for this then regrading of the carriageway is the answer, not putting bins on pavements. Where there is a sufficient excess of pavement space to allow bin hubs to be located there without inconveniencing pedestrians, then it would be acceptable for that space to be used, but it must then be regraded to carriageway level in the process; otherwise there will still be out of position bins rolling around on pavements.

The current review is seen to only be covering communal bins. It does not embrace the residential or trade waste bins that are equally of concern for pedestrians, given that these bins are also frequently left on pavements for periods of time out of all proportion to the needs for collection, and in excess of the times authorised by the CEC.  We call for a complementary review to be undertaken of ways to reduce the problems and clutter associated with these bins also.

There are problems arising from both residents and retailers leaving bins out permanently or semi-permanently in some cases, and for excessively long periods in many others. The situation with trade waste bins does seem to have been improved somewhat over recent years, but the levels of regulatory and enforcement activities are still far from adequate. Woeful conditions for pedestrians are being created on pavements as a result, whereby wheelchair users and other vulnerable pedestrians are at times simply unable to use them. Council policy should make it clear that residential bins must be left on the roadway side of the kerb where the pavement width is less than 1.5m. The council should also seek powers to levy fines on residents who leave bins out permanently.

In many instances residents’ bins are also left blocking pavements after emptying by the contractors, and it is clear that insufficient efforts are being made to encourage compliance with or to enforce the rules. At the very least there surely should be clear instructions that emptied bins must not be left anywhere on pavements narrower than 2m, with penalties introduced for contractors who fail to ensure that their staff follow this in practice. Equally if bins are replaced on pavements where they are wider than 2m, there should be penalties imposed for placing them in obstructive positions.


There is also a need for the current review to be followed up with a much wider review aimed at minimising the extent to which bins of all kinds are located on streets in Edinburgh, where space is so often limited and in demand for multiple other uses, and in scarce supply for pedestrians in particular. There is potential for bins to be relocated off street in many places, and for space demands to be reduced by underground storage; as can be seen in a number of the cities with which Edinburgh both competes (e.g. for tourism) and likes to compare itself with. It is accepted that underground storage can be too expensive and will not be an option everywhere, but opportunities to introduce it arise continually in association with development and redevelopment processes, and CEC should initiate a system to take these opportunities.

This wider review should also embrace the waste management objectives set out in the finalised Edinburgh City Centre Transformation report of 12 September 2019, which approved early action to address waste collection through “operating plans for residential, commercial and public waste collection, including operators, vehicle restrictions, time restrictions and consolidation” (para 5.3.5). Potentially these plans will help deliver the aspirations in the ECCT to make a more walkable city, less dominated by traffic, especially heavy vehicles. 26 ton bin lorries have no place in many of Edinburgh’s streets and alternative ways of collecting waste must be explored, as already agreed by the Council.