Tag Archives: Active Travel

Dalry Living Well – LSE Comments

Introduction

Living Streets Edinburgh Group welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation on ’Dalry Living Well Locally’. [1] We strongly support the concept of the ’20 minute neighbourhood’ – with the philosophy that most everyday services and needs are located on your doorstep and reached within a c.20 minute round trip walk. We recognise that the idea is in its infancy and that quite what a 20 minute neighbourhood looks like is still subject to debate.

To be successful, a “20 minute neighbourhood” needs to provide high quality infrastructure for pedestrians. We are thinking here not just of the fit and able, but the mother wheeling a pushchair and leading a toddler; the elderly who are finding walking more difficult and maybe using a wheeled aid; the users of wheelchairs and powered mobility chairs. A major concern with the proposed scheme is that a high-quality pedestrian infrastructure is not provided consistently throughout the area.

In this context, we do have serious misgivings about the approach proposed by the City of Edinburgh Council both with regard to the overall concept, and to design details, which we outline below. We hope that these comments will help the council to develop an improved vision of a ’20 minute neighbourhood’, and what features should be included in the Dalry scheme.

Overall concept

We are surprised at the scale of the project – from Haymarket to the Westfield area of Gorgie. This is over a mile long and is in our view far too large to be considered as a local neighbourhood, even accepting that this is proposed in separate ‘chunks’ (this section being from Haymarket to Tynecastle High). We would prefer to see designs based on much smaller neighbourhoods, such as the ‘town centre section’ in this scheme (from Caledonian Road to Dalry Place).

The scale of the proposal suggests that the project is envisaged more as a travel corridor than a neighbourhood improvement. If the mantra of ‘place not movement’ is to have any meaning, surely it must be for a neighbourhood placemaking scheme? The Council commissioned a ‘Public Life Assessment’ of Gorgie Dalry in 2016, presumably at significant expense, which includes a lot of useful, detailed observations and suggestions for placemaking. [2]  We see little or no influence of these suggestions on the scheme and recommend that it should be revisited.

One consequence of the ‘travel corridor approach’ is that, apart from the small ‘town centre’ section, there appears to be a perceived need to include segregated cycle ways along the whole route (because it is conceived more as a ‘route’, than a ‘place’). While we of course want to see more and better facilities to encourage cycling, this is problematic in that it forces compromises to be made in all other uses of the street and modes – including walking and wheeling. This contradicts the ‘sustainable travel hierarchy’ and in some respects, mirrors the widely-discredited approach taken in Leith Walk.

Another consequence is the bus gate at Haymarket, which will stop motor traffic other than buses and taxis using Dalry Road in the daytime. We certainly want to see less traffic on Dalry Road and other busy residential streets, and agree with the strategy to divert as much traffic as possible onto the Western Approach Road. We recognise that there is a case for a bus gate to achieve this. However, we would want to understand much more about how much traffic will be diverted to other streets, and where. The closing of such major road artery to general traffic will have significant consequences for traffic across western Edinburgh, especially given the 1.5 ton weight restriction on the WAR.

Requiring general traffic from the east, as well as the west, to access Dalry Road at the Ardmillan Terrace junction will put enormous pressure on this junction and we are sceptical that it will be able to cope. There is also the issue that traffic entering Dalry Road from the west will need to do U-turns and exit the same way, putting further pressure on this junction. And of course, where will traffic including HGVs, bin lorries, etc.perform these U-turns safely during the restricted hours?

Finally with regard the bus gate, we know that the ’15 minute city’ concept has been subject to numerous conspiracy theories claiming that it is designed to stop people travelling outwith their neighbourhood. These concerns have broadly been dismissed, emphasising that the concept is rather about providing better access locally, The restrictions at Haymarket will affect all drivers (those who need to drive equally as much as those who have other options) and is likely to add weight to those conspiracy theories rather than dispel them.

Apart from the bus gate, the other particularly challenging aspect of the scheme will be parking. We strongly support the removal of all general parking from Dalry Road itself – this space is too valuable to be occupied by private car parking – although there will of course, need to be appropriate provision for loading and for blue badge holders. However, densely populated, tenemented streets have very little off-street parking available, in contrast to other areas of the city where many houses have driveways and garages.  Parking spaces are at a premium in Dalry. The local community may accept reduced parking capacity on Dalry Road more easily if some additional off-street parking – for example at the under-used Lidl car park? – can be found.

Details

We are pleased to see the plan feature a number of wider footways, especially in the central ‘town centre’ section. Adequate pavements should be the absolute priority of a ’20 minute neighbourhood’.  Similarly, we like the provision of seating, trees and sustainable drainage facilities, all of which will greatly enhance the town centre. The use of continuous pavements giving pedestrians priority at side roads is also very welcome as are numerous opportunities to cross Dalry Road, including the welcome use of zebras.

This ‘town centre’ section is the part of the scheme which in our view works best. If the scheme is to broadly remain in its current form, we suggest that it should be extended at least to include Dalry Primary School in the west and eastwards to Haymarket.

We are however, very disappointed that other sections of pavement do not meet these standards. There are long sections of pavement which are currently well below the council’s own ‘absolute minimum width’ of 2 metres as specified in the council’s own street design guidance. This is most obvious on the south side of Dalry Road at the cemetery. It is frankly inconceivable that these plans do not intend to address this: if inadequate pavements are not going to be improved in a scheme like this, they will never be. We have seen this failure to meet minimum standards in several other ‘sustainable travel schemes and this undermines the Council’s professed commitment to the sustainable transport hierarchy. We also understand that there is no widening of the extremely busy pavements towards Haymarket.

There are ten bus stops along the route, five on each side and of these eight will be of the ‘floating’ design, requiring passengers to cross a cycle way immediately when boarding or alighting. This design is known to present significant difficulties for blind and disabled people especially.  The explanation that “Bus stop bypasses will mean that bus users will not have to wait on the main pavement and allow pedestrians and cyclists to safely pass” is misleading at best: they offer no advantage whatsoever for pedestrians. The space at some of the bus stops is so constrained that we understand they do not conform to the Council\s own Design Guidance and have no shelters. We would like to see normal bus stops which do not require pedestrians to cross a cycle way throughout.

We have significant concerns at the suitability of the Ardmillan Terrace junction design, although we completely agree that it is dysfunctional at present. These concerns relate not just to the capacity as noted above, but also we query why a ‘CyclOps’ (‘cycle-optimised’) design is appropriate here, rather than one which gives pedestrians priority. Again, we believe that many pedestrians, including older people and those with visual impairments will find this junction hard to cross, as they will have to cross not only the road but also cycle lanes, sometime several times, in order to get to the other side. It is also not clear what pedestrian ‘wait times’ will be.

It must also be acknowledged that disabled people’s parking opportunities will be limited by the extensive use of segregated cycle ways. The Council has just established an Accessibility Commission, designed to “ensure the city’s streets are as accessible as possible to disabled people”. It is paramount that these concerns about the ability of disabled pedestrians to use the proposed streets are addressed.

Finally, we are very disappointed that our suggestion to develop a new western access point to Haymarket Station, probably from Distillery Lane, does not form part of the proposals. This would bring the station much closer to the Dalry community and encourage its use by pedestrians and cyclists. We understand that this has been explored and is supported by the Scottish Government, Network Rail and Scotrail in principle. We recognise that there are challenges (ownership of Distillery Lane, funding, etc.) but we believe that this is feasible if there is the will to bring partners together. We urge the Council to pursue this unique opportunity which will not come around again.

Conclusion

We support the broad aims behind the proposals – to enable the local community to access their needs and service easily and sustainably and to reduce the dominance of Dalry Road by traffic. However we think that there are very significant problems with what is being proposed; some of these are matters of detail, but others fundamentally stemming from a flawed vision of what a ’20 minute neighbourhood’ should be.

We would therefore encourage a fundamental re-think of the scheme, to direct resources to more local, tangible improvements especially to the pedestrian environment. We are open to the concept of the bus gate at Haymarket if the significant questions about the impact on both displaced traffic, and local access can be satisfactorily answered. If these can’t be, then we would like to see a more modest, cheaper but practical alternative based on bus lanes – which as well as providing much needed priority for bus passengers would also improve safety for cyclists.

June 2024


[1] https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/13951/consultation-opens-on-future-dalry-town-centre-proposals

[2] https://planningedinburgh.files.wordpress.com/2024/03/gorgie-dalry-r.pdf

Holyrood Park Consultation – LSE Response

Dear HES

We would like to make the following comments regarding the current consultation on the Outline Strategy for Holyrood Park. We are focussing on the use of the Park as a traffic route. We acknowledge the huge importance of the Park as a precious resource for Edinburgh residents and visitors.

Our view is that motor vehicles should not be allowed through the Park. The Park would be enhanced by being vehicle-free in every respect including pollution, safety and ambience. Access needs to be retained to the Park periphery to enable people to reach the Park who depend on cars, most obviously Blue Badge holders, and options need to be developed to provide appropriate environmentally-friendly access within the Park.

However, decisions on traffic through the Park need to be taken in the context of wider Edinburgh traffic plans (“Circulation Plan/Future Streets”). Closing the Park to through traffic will have impacts on the surrounding areas. In the short term at least, without further measures being introduced, it would increase motor traffic in heavily populated areas such as St Leonards, Abbeyhill and Meadowbank. It would mean more vehicles passing Preston Street, Holyrood and Abbeyhill Primary School, increasing congestion, pollution and road danger. A traffic-free Park must be part of an Edinburgh-wide traffic plan.

In the immediate future, the Park should be enhanced for people walking and wheeling. Priorities should be to re-introduce zebra crossings (or ‘informal zebras’ without beacons) across the many desire lines, especially in the vicinity of Holyrood Palace and the Royal Commonwealth Pool, where pedestrians struggle to cross the road. Speed reducing measures are also needed to combat the widespread non-observance of speed limits.

Finally, we wish to see an immediate re-opening of the Radical Road. The closure of the whole section is absurdly disproportionate to the risk of injury.

David Hunter
Convener

Minute of Living Streets Edinburgh Annual General Meeting

Quaker Meeting House, November 14, 2022
Approximately 25 people were present.

  1. A number of apologies were recorded
  2. The Minute of LSEG AGM 2021 was approved and adopted. There were no matters arising.
  3. David Hunter noted LSEG’S significant activity of the previous year.
  4. Isobel Leckie noted that financial activity this year was minimal. The bank account balance with Bank of Scotland is £1144.36.
  5. DH outlined the current structure of the Living Streets Edinburgh Group having no formal committee structure but individuals taking responsibility for particular aspects. A requirement of Living Streets is that local groups have two named office holders. It was agreed that David Hunter and Isobel Leckie continue in respective posts as Convenor and Treasurer.
  6. Guest speaker Cllr. Arthur made the point that personal transport is about having choices and that these should focus on sustainability. Although walking is the main mode for a third of the population it arouses least public comment. He wanted to get away from an ongoing battle between cyclists and motorists. and to focus more on walking and public transport.
  7. A number of questions were raised from the floor which Cllr Arthur responded to.
  8. DH spoke to a paper indicating LSEG proposed priorities for 2023:
    – Campaign for increased budgets for the pedestrian environment (capital and staffing)
    – Secure better enforcement of controls on parking
    – Support specific local campaigns for placemaking and traffic reduction – LTNs, 20 min – Neighbourhood plans
    – Develop walk friendly- environments at and around schools
    – Influence planning policy and practice to aid walking and wheeling and reduce motor traffic
    – Grow number of our supporters and range of our campaigns.
    – DH described ways in which individuals could become involved with LSEG campaigning and encouraged anyone interested to get in touch.
  1. There was no further business and the meeting was closed.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group response to draft Council plans, May 2023

The City of Edinburgh Council has issued a number of important draft plans related to its overall ‘City Mobility Plan’.  You can read our comments here on the plans for Active Travel, Road Safety and Parking.

You can see the Council’s draft plans, and how to comment on them here: https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/sfc/cmp/ The deadline for responses is 9 July 2023: please have your say! We also welcome your feedback on our comments. 

Edinburgh Accessible Streets Initiative (EASI): Proposal from Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Council officials have estimated that there are 17,000 inadequate or missing dropped kerbs in the capital. This makes pedestrian movement for many people difficult or impossible and is at odds with the ‘Equal Pavements Pledge’ signed by the Council in 2021 https://www.transportforall.org.uk/campaign/equal-pavements-pledge/. Step-free pedestrian surfaces have a crucial role in not only making a city inclusive for disabled people, but one which makes walking and wheeling easier and more attractive for everyone else too.

The ‘dropped kerb programme’ has been designated as a ‘high priority’ action in council plans since at least 2010, when the first Active Travel Action Plan was produced. However it is only in the last year that systematic progress has been realised on the ground, and it currently has the capacity to deliver no more than 20 – 30 new dropped kerbs each year. (It is recognised that in addition, an increasing number of missing dropped kerbs are also being installed through routine maintenance and major capital schemes.)

However, Council action to improve pavement accessibility is not at present of sufficient scale to make the improvements needed, faced with the city’s historic legacy of inaccessible footways. The recent experience of installing dropped kerbs has also highlighted the need in many places to not only ‘drop’ the kerb at side roads, yards, vennels and such like but to make other improvements. In many cases, especially where the side road carries little traffic, a continuous footway is a better solution than a dropped kerb and these have begun to be installed in Edinburgh (for example Lauriston Place). Many side road junctions would benefit not only from step-free kerbs, but also ‘tightening’ the splay, to reduce the distance which pedestrians have to cross, and to slow down turning traffic. This also helps other high priority road users such as cyclists.

The current programme budgets are not sufficient to fund interventions like continuous footways and improvements to junction geometry at scale. It is therefore proposed to develop a much more ambitious programme to elevate the current ‘dropped kerb programme’ efforts to a major initiative to improve pedestrian accessibility. The Mobility and Access Committee Scotland (MACS) has advocated such initiatives through its guidance ‘Small Changes Can make a Big Difference’ bit.ly/3zrT4AG.

The new programme could set a number of strategic goals, along the lines of to ensure that…

• within x years, all Retail High Streets and High Density Residential Streets (as defined in ESDG) are step-free;
• within y years, all (major) bus routes are step-free;
• designated ‘town centres’ will be step-free as part of 20 minute neighbourhoods.

The programme would need to operate at multiple levels, co-ordinating activity from different sections of the Council. It would include ensuring step free pedestrian space is included as part of major projects (like CCWEL), but also that small scale (and cheaper) improvements continue to be delivered as part of capital maintenance programmes and on demand, in addition to the more strategic goals such as those suggested above. Ensuring that developers pay for improvements where appropriate would be another important element, which would require significant change from the Planning department.

Monitoring will be another important aspect of the programme, so that accurate information is maintained on how many kerbs have been improved, and what still needs to be done. Comprehensive online maps should show step-free pedestrian routes. The programme could also be further extended to engage with the public for example through joining ’Project Sidewalk’ which enables citizens to comment on and evaluate accessibility through direct lived experience (see for example, Amsterdam: https://sidewalk-amsterdam.cs.washington.edu/ )

Implementation on a programme like EASI will almost certainly require external funding – for example from Sustrans, or directly from the Scottish Government either through direct Active Travel grants or associated with the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2). With a sufficiently high budget and scope, this programme could not only make a tangible impact on improving the experience for disabled – and indeed all – pedestrians in Edinburgh, but also act as an exemplar to raise the bar in our expectations for walking and wheeling across Scotland.

David Hunter
Living Streets Edinburgh Group

November 2022