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 have a particular interest in this much-delayed scheme. The 2015 Tollcross Street Audit , which we led, involving partners Tollcross Community Council and Edinburgh Access Panel, was chosen partly in order to influence the design of this scheme. We hope that all recommendations of the audit (link) will be fully reviewed and considered in introducing this scheme.
A further fundamental point is that all proposals and designs must explicitly conform to the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG) for the category/categories of street. We have also appended our generic ’Walkability Criteria’ for the assessment of street design proposals
B. General observations.
We welcome much of the proposed design, which will significantly improve the walking experience in the busy Tollcross area. Especially welcome are the extensive use of continuous pavements, the widening of several footways, the addition of new and/or improved pedestrian crossings and the creation of a small pedestrianised zone at the west end of Tarvit Street. We very much welcome the inclusion of Tollcross Primary School as an important component of the scheme, and we support (though would want to extend) the measures proposed to improve the walking environment in its vicinity.
We acknowledge that the scope of this scheme is limited, in aiming principally to provide a better link for cyclists between the Meadows and the Canal, along with pedestrian improvements. This scheme raises several issues about traffic management and vehicle space and the need for a wider review of traffic around Tollcross, as noted in our submission to the ‘City Centre Transformation consultation (bit.ly/2yK61sU) . However, we believe that this scheme represents a number of important immediate opportunities to further reduce the space given to motor vehicles, in addition to those included in the preliminary design. We therefore propose:
- Gilmore Place at the Kings junction: reduce eastbound lanes from the current two to one. As traffic will generally no longer be exiting Tarvit Street, eastbound traffic from Gilmore Place will be able to turn right or left without a need for separate lanes. This will enable the extremely narrow and congested corner footways on both sides of Gilmore Place (at the TukTuk and Trenchtown restaurants) to be widened.
- Ponton Street: reduce this three-lane one way system outside Tollcross Primary School to two-lane. This would enable significant widening of the western pavement outside the school.
- Home Street to the north of Lochrin Terrace: We understand that there is an alternative, updated design which retains two lanes of traffic, widened footways and no build-out at the pedestrian crossing here. We welcome the tightened radius of the Home Street/Lochrin Terrace junction, which should deter northbound traffic on Home Street turning left here at speed, as happens currently.
We generally welcome these design features and are pleased to see several examples of them in the plans. However, some of the locations where they are proposed (possibly including Lochrin Place at Home Street, for example) may have a significant amount of traffic crossing them, while others (eg access to the Valleyfield St garages) may have very little. We strongly suggest that careful thought is given to whether some tactile warning is needed to warn blind pedestrians that there is a risk that they could encounter vehicles at the potentially busiest locations and that consultation with visual impairment groups takes place.
Footway loading bays:
We note that footway loading bays are proposed in two locations: Home Street (east) and Leven Street (west). We are concerned that these features are becoming more prevalent in street design (eg on Cowgate and Fountainbridge) and in general we oppose them. They send a signal that pavements can be parked on. We see no case for the Leven Street example, where a normal loading bay can apparently be provided without unduly narrowing the pavement. Any footway loading bays should be bounded by bollards to avoid vehicle encroaching on to the footway proper.
There is currently nowhere to sit in Home Street, or Tollcross more generally, including at the city-bound bus stops. This undoubtedly reduces the appeal of the street for older people and many people with mobility impairments. The scheme should include provision of new seating at a number of locations. The pedestrianised Tarvit Street area is one such location, but seats should also be installed on both the west and east sides of Home Street.
While we recognise (and welcome) a number of footway widenings, there appear to remain several footways which fall below the ‘absolute minimum’ standard specified in the Street Design Guidance, and one where the an extremely busy pavement is actually being significantly narrowed, from 3.9m to 2.5m (Home St west). This is not acceptable in a flagship walking and cycling scheme, and it is unlikely that there will be any other opportunity in the next 10 or 20 years to rectify this inadequate legacy. Meeting minimum standards in such a densely-populated and diverse area should be an absolutely fundamental requirement of the scheme. Streets which we think will still fall short of these standards are:
- Lochrin Place (west)
- Lochrin Terrace
- Ponton Street
- Home Street (western side, between Lochrin Place and Gilmore Place)
- Home Street (eastern side, by loading bay near Tarvit St junction)
- Gilmore Place
- Tarvit Street (east)
- Drumdryan Street (whole length)
- Valleyfield Street.
We assume that a full de-cluttering exercise will be carried out on all streets included within the scheme. There are many signage poles which are no longer needed, inappropriately-sited cycle racks (Home Street at Lochrin Place (N) and a redundant parking display (Ponton St). We query the need for considerable sections of guardrail, for example on Lochrin Terrace (where the guardrails have quite recently been renewed).
We generally oppose shared pedestrian/cyclist areas (as do Spokes) owing to the potential conflict and especially the intimidating effect this can have on vulnerable pedestrians such as older people and those with visual impairments. However, long-established shared spaces are at both ends of this project (ie in the Meadows and on the Union Capital) and we consider the proposals are generally reasonable. Detailed design, including signage and any speed-reducing measures should take into account the risk of conflict however at key locations including the Lochrin Place/Home St junction and at both ends of Tarvit Street. Signs and road markings should require cyclists to ‘Stop’ – rather than ‘Give Way’ where the cycle way crosses a footway / continuous footway.
C. Location-specific observations
These observations (broadly from west to east) relate to specific changes which we would like to see to the initial design; in general, we are therefore happy with the proposals except where stated above or below.
- There are two incorrectly-installed tactile pavings on the south side of W Tollcross, and a continuous pavement should be installed between these to the vehicle access point.
- We would like to see footways significantly widened on this street. The western pavement outside Tollcross PS is only 2.15m wide, and is further constrained by guardrails. We would therefore like to see the traffic lanes reduced from 3 to 2 which would enable significant widening of both pavements. The large bus stop on the east side of Ponton Street which is used for the layover of East Coast Buses should be moved (possibly just to Lochrin Terrace) to facilitate this.
- At the northern end of Ponton Street, there is currently no ‘green man’ facility whatsoever to allow people to walk across Fountainbridge, an inexplicable omission at a busy junction adjacent to a primary school. The signals here should therefore be replaced as part of the lane reduction measures proposed above, to include a signalled crossing of Fountainbridge on both sides of Ponton Street.
- Lochrin Terrace has a lot of wasted space and we welcome the extended footway with loading area on the south side (a suitable location for seats). At its western end (before the W Tollcross/fire station junction), the road should be narrowed to reduce the distance for pedestrians to cross the road (there is only a single lane on traffic heading into Lochrin Terrace, so there is no need for the carriageway to be so wide).
- At its eastern end, both the north and south footways are too narrow – the southern pavement is only 1.75m wide, further reduced to 1.35 clear walking zone by the railings (compared to a footway ‘absolute minimum’ of 2m and a ‘clear walking zone absolute minimum’ of 1.5m in the ESDG). A bin on the northern side routinely blocks adequate access to this pavement. We would like to see the guardrails removed from both sides of the street. We expect that the presence of the fire lane eastbound may be a specific reason for the rails on the northern pavement, but can see no reason for retaining the railings in the southern pavement.
- We welcome the widening of the northern pavement at the eastern end and the buildout on the southern side at Lochrin Autos. However, we would like to see a number of additional improvements including the installation of regular build-outs as specified by the Street Design Guidance. There are four incorrectly installed pieces of tactile paving with inappropriate crossfall on the north side of Lochrin Place (at apartment bin stores) which should be remedied. At its western end, the southern pavement should be continued towards the canal towpath; at present, the pavement does a right angled left turn away from the main desire line to the canal.
- We are very disappointed to see the proposal to reduce the western footway between Lochrin Place and Gilmore Place in width from 3.9 to 2.5 metres, presumably to accommodate the segregated cycle lane, which we consider unacceptable and contrary to the spirit / letter of Council policy and the ‘movement hierarchy’ in Scottish Planning Policy.
- We note the intention to move the signalled pedestrian crossing currently located immediately to the south of Lochrin Place to the south of Lochrin Terrace. We would like an assurance that this will be ‘green man on demand’ unlike the current ‘dumb’ crossing which is activated by the Home St / Gilmore Place junction signals.
- We oppose the ‘footway loading bay’ on the southern part of the east side of Home Street. This leaves only 2.5 m of footway clear for pedestrians and will encourage footway parking in the vicinity outside the designated bay, unless bounded by bollards.
- There is a need for a shelter with seating at the bus stop on the western side outside the Cameo cinema.
- We would ask that the decluttering exercise which will be conducted extends north on both sides of Home Street to the Tollcross junction.
- The pavements at the junction of Gilmore Place with Home/Leven Streets are very busy and congested and need to be improved. As suggested above, we advocate reducing the eastbound lanes out of Gilmore Place from two to one in order to achieve this. The northern pavement close is currently 2.3 metres wide, with a minimum clear walking zone of 1.8 metres; wholly inadequate for a place where many people gather to cross the road. The southern pavement is only 1.6 metres wide (ESDG requires an ‘absolute minimum’ of 2m). In the longer term, the council should consider compulsory purchase and demolition of the ugly building extension occupied at present by part of the TukTuk restaurant. This would improve the corner visually, but more importantly would free-up significant road space for walking and potentially cycling.
Tarvit Street (inc. Drumdryan St):
- We welcome the concept of closing Tarvit Street to general traffic (expect bicycles) and introducing a small pedestrian zone at its western end. We believe that this, currently unlovely, space would be much improved as a pedestrian area, and should allow the potential of the Kings Theatre to have a positive impact on its immediate area to be exploited. However we have some concerns or queries about how it will operate.
- It is designated as a “Traffic Free Street (except for loading)”. This raises a number of questions: Will any vehicle ‘loading’ be permitted to use the street? Are there limits intended to the times when loading is to be permitted? (The bay is marked as suggesting this is only between 22.00 and 10.00 hours). How will enforcement be carried out? (Edinburgh’s record in similar streets like Castle Street and Grassmarket is not encouraging). Presumably loading vehicles (including HGVs servicing the Kings Theatre) will have to exit Tarvit Street westbound, and that there will therefore need to be traffic signals (which will apply also to cyclists)? We note that the southern footway remains extremely narrow and below the Council’s ESDG ‘absolute minimum’ standard of 2m. This would not necessarily be a problem if part of an effectively pedestrianised street, but would not be desirable if vehicles are frequently in the loading bay.
- East of the junction with Drumdryan Street, the pavements on both side of Tarvit Street appear to fall short of the “absolute minimum standard” specified by the Council. The pavements here and on all streets included within the scope of the project (including all of Drumdryan Street) must be improved to meet this standard at the “absolute minimum”. If this cannot be delivered in a once in a generation ‘walking and cycling scheme’, it never will. An informal crossing with dropped kerb/tactiles should be installed at the eastern side of the Drumdryan/Tarvit Street junction, to facilitate pedestrian movement from the south side of Tarvit street to the northern pavement at this junction.
- We welcome the provision of a new Toucan crossing to the south of Tarvit Street which is on a pedestrian desire line.
- We note that the western footway of Brougham Place between Tarvit Street and Leven Terrace is 2.3 metres wide. Currently, the width of this pavement is significantly reduced by a hedge. It is essential that there is a firm commitment by the Council to enforce the obligation of frontagers to restrict vegetation from encroaching on pavements. Otherwise, this footway will need to be widened.
- Minimum footway widths must be provided; at the eastern half of the street, the northern footway is currently 1.8 metres wide, and the southern 1.75m, where there is also a Clear Walking Zone of only 1.2m at the lampposts, further reduced to 0.8 by the hedge at the eastern end. This compares to the ESDG standard of footway ‘absolute minimum’ width of 2m and a ‘clear walking zone absolute minimum’ of 1.5m.
- Continuous footways should be provided on the south side at two garage entries.
- The closure of Tarvit Street to vehicles coming from Melville Drive direction is likely to increase traffic on Leven Terrace. Measures which might need to be considered include traffic calming, and changing the ‘Give Way’ at the junction with Valleyfield St, so that Leven Street traffic must pause or stop.
- We note the intention to provide new, separate routes for walking and cycling across the section of park between Leven Terrace and the Meadows. We would seek confirmation that this will not involve the loss of any mature trees, and also that the most direct route (which is the walking desire line) is designated for walking, rather than cycling (otherwise, people will continue to walk in the cycle lane).
- We also note that there is no intention to add a footway to the eastern side of Leven Terrace, which is currently missing entirely. The need for this should be assessed.
We welcome the improvements to the Tollcross area which will bring many benefits to local pedestrians, children attending Tollcross Primary School and visitors to attractions such as the Kings Theatre and Cameo Cinema.
We think, however that some bolder, though incremental, measures can be included in this scheme to reduce the dominance of traffic and the space given to accommodate it (especially Ponton Street and Gilmore Place). There are also many missed opportunities to widen inadequate footways in residential streets, and we strongly oppose the reduction in footway width in a section of Home Street which would worsen the walking experience in this important part of the Tollcross ‘town centre’.
Appendix: Living Streets Edinburgh ‘Walkability Criteria’
Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) is keen to ensure that all types of transport and public realm schemes – whether routine maintenance or new initiatives – improve the walking environment. We would like to see each scheme satisfy the following fundamental aims:
- compliance with the Council’s Street Design Guidance [http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/download/550/edinburgh_street_design_guidance] – at the very least, its minimum standards, eg on footway width and frequency of pedestrian crossings, and,
- compliance with the transport hierarchy set out in Scottish Planning Policy (2014) – https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-planning-policy/pages/8/ – including ‘Plans should identify active travel networks and promote opportunities for travel by more sustainable modes in the following order of priority: walking, cycling, public transport, cars’.
LSEG does not have the resources to examine and comment in detail on every transport and public realm proposal; our view on whether a scheme design has satisfied these fundamental aims will be determined by Council answers to the following questions on ‘walkability’ criteria:
- How does the design contribute to the Council’s strategic objective to promote walking [as set out in the Active Travel Plan http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20087/cycling_and_walking/1791/cycling_and_walking_projects/1]?
- Does the scheme comply in detail with the Council’s Street Design Guidance, for example with regard to footway widths, frequency of pedestrian crossing points, decluttering, continuous footways over side street junctions, and junction corner radii (amongst many other issues)? Where does it fail to comply?
- Are pedestrian crossing points convenient in terms of proximity, waiting times, directness and time to cross, especially for less able users?
- Does the scheme as a whole improve road safety, especially in terms of vehicle speeds at junctions and crossing points?
- Has an Equality Impact Assessment been carried out? If so, what are the chief impacts on disabled or elderly pedestrians?
- Which walking elements of the scheme represent a quantitative / qualitative enhancement or deterioration of current walking facilities, eg footway widths?
- In what ways does it avoid pedestrian conflicts with other road users (including motor vehicles and cyclists), eg by providing dedicated and well-defined space for pedestrians and avoiding ‘shared spaces’?