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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:
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.
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
Note by Living Streets Edinburgh and Spokes Lothian, March 2021 to Transport Scotland, requesting funding to make successful Spaces for People schemes permanent through the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 – http://www.spokes.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2103-STPR2-letter-from-Spokes-and-Living-Streets.pdf
- Living Streets Edinburgh Group supports the principle of ‘Spaces for People’ schemes continuing in the future. Better facilities to encourage walking, wheeling and cycling are essential in order to achieve the objectives in the City Mobility Plan and to contribute to making Edinburgh the great walkable city that it should be.
- We have been disappointed that more priority was not given to promoting walking, especially in the first months of the programme, not only in view of the agreed ‘sustainable travel hierarchy’ but also given that the emergency measures were passed in order to ensure public health and promote physical distancing. Nevertheless, we recognise that many of the measures have been helpful for people to walk and cycle, and we appreciate the very significant efforts of staff and councillors to introduce these extensive measures during the pandemic.
- Before commenting on the retention of particular schemes, or types of schemes, we want to make some general observations about ‘process’. Firstly, many schemes need very detailed consideration – for example on whether particular loading bays are in the right place? – before they can be made permanent. The current consultation exercise isn’t adequate to enable this detailed assessment to take place. There needs to be further opportunities for stakeholders (and especially local communities) to consider retention, alteration or removal.
- We would also like to see data published on the use of temporary measures (both walking and cycling). We note from the report to Transport and Environment Committee in August 2020 that £256,000 was budgeted for surveys and monitoring. While we agree that we should look to the future and accept that some schemes may be more used in the years ahead than they have been during the pandemic, evidence on the actual use of measures should help inform decision-making on retention or removal. This will also be important for local communities to understand and accept the decision making process. It also important to acknowledge that some schemes which benefit one type of road user may have negative effects on other road users, so the benefits and negative impacts therefore need to be assessed as transparently and objectively as possible. We must also accept that there is a significant degree of uncertainty over to what extent travel patterns will, or won’t, return to pre-pandemic patterns.
- We would have preferred for the City Mobility Plan to include targets for modal share, which would have provided a strategic context for the relative importance attached to investments to support different modes – especially walking/wheeling, cycling and bus. If the CMP had aimed to increase cycling rates threefold for example, then there would be a much stronger case for investing in cycling infrastructure. If the aim is to encourage walking or bus, then measures to support walking or bus should get more priority, etc. But because targets haven’t been set, there is no strategic rationale for making the SfP decisions.
Retention, Removal or Adaptation?
- Many measures introduced under Spaces for People can and should be retained and made permanent. In many cases, this can be done at relatively little cost: in particular, cycle lanes, road closures and school measures. We cannot comment on each of the dozens of measures which have been introduced, but we support a presumption in favour of keeping them.
- For LSEG, the most important benefit which SfP has brought is the ‘footway widening’ in town centres. Generally, these have brought significant benefits to pedestrians, especially to enable ‘physical distancing’. They have also proven beyond doubt that there is insufficient pedestrian space in many town centres, perhaps noting Morningside, Corstorphine and Stockbridge as particular examples. Wider pavements have not caused traffic to grind to a halt as some predicted.
- These wider pavements must therefore generally be retained; there may be some exceptions (eg the eastern side of Earl Grey Street?) where the current pavement is sufficient, and taking more carriageway space for walking is not a priority. However, the temporary measures understandably introduced at short notice are not of sufficient quality for the longer term; they are too ‘stop/start’, they are inaccessible to many disabled people, in places ambiguous (so that for example cyclists use them) and introduce trip hazards.
- Once the pandemic is over, ‘proper’ wider pavements are therefore needed, with level surfaces, proper kerbs and the necessary changes to drainage. We appreciate that this will be expensive and we have written to the Scottish Government (jointly with Spokes Lothian) asking that funding is provided to enable councils to make successful Spaces for People schemes permanent as a priority for investment through the STPR2 . Our particular concern is the significant cost of converting temporary footways into permanent quality spaces.
- We are pleased that the amount of time which pedestrians have to cross the road at crossings is finally being investigated, with £100,000 approved in January for this purpose. We want to see shorter wait times for people to cross the road at signalled junctions and pedestrian crossings, and we want to see longer ‘green man times’ across the city. There needs to be a permanent change to give pedestrians priority, in line with the modal hierarchy agreed in the City Mobility Plan. The automatic pedestrian phases (that remove the need to press the button) will no longer be needed following the pandemic.
- The need to remove unnecessary pavement clutter is only now being addressed at scale within the SfP scheme; we assume (and hope) that changes to clear obstructions from pavements will be made permanent.
- As noted earlier, we strongly support measures at schools to encourage children to walk, cycle, scoot, etc. to school. According to the latest (2019) Transport and Travel in Scotland statistics, 61% of Edinburgh’s schoolchildren currently walk to school – a fantastic platform of active travel which needs to be protected, prioritised and built on. We would encourage more – and more ambitious – permanent measures to remove traffic in the vicinity of school gates, to widen pavements, ban dangerous turning manoeuvres, make crossings safer, etc.
- The limited closure of some city centre streets to motor traffic (eg Cockburn Street) is generally welcomed, especially where they contribute to the vision of the City Centre Transformation. We therefore support making all these closures permanent, with proper management and enforcement. They should use quality materials and street furniture, instead of temporary and ugly barriers, signs on yellow 1,000kg blocks, etc.
- We also strongly support the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in principle, to reduce the dominance of motor traffic in residential areas. However, there needs to be a sufficient degree of public support for them to operate effectively in local communities, and we need to understand the impacts of any displaced traffic on adjacent streets and neighbourhoods. We are pleased to have representation in the three areas currently being considered as an LTN (East Craigs, South Corstorphine and Leith). Similarly, where there is local support, significant benefits for cycling or walking and no unacceptable other impacts, we would support the closure to motor traffic of suburban/residential roads (such as Silverknowes Road, Braid Road etc).
- We support the retention and enhancement of segregated cycle ways where they have demonstrated success, or potential for success. Success measures should include how safe they are (for cyclists as well as other road users), how well they are used, the impact on other road users (especially buses and disabled motorists and passengers), and the contribution they make to a joined-up strategic cycle network. There are some places (perhaps Ferry Road and the Mound are examples), where the pavement adjacent to the cycle lanes is too narrow and should be made wider. If making a cycle way permanent reduced the likelihood of addressing inadequate pavements, then this would be a concern to us.
- We are unhappy with some impacts of SfP measures on bus services and do not support their retention as currently implemented. For example, on George IV Bridge, while we support the continuation of the wider footways and cycleways in principle, the removal of busy bus stops (eg southbound near Chambers Street) and shelters, and the dysfunctional bus boarders are all regrettable. We also oppose the loss of important bus lanes, eg northbound on Bruntsfield Place and Leven Street, where the space has been used for new walking / cycling lanes despite most of the footway already being of reasonable width. Assuming that Edinburgh streets once again become busy with locals and visitors, bus services will resume their central role in keeping the city moving.
- In summary:
• We support the principle of retaining Spaces for people schemes and reducing the dominance of motor traffic on city streets (both when moving and when parked).
• We especially want to see:
- permanent, ‘proper’ wider pavements on busy streets (especially ‘town centres’)
- traffic signals and pedestrian crossings changed to give pedestrians more priority
- streets at schools improved to encourage active travel and especially walking
- city centre traffic management schemes retained and enforced.
• We generally support retention of:
- cycle lanes
- residential street closures
- Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
(subject to understanding local community views, any negative impacts on other road users/areas and the extent of their use/potential use).
• We don’t support:
- measures which adversely affect bus passengers, unless there are compelling reasons why these are necessary to achieve other important objectives
- making ‘automatic phases’ on pedestrian crossings permanent.
The City of Edinburgh Council is in the early stages of presenting a plan called Corstorphine Connections to improve walking, wheeling and cycling in the south Corstorphine area. So far, there are no plans to comment on but we would like to submit some key areas for improvement with respect to walking and wheeling around the area.
LSE has walkability criteria that we have accessed against south Corstorphine and would like the following to be addressed for the scheme delivery.
The pedestrian conditions in this area are currently very poor on some important streets and the entire area is dominated by traffic, making pedestrian movement difficult and unpleasant.
Convenient pedestrian crossing points
St John’s Road
Pedestrian crossing points are generally poor. We have timed some key crossing points:
|Crossing over SJR near Station road
Green man – 6 seconds
Waiting time – 1 min 20 seconds
|Crossing over Clermiston Road at SJR
Green man – 5 seconds
Waiting time – 1 min 28 seconds
This means a pedestrian heading along St John’s Road and looking to cross the road will have a waiting time of 2 minutes 40 seconds to get over one junction with 11 seconds to cross 6 lanes of traffic.
Crossing at White lady on SJR
- Green man – 5 secs
- Waiting time – 1min 30 seconds
This crossing is frequently used by pedestrians yet has a very long wait and mere seconds to get over the road.
|Suggested Action: Improve pedestrian crossing times on St John’s Road.
Saughton Road North
This is a fast and busy road. At the moment there are only two pelican crossings along this entire residential stretch of the south Corstorphine area, with a third (slow) pelican crossing point at the junction with Broomhouse Road.
|Suggested Action: Additional pelican crossing point on Sycamore Terrace as a minimum. Improve pelican crossing time at Broomhouse Road.
Corstorphine High Street/Ladywell Road
This is a fast and busy road. There is only one pelican crossing along this entire stretch, which has a range of community amenities including doctors’ surgery, nurseries, primary school, church, greenspace and community hall.
|Suggested Action: Upgrade pedestrian refuge to pelican crossing on Ladywell Road.
Meadow Place Road
The crossing treatment for getting over the junction at Meadow Place Road/Ladywell Road is abysmal for pedestrians. If you are heading to Tesco on foot on the south side of Ladywell Road you have to wait to get across five pelican crossings. Any pedestrian looking to cross this junction to/from Ladywell Road has no less than three points to cross.
|Suggested Action: Assess this junction for improved pedestrian movement and reduce waiting times.
Traffic-light crossing points along this road are not very frequent. This is a busy and fast road with two high schools and should have better provision.
|Suggested Action: Provide pelican crossing on south-side of the overpass.
Non-traffic light junctions
Junction treatments throughout the area makes crossing the road difficult for pedestrians. Junctions often have wide bellmouths, lots of traffic, narrow pavements, poor road surface and a lack of dropped kerbs. They also sometimes have poor sightlines.
Problem junctions include:
|Ladywell Avenue/Featherhall Avenue
Manse Road/High Street
Kirk Loan/Sycamore Terrace
Dovecot Road/Ladywell Avenue
Drum Brae roundabout
|Dovecot Road/Meadowhouse Road
Castle Avenue/Tyler’s Acre Road
Meadowhouse Road/Lamp Acre Road
Ladywell Road/Meadow Place Road
|Suggested Action: Tighten junction radii, provide continuous footway across residential junctions feeding onto High Street, Ladywell Road, Saughton Road North, St John’s Road.
Pavements throughout the south Corstorphine area are less than minimum width as described by CEC’s Street Design Guidance.
Some important pedestrian desire lines have incredibly narrow pavements. Problem streets include:
Corstorphine High Street
Sections of St Johns Road
Sections of Saughton Road North
Sections of Meadow Place Road
Generally, most residential streets in the whole south Corstorphine area are narrower than 2 metres as a bare minimum as per Street Design Guidance.
|Suggested Action: Widen pavements on key pedestrian thoroughfares and desire lines, especially around schools and retail.
Pavement clutter and barriers are common. Examples include:
- Residential bins on St Johns Road
- Much pavement clutter on St Johns Road, which we covered in our pedestrian clutter audit of the area and submitted to CEC
- Guardrails at north end of Kirk Loan, the south ends of Meadow Place Road and Saughton Road North
- Guardrails narrowing access points on toucan crossing on Meadow Place Road
- Barriers on Quiet Route 9 at Ladiebridge, Traquair Alley and the Paddockholm.
- Steps to access Traquair Alley from Corstorphine Road
- Bollards at junction between Station Road and Meadowhouse Road
|Suggested Action: Remove clutter, barriers and guardrails, replace wheelie bins with communal bins on St John’s Road
Pavement parking and parking across dropped kerbs is another common problem. Hotspots for this behaviour include:
- Pavement parking on Corstorphine High Street (so common you can see it on Google Streetview)
- Pavement parking on north section of Kirk Loan, especially next to the retail units (so common you can see it on Google Streetview)
- Parking over dropped kerb on Broomhall Avenue (so common you can see it on Google Streetview)
- Pavement parking throughout much of Carrick Knowe.
|Suggested Action: Provide double yellow lines over dropped kerbs to stop inconsiderate parking, widen pavements, if appropriate and not cluttering pavement provide bollarding to stop pavement parking
Quality of footway surface can be poor, due to lack of maintenance and pavement parking. Some examples of this include:
- South side of Meadowhouse Road from Saughton Road North junction.
- Tree roots rendering the off-road path at Pinkhill difficult to negotiate for people who require mobility aids
- Featherhall Avenue
- Most of Carrick Knowe residential streets
|Suggested Action: Improve footway surfaces
Other points of note
LSE Edinburgh members live in this area and are aware of the following “rat runs”, that make getting about as a pedestrian more difficult. We think it is important these cut throughs are addressed, as they increase traffic in the area and make residential streets less accessible for walking and wheeling.
- From Saughton Road North, cutting through Meadowhouse Road, Pinkhill to Corstorphine Road (and the opposite direction).
- From Saughton Road North, cutting through Castle Avenue, Ladywell Avenue (south) to Meadow Place Road (and the opposite direction).
- From Saughton Road North, cutting through Dovecot Road, Ladywell Avenue (south) to Meadow Place Road.
- From Corstorphine High Street, cutting through Manse Road to St John’s Road.
- From Corstorphine High Street, cutting through Featherhall Avenue to St John’s Road (and the opposite direction)
- From St John’s Road, cutting through Kirk Loan to Sycamore Terrace.
- From Meadow Place Road, cutting through Featherhall Crescent South and Featherhall Avenue onto High Street.
- From Saughton Road North, cutting through Corstorphine Park Gardens, Station Road onto St John’s Road (and the opposite direction).
- From Saughton Road North, cutting through Meadowhouse Road, Station Road onto St John’s Road (and the opposite direction).
Some of these driver cut throughs are particularly problematic for families looking to walk to school. Featherhall Avenue, Ladywell Avenue, Kirk Loan and Manse Road are problem streets for families walking to Corstorphine Primary School. Meadowhouse Road is problematic for Carrick Knowe Primary School.
|Suggested Action: Introduce filtered permeability to keep rat-running drivers to main roads.
Living Streets Edinburgh Group very much welcomes this scheme, which will secure a big improvement in the quality of the public realm – with particular benefits for the safety and convenience of walking, in line with the latter’s place at the top of the Scottish Government’s ‘Sustainable Travel Hierarchy’.
We are surprised that footway widths are not specified, although we understand that in the new design ‘the north footway [of Newbattle Terrace] varies from 2.25 to 3.5m, with a couple of pinch points of around 2m’ and ‘the south footway is 3.0 – 3.1m, with a pinch point of 2.9m.’ This is reasonably in line with the Council’s ‘Street Design Guidance’ (SDG) which stipulates that the footway width should be an ‘absolute minimum’ width of 2m, ‘only allowed in short sections’.
The footprint of the scheme has been extended northwards up Pitsligo Road as far as the junction with Woodcroft Road, in order to accommodate a new contraflow cycle lane. The latter is welcome in itself, but should be matched by a widening of the parallel footways on this section (currently only 1.5-1.55m wide) in order to satisfy the ‘absolute minimum’ of 2m laid down in the SDG. The Convenor of the Council’s Transport & Environment Committee emphasised at the recent launch of the ‘Cut the Pavement Clutter’ project that the SDG ‘must be applied’ to all schemes, and noted the Council’s ‘wall to wall’ approach, ie not just upgrading the road carriageway, but also enhancing the parallel footways.
The creation of a continuous footway along the north side of Newbattle Terrace at the Pitsligo Road junction is very welcome, but pedestrian passage over the continuous footway should be protected by (i) road markings warning southbound (downhill) cyclists to give way to pedestrians, and (ii) tactiles at the edge of the former footway lines (to indicate to people with visual disabilities that vehicles and cycles cross this area – vehicles northbound only, and cyclists in both directions).
We suggest that any vehicle flow displacement on to Clinton Road should be monitored, and, if necessary, further action should be taken to deal with any problems caused by displaced traffic.