In 2015, the City of Edinburgh Council adopted new Street Design Guidance. This sets out the standards and requirements for how the city’s streets are to be designed, maintained and managed. Fundamental to the Guidance is ‘walkability’ – wider pavements, less street clutter, less dominant traffic. “Everyone who manages, maintains, alters or reconstructs streets, including urban paths, will be expected to comply with the Guidance” (p8).
The Council classifies all Edinburgh streets: for example as “Retail/High Street”, “High Density Residential”, “Low Density Residential“ etc. It further classifies streets as ‘Strategic’, ‘Secondary’ or ‘Local’.
A minimum, and desirable, width applies for each different type of street. However, no pavement on any street should be less than 2 metres wide. Some key standards are:
Retail/High streets: “absolute minimum 2.5m (only allowed in short sections), general min 3m, desirable min 4m or wider”
High density residential (Strategic and secondary): “absolute min. 2m (only allowed in short sections), general minimum 2.5m, desirable min 3m or wider”
All streets: “absolute minimum of 2m (only allowed in short sections), general min of at least 2.5 m or wider.”
“Clear Walking Zone”
This is the space on a pavement that must be kept clear of *any* obstructions (lamp posts, A-boards, bins, bus shelters, signage poles, etc):
All streets: 1.5 metres minimum Clear Walking Zone
Cycling and walking campaign groups have welcomed the decision of the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) to look at new options to boost active travel in the re-design of the controversial Picardy Place / Leith Street junction associated with the St James Quarter development. Following a presentation  by a deputation from Living Streets Edinburgh  and Spokes , CEC’s new Transport and Environment Committee today backed a motion from Green Party Councillor, Chas Booth , which argued that:
‘ the redesign of a significant city centre junction and surrounding streets presents an opportunity for traffic reduction, development of active travel infrastructure, and improvement of the public realm’
The Committee agreed to receive a report within one Committee cycle, setting out options for achieving these objectives in Picardy Place and surrounding streets, and reporting on the decision-making processes to date on the Picardy Place junction, the proposed future decision making, and what the democratic oversight of the process has been to date.
David Spaven, Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh commented:
‘We’re delighted that the T & E Committee has decided to look at the options for better provision for cycling and walking at this important new junction. At present, conditions for active travel are highly sub-standard in the area – but we hope that all interested parties and the public at large can now work towards a final design which is both a symbolic and very practical demonstration of the importance of first, walking and cycling, and second, ‘place’ rather than ‘movement’, in a highly-visible and much-used area of the city centre.
‘The Census and other surveys show that the Council is making progress on its targets to reduce car use and to boost cycling, walking and public transport. It would be tragic if this success was jeopardised by a traffic-dominated design at this major city centre location.’
Martin McDonnell of Spokes commented:
‘There are a number of aspects of the currently proposed road design which give us cause for concern. We believe there is still too much emphasis on providing space for vehicles. While the provision of a dedicated cycle path and wider pavements is welcome, the cycle path and some pavements will narrower than they should be for these busy streets. It is also most unwise to incorporate shared cyclist / pedestrian space, particularly as many cyclists will be on ‘A to B’ journeys rather than mingling. This is a recipe for conflict, with the most vulnerable users (including pedestrians who are frail or have a disability) likely to come off worst.
‘Important green space and public realm (including mature trees) would be lost in front of the cathedral and on Picardy Place itself, in order to accommodate three lanes of traffic and the large island in the centre of the gyratory roundabout.
‘In light of concerns about the large gyratory intersection, which would be dangerous for cycling, and the loss of public space, we feel there is a great opportunity to explore removing the entire island at the centre of the proposed roundabout and the associated gyratory system from the design, thus creating improved conditions for cycling, and allowing the public realm and footway width to be increased on all three sides of the junction.
 Councillor Booth’s motion (with minor amendments, not shown here) was as follows:
Notes the decision of council on 10 March 2016 in regard to the regeneration of the St James Quarter, including a decision on the future governance of the Growth Accelerator Model (GAM) works programme and cross-party members’ oversight of the project;
Notes that the Edinburgh Tram Extension and Leith Programme all-party oversight group has not met since the council election in May;
Expresses concern at the lack of public consultation on changes to a significant element of the city’s transport infrastructure;
Agrees that full public consultation on proposed changes to the Picardy Place junction should take place as soon as possible;
Agrees that the redesign of a significant city centre junction and surrounding streets presents an opportunity for traffic reduction, development of active travel infrastructure, and improvement of the public realm;
Therefore agrees to receive a report within one cycle setting out options for achieving this in Picardy Place and surrounding streets, and that this report will also set out the decision-making process to date on Picardy Place, and the proposed future decision making, and in particular what the democratic oversight of the process has been.’
Some cycling campaigners have indicated that we are opposed to segregated cycle ways. This is categorically not the case. After walking most of the proposed Edinburgh East to West cycle route, and auditing the design, we have supported the vast majority of the proposal and recommended some detailed design improvements. However, we have concerns about two sections of the route, due to impacts on the safety and convenience of walking.
The first concern is that Roseburn Terrace will not be able to accommodate a well-designed cycle bypass / floating bus stop which minimises conflicts with pedestrians queuing, alighting from or getting on buses. Conflicts of this nature will not be good for cyclists either. So far, the experience of such infrastructure in the UK has not been good, especially TFL’s efforts in London, where Living Streets has observed significant problems at a number of busy high streets. We are especially concerned at the effect on elderly and disabled bus passengers who will not be expecting to encounter cyclists on alighting.
We have suggested an alternative route for this short section – which actually links better with the Family Friendly route through Roseburn Park. We also believe widening both pavements at Roseburn Terrace is a priority for improving the public realm and maximising active travel benefits. We suggest further work is needed with all parties on the design of this section of the route and are happy to work with cycling groups to understand their perspective and look at options which address our concerns.
Our second concern is that the east end of Princes Street proposal – running straight through the middle of the pavement – is highly problematic due to the sheer volume of pedestrians and the inevitable conflicts which would be created. We want to see re-allocation of road space to accommodate cycling and minimise conflicts.
We look forward to supporting the project as a whole and ensuring it maximises benefits to pedestrians as well as cyclists. Where there are problems, we will work constructively with other interests to resolve them.
Living Streets Edinburgh (LSE) campaigns for improved conditions for everyday walking in Edinburgh’s streets and public spaces. Walking is the most important transport mode in the city, since over half of all journeys by Edinburgh residents are made either entirely on foot (35%) or by bus (18%), the latter involving a walking stage. It is also the most socially inclusive mode – it’s as natural as breathing – and is critical to the city’s economy (including the important tourist sector).
1. Key principles
1.1 LSE is strongly supportive of measures to improve sustainable transport generally and will support segregated cycle routes where these do not adversely affect the safety and/or convenience of walking, and particularly where they provide general improvements to the walking environment as well. This is the case for the large majority of this route.
1.2 We have big concerns about ‘floating bus stops’, as – irrespective of any ameliorative measures – there will inevitably be some deterioration in the convenience and safety of walking, as pedestrians have to cross the cycle path from the pavement in order to access the bus stop. Our view is that no floating bus stops should be created in Edinburgh until after the evaluation of a pilot (with multiple safeguards) within the next phase of the Leith Walk upgrade (see separate submission to Anna Harriman at City of Edinburgh Council). Options to avoid these conflicts should be explored.
1.3 Walking in the city centre and bus use are closely linked. The impact of reduced bus priority needs to be considered in relation to journey times and air pollution impacts on pedestrians. We urge the council to view the project in a multi-modal context, which balances the needs of cyclists with bus users (as well as people on foot) – especially on busy bus routes.
Living Streets Edinburgh objection to planning reference 15/04445/FUL- Mixed use development comprising hotel, bar, restaurant, cafe, retail and commercial uses and alterations to India Buildings, 11-15 Victoria Street and Cowgatehead Church. | 1 -15 Victoria Street 18-20 Cowgate Edinburgh EH1 2EX
Living Streets Edinburgh has a number of concerns about this application, which lead us to object to it. Our reading of the application leads us to believe that the developer has not fully considered the implications of their proposal for pedestrians, and where they have considered them, they have ignored key issues.
Our main objection relates to the issue of loading/unloading in the Cowgate and Victoria Street, but we highlight below further concerns about access to bus stops, and general pedestrian accessibility.
Loading & Unloading
The planning application proposes that coaches and goods vehicles will use the Cowgate for loading/unloading of goods and people. They’ve included a very narrow loading bay to facilitate this. However, the Cowgate is simply not wide enough at this point to accomodate vehicle loading.
The proposed loading bay will take away valuable pavement space. The pavements in this area are already very narrow – and are on a busy road. They’re currently 1.8m (at the back of this site ), and yet the developers want to NARROW them further, which seems likely to take them to the very minimum advised in the council’s own street guidance, given that the Cowgate is demarcated as a secondary retail/high st.
At present, deliveries to the site use the lane at the back of the Central Library up to the back of ‘Espionage’. They do not use the street as in the current proposal. The Cowgate is one of the only east / west roads left in the city center open to general traffic. Any blockage would have major knock on effects through the Cowgate and Grassmarket. Any vehicle loading or unloading would cause severe congestion within minutes. The proposed narrow loading bay would not facilitate 2 way traffic.
As can be seen elsewhere in the Cowgate, delivery vehicles frequently park on the pavement, forcing pavement users into the road. The damage caused by delivery vehicles can be seen throughout the Cowgate. It would be extremely deleterious to the pedestrian experience of Edinburgh, as well as costly to the council, if this practice were to be expanded any further.
For example, at the back of the recently opened Soco development an attempt was made by developers to build a loading bay on the pavement. This has not worked as vehicles often take up the entire loading bay AND pavement, again blocking the pavement for legitimate users.
We also note that the site is within the night time road closures of Cowgate. There is no mention of this in the planning application. If a delivery vehicle or bus requires access 10pm till 6 am where do they park? If a vehicle does go through the no entry signs, parks on the Cowgate, how would it leave the site? Reverse out or drive through the closed road? Any of these options would again be disadvantageous to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians.
Narrow pavements and expanded footfall
This proposal will inevitably increase the number of pavement users on the Cowgate. No mention of this has been made in the application. To the east of this development the pavement narrows to just 85cm under George the 4th Bridge on both sides of the road. To the west pedestrians have to negotiate the very wide junction at the bottom of Victoria street.
With regards to Victoria Street the road narrows at the front of the development / behind the G&V Hotel. As can be seen in some of the photos in the application the pavements in this area have been badly damaged by delivery vehicles parking on them.
Victoria st junction
Any hotel guest trying to travel north will have to cross the 2 lanes of traffic at the top of Victoria Street. During the rush hour it can be difficult to cross this junction on foot. The increased number of vehicle movements on this street as a result of this development will only make the issue worse.
We are also concerned about the knock-on effects on Victoria St, which is likely to be used by coach or other delivery vehicles, especially those relying on SatNav. The street runs the risk of being overwhelmed if large vehicles attempt to negotiate this narrow street and become blocked.
Bus facilities- George IV bridge
The planning application makes note of the bus facilities nearby for use by its customers. It does not mention that you have to cross 4 lanes of heavy traffic on George IV bridge to get to them.
Our advice would be that if the development is approved, it should be on the condition that
An off-street loading / unloading / drop off point should be created off the Cowgate. The site is big enough for this. There’s an example of an off road delivery bay at the Smart City Hostel further along the Cowgate.
The pavements should be widened along this part of the site to at least the far side of the George the 4th Bridge.
A pelican crossing should be installed on George the 4th Bridge at the top of Victoria St to allow people to cross the road without having to walk up to the junction with the Royal Mile to be able to cross the road safely.
All pavements surrounding the site should be protected by bollards to prevent vehicles parking on the pavement. The upkeep and maintenance of these bollards and the paving stones should be met by the development.
During construction pedestrian traffic should be maintained on both sides of the road.
The bottom of Victoria Street at the junction with the Cowgate should be narrowed to allow pedestrians to cross the junction safely.
Along Victoria Street and the Cowgate more crossing points should be provided to allow pedestrians safer access to the development.