Below is the Living Streets Edinburgh response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Road Safety in Nov 2020
Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) strongly supports the concept of ‘summertime streets’; ie closing streets to motor traffic during the festival to create more space for people to walk in safety to enjoy Edinburgh, its sights, shows, shops, bars etc and to make a better environment for local residents. LSEG first called for such measures in 2015: https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2015/11/16/car-free-edinburgh-for-festival-for-2016/. We have the following observations to make on specific locations.
Cockburn Street, Victoria Street
These streets were well stewarded and in our view worked best. However, we are not clear why there were so many cars parked in Cockburn Street in particular. The ugly metal barriers used block off the streets to vehicles should be replaced by ones which are more ‘people-friendly’ and show clearly that walking is permitted (and indeed encouraged!)
Our feedback was generally positive on this street. However, many tour coaches ignored the ban with apparent impunity and this requires better management.
Summertime Streets was not a success in the Cowgate. As was amply demonstrated on social media, the ban on motor traffic was completely ignored by many drivers, including licensed private hire cars and taxis. There was usually little if any staff present to manage the restrictions. Pavement parking was rife (as in previous years) and the police appeared to show no appetite to deal with the frequent ‘moving vehicle offences’. The restrictions in our view should start from 12.00 midday or 14.00, with all servicing of bars, restaurants etc taking place before then. Appropriate access to courts, the mortuary etc could be provided through special arrangements, use of Guthrie Street etc.
This was also unsatisfactory. Taxis and many tourist coaches use the roundabout at the foot of Castle Hill to turn, completely undermining the ‘car-free’ environment of the Lawnmarket. Stewards, who had the difficult job of managing this conflict, were frequently observed shouting at pedestrians to get out of the way of vehicles. Vehicles should therefore be banned entirely from Johnston Terrace during the traffic restriction period.
High Street/South Bridge
We were pleased to see barriers providing wider walking space on the west side of South Bridge near the Tron – a high-risk space for pedestrians. We note the problems reported by residents about diversion of bus routes on the Canongate and would not object to buses (but not general traffic, including taxis) continuing to use the street during the festival. At the other end of the High Street, the police appeared to be prioritising vehicles exiting from St Giles Street over pedestrians – this section of the High Street (to Bank St/George IV St) needs to be improved. There should be no vehicle access to Parliament Square during the festival, allowing this grossly under-valued space to be better used by people on foot.
We welcome the Council’s introduction of traffic restrictions in 2019. However, we want to see the idea improved and extended in 2020 particularly by:
- extending the hours of traffic closures;
- extending the traffic closures to more streets; and
- improving enforcement/staffing of traffic restrictions.
16th August letter to Councillor Lesley Macinnes
Dear Councillor Macinnes
We are very pleased to see some real debates starting in earnest about a vision for Edinburgh where people (pedestrians!) take precedence over traffic and look forward to participating in these discussions over the coming months.
Meanwhile, there is one important matter to which we wanted to draw your attention, concerning the motion on tram safety which you put to full Council of 29 June last year. This essentially called for a “thorough infrastructure review…to improve pedestrian and cycling safety”. A consultation was carried out by the Council in response to your motion, but this dealt with cycling safety alone. Our response focussed on the need to respond to your motion by also considering pedestrian safety: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2018/04/10/edinburgh-tram-route-cycle-safety-consultation-comments-by-lse
We were then further disappointed to see walking safety considerations and improvements once more entirely ignored in the Council’s summary of the consultation responses, which again dealt solely with cycling safety: https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/sfc/tram-route-cycle-safety-improvements/
We subsequently raised these concerns directly with the Active Travel Team; however, we were unable to convince them that a wider remit for the project to include the safety and convenience of pedestrians was as necessary as that of cyclists. Discussion on the walking aspects of the project seem purely incidental. So far the sole focus has been on managing the potentially negative impacts for pedestrian movement as a result of cycling improvements, eg loss of footway space.
While we recognise how important it was to respond to the tragic death of the cyclist Zhi Min Soh, we don’t regard the overall Council response to your motion as acceptable. There are considerably more pedestrians injured on Princes Street and other roads than cyclists. We would therefore like to request two actions:
- Could you ask officials to revisit the review to highlight measures which address pedestrian safety and convenience along the tram route, as required by your motion to Council?
- Would you consider appointing a councillor as a ‘walking champion’ for the Council, in a similar role to the cycling champion? We feel that this might be a useful measure to ensure that pedestrian interests are given more attention than is often the case currently, where ‘active travel’ effort focuses principally on cycling, and does not give sufficient weight to walking.
Convenor, Living Streets Edinburgh Group
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.
The main general point that we would want to make in relation to this consultation is that, while we understand the urgent need to review the tram routes in the light of the legitimate concerns for the safety of cyclists, the main victims of road vehicle collisions are pedestrians. Their needs should be at the forefront of thinking on improvements to the tram route, bearing in mind also that 99% of tram users access the tram on foot (or wheelchair). The motion to Council by Cllr Macinnes in June explicitly aimed to enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety and convenience (our emphasis); this initiative should therefore be named as ‘Tram Route Pedestrian and Cycle Safety Consultation’.
However there is little in this proposal to address the specific needs of pedestrians and we want to see much more vigorous action to address a number of long-standing problems which pedestrians face on the tram route in the city centre. In particular, we have frequently drawn attention to the unacceptably long wait times that people walking along Princes Street face when trying to cross adjoining streets such as Frederick Street, Hanover Street and South St David Street. We strongly recommend that the pedestrian phases are reviewed at all signalled junctions along Princes Street (and indeed along the entire route, for example at Haymarket). The aim would be to reduce the wait times for pedestrians to cross and if necessary increase ‘green man’ times and the frequency of crossing opportunities. Making these improvements will in turn increase pedestrian safety, as it will reduce the incidence of ‘red man’ crossing, which is encouraged by the unacceptably long times that people have to wait for the pedestrian phase.
The detailed design of the controversial Picardy Place traffic scheme must ensure that it is safe and convenient for people to get around the area on foot, says the local walking campaign group. Living Streets Edinburgh  has responded to the City Council’s decision to back the controversial gyratory roundabout design by setting out a detailed list of measures  which they say are essential to avoid conditions getting worse for pedestrians. David Spaven, Convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh, which campaigns for ‘everyday’ walking, commented:
‘It’s unacceptable that the Council should be proposing a design which would actually make life worse for pedestrians, through more circuitous road crossings, narrower footway sections, and cycling /walking conflicts where new cycleways bisect footways. So we’ve put together a two-page list of key design principles which would ensure that it will be easier for people to cross roads using direct routes and following desire lines.
‘A fundamental principle is that the design details must comply with the Council’s own Street Design Guidance, so, for example, footways should be at least 4 metres wide, providing plenty of space for pedestrians, pushchairs and people with disabilities.
‘Another big concern is the planned ‘Floating Bus Stops’ on Leith Street, which will bisect the east side footway and make life more difficult for bus passengers, unless the Council applies the highest possible design standards to avoid conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.’
 Living Streets Edinburgh Group is the local volunteer arm of the national charity campaigning for ‘everyday’ walking.
 Living Streets Edinburgh 2-page position statement on the detailed design of Picardy Place can be found here – Living-Streets-position-statement-Picardy-Place-detailed-design