For our latest street audit, Living Streets activists focussed on the sprawling roundabout where Polwarth Gardens and Polwarth Crescent converge, and on the associated ‘rat run’ along Polwarth Crescent and Yeaman Place.
We identified a wide range of problems faced by pedestrians at a large number of locations (38) along a relatively short length of street corridor. The most frequent problem was narrow pavements which fail to meet the City Council’s own ‘Street Design Guidance’. Overall we found that the general dominance (speed, volume, noise etc) of motor traffic makes this a largely unpleasant place for pedestrians. The biggest concentration of pedestrian-unfriendly features are at and around the roundabout – and we advocate a major reduction in carriageway space here to make this a much more attractive place to live, shop, work, and linger.
We hope that our illustrated report (link) will stimulate discussion among local people and at Merchiston Community Council – and lead on to action by the City of Council to make pedestrian safety and convenience the top priority locally.
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.
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:
Manse Road Station Road Sycamore Terrace Corstorphine High Street Ladywell Road Ladywell Avenue
Featherhall Avenue Sections of St Johns Road Sections of Saughton Road North Kirk Loan Meadowhouse Road 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
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.
Due for approval by the Transport and Environment Committee on 19 February 2021, this Plan will guide the Council’s transport plans and investment over the next decade to 2030. The fundamental message is the need to shift how we move about, by reducing traffic, and increasing options for walking, cycling and public transport. With Edinburgh still growing fast, this can only be the right path to follow. Present levels of traffic cannot be sustained and already have a severe negative impact on the city; for example in terms of congestion, on public health and safety and the quality of the environment in all senses. It is good to see a heightened level of ambition in investment in public transport, especially an extended tram network and in the city centre public realm, so we unambiguously give our support to the Council in adopting, and of course implementing, the Plan’s goals.
We have two main reservations – and these are significant ones. Unlike the previous Local Transport Strategy, the CMP contains no targets for ‘modal share’. It seems extraordinary that there is no assessment of whether those previous targets were met, and if not, why? The intention is to provide targets in a future ‘Technical Note’. But modal share targets are fundamental to a transport strategy, not a technical detail. The interventions required to double the use of walking, cycling or public transport for example, will be very different to the interventions required to bring about a 10% increase.
Secondly, we remain sceptical that the Council grasps the scale of the challenge in renewing the pedestrian environment so that it is fit for purpose by 2030. There are a number of welcome comments about the importance of walking – for example by confirming walking’s primacy at the ‘top of the travel hierarchy’ (p24) and noting that “Walking is by far the most common way of making local journeys (i.e. to the shops, post office, doctors) in the city” (p31). But all over Edinburgh, there are pavements barely a metre wide, frequently with poor surfaces and blocked by all kinds of obstructions; with wide junction splays at side roads often without dropped kerbs. Pedestrians are hemmed into cramped ‘town centre’ pavements, which are at the heart of local communities. Tackling this legacy from 50 or more years ago must be central to making Edinburgh the truly world-class walkable city that it could and should be – pavements are far more important for everyday walking and wheeling for most people than shared walk/cycle ‘active travel’ routes.
The Plan’s main policy measure (#14) for ‘everyday walking’ is a timid “Enhance and where necessary expand the walking/wheeling networks to serve and connect key destinations across the city”. This completely fails to acknowledge the dire state of pavements across the city in residential areas, not only ‘key destinations’. There appears to be nothing about transforming the pedestrian environment in the Implementation Plan, where the ambition appears to be no more than ‘to maintain paths and streets’ within current budgets. Instead, we’d like to see an additional commitment that by 2030, all city pavements (except any formally exempted for specific reasons) meet the Council’s own standards, as set out in the excellent Street Design Guidance.
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.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the various schemes to widen pavements in shopping streets (eg Corstorphine, Portobello, Morningside etc). This is a general response to all these schemes, although where we are able to, we will add supplementary comments on specific streets/locations.
First of all, we strongly support the initiative to widen pavements, which in many ‘town centre’ streets are grossly inadequate. This can only be done in many cases by removing on-street parking and loading, except for essential requirements (such as Blue Badge spaces where appropriate). We appreciate that some shops will want to see these parking and loading spaces retained, but crowded narrow pavements cannot possibly be an attractive environment for encouraging shoppers, may of whom arrive on foot or by public transport. Too much space in high streets is occupied by stationary vehicles.
We welcome the acknowledgment of the problems caused by clutter and guard rails and would encourage the council to take a much more vigorous approach to removing or relocating items including unnecessary phone boxes, royal mail boxes, telecoms cabinets etc as well as vertical signage on poles, many of which are no longer required since the Traffic Sign Regulations were changed in 2016. Decluttering should take account of the various surveys and audits which Living Streets and others have carried out in recent years in many of the locations.
Design details will need to carefully consider and monitor access at bus stops especially for disabled people. We generally support bus priority measures including bus gates.
Where more outdoor space for businesses is provided (eg ‘tables and chairs’) it is essential that adequate clear space is provided for pedestrians and that the benefits to walking of widened footways are not swallowed up by added obstructions. It may be that ‘tables and chairs’ should normally be on reclaimed carriageway space, allowing the pavements themselves to be kept clear.
While we appreciate that these are temporary measures which need to be installed urgently, the extensive use of cones, barriers etc will make many streets look like roadworks, and thus risk making shopping streets look pretty ugly – if we actually want them to contribute to moving discussion forward it’s important that opportunities are taken to make things look better. Suitable gateway features / signage information for the public on the purpose / benefits of the scheme would be useful.
Effective management of schemes is essential, so that cones or barriers that fall over are quickly dealt with. Enforcement of parking and speeding, including a visible role of Police Scotland is important too.
Temporary bike parking should be installed at suitable locations, where they do not add to pavement clutter.
Monitoring of schemes must collect robust data on walking/footfall.