Reflections on the Low Traffic Neighbourhood from an East Craigs resident
You always have a sense of unease when walking or cycling around Edinburgh West. Residents here are very aware of the proximity of strategic road transport networks in all directions, commercial districts popping up and huge developmental pressure on the green belt.
On the arterial routes that encase the East Craigs community, you feel one wrong step, a mis-timed mirror check or mis-placed pedal could, at any point, lead immediately to fatal collision. Everyone in the area has a story regarding their own near miss. For parents of young children, the sense of dread is amplified.
So is it any wonder that, as a resident, I should speak in favour of any traffic-calming or traffic-reducing proposals that protect residents from the development pressures in every direction? While such proposals were once firmly placed on the table by the Council, now, following a legislative back and forth on statutory consultation, we are back to square one, with nothing to show. There is currently no available option to move away from the status quo of increasing the neighbourhood’s exposure to congestion and the risk of pedestrian fatality. All plans have been dropped.
How we arrived at this point is explained by the fact that such measures were not initially proposals at all, but concrete plans brought forward by the Council under emergency legislation. The council mis-read the signs of what was being vocalised by the community, on what was deemed to be insufficient consultation. This was likely the spark that lit the powder keg of objections, led by voicesacross social media who would rather see nothing happen at all.
Make no mistake, that there will be a place in society for car transport for years to come, and we at Living Streets Edinburgh and many advocates of active travel, recognise fully the importance of car transport for those with specific mobility issues. However, what must be considered is that our community is part of a wider city and in the regional crossroads of a country recovering from a pandemic and subject to significant developmental pressures. Having a choice of transport options available to get around is therefore essential, not least for those in the area that can’t afford to buy and run a car.
Inaction is not an option. To achieve the national and local objectives of mitigating climate change, local air pollution, congestion and adverse health consequences of our collective transport choices, meanwhile fostering community, we have to see some degree of intervention from our local authorities. Interventions that prioritise pedestrians and active travel is essentially a ‘buy one, get five free’.
The common ground is that we all seek solutions to our local transport problems, so we have to have faith in any sort of process that challenges the status quo. Living Streets Edinburgh looks forward to the continued progress of the West Edinburgh Link, permanency of the SfP measures introduced thus far, and future proposals within East Craigs that encourage a modal shift to active travel and links with public transport. Placemaking and improvement should be at the heart of these proposals to encourage less everyday car use. Linking the community to other parts of the area is also sought, and the Council should consider safer and direct pedestrian crossings across all the busy arterial routes for more everyday access to the amenity in the wider area.
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.