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Tackling Pavement Clutter: Concluding Report by Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Introduction

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:

226 bollards
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.

Recommendations

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
August 2021

Living Streets Edinburgh Response to Corstorphine Connections Consultation

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. 

Walkability criteria

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

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
  • 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.

Pedestrian crossing report

In autumn 2020, we carried out some surveys of pedestrian crossings in Edinburgh to see how long people walking had to wait for a ‘green man’ signal, and how long they had to cross the road when the ‘green man’ was on.  We found that, at many busy junctions, people have to wait far too long to cross the road safely and often have only seconds to get to the other side.

We have sent this report to the Council and asked them to introduce more pedestrian priority at signalled junctions as a matter of urgency under the Spaces for People scheme to aid social distancing, and also make longer-term changes to give more priority to pedestrians, rather than motor vehicles.

We have now  expanded and updated this report (October 2021), adding many more pedestrian crossings across the city, and also adding the comments of volunteers who carried out the timings. We will keep pressing for not only for improvements to the worst crossings where the waiting time to cross the road is quite unacceptable, but also to crossings generally across the city. We are looking for a culture change that puts pedestrians before traffic!

Promoting walking during social distancing (supplementary paper)

1) Introduction

This paper supplements the ‘5 Point Plan’ we produced on 7 May 2020, outlining steps we’d like to see to make walking attractive, safe and accessible during the Coronavrus crisis and its aftermath. It should be read in conjunction with that Plan: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2020/05/09/a-5-point-plan-for-city-of-edinburgh-council-to-promote-walking-during-social-distancing/

We want to see early implementation of the measures outlined in the Council Report and amendment approved on 14 May, especially those which focus most on walking improvements: widening pavements, improving crossings, etc https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=135&MId=5511&Ver=4.

This paper adds to the suggestions in the ‘5 Point Plan’ following further feedback and highlights some specific locations we’d like to see given early and urgent attention to. Living Streets Edinburgh Group is keen to contribute ideas on how Edinburgh should respond, in line with council decisions of 14 May.

2) Pavement Widening

In addition to those already suggested, we want to see consideration given to widening pavements in all of Edinburgh’s ‘town centres’. These are now experiencing queuing on pavements as more shops open and often leave insufficient space for people walking.  Key public transport routes (notably at Waverley and Haymarket) should also be given priority. Other streets which should be widened include Broughton Street and Balgreen Rpad.

3) Road closures

Our ‘five point plan’ suggested closing many residential roads through barriers (‘filters’, which allow people to walk or cycle through) – rather than by banning motor traffic completely, (as at Silverknowes Road, Braid Road etc).  We would like to see a response to this suggestion which could transform many neighbourhoods.

We don’t support the plan to close Viewforth (canal section) to motor traffic, owing to the impact this will have on Yeaman Place, a busy pedestrian street (outside of school times) which is full or parked cars and lacking in any kind of pedestrian crossing facilities. We would prefer to see Yeaman Place itself closed; or at least with mitigation measures such as formal pedestrian crossings introduced.

We want to see the council to show some urgency re-opening the established right of way at Holy Corner, Bruntsfield/Morningside (McLaren’s pub, the former Bank of Scotland).  Signature pubs have illegally blocked this Right of Way for over six months and yet the council has taken no enforcement action, despite the added need for social distancing on the busy, narrow pavement.

4) Guardrails

We welcome the council’s plans to start removing some guardrails as part of temporary cycle schemes (such as Crewe Road South, Old Dalkeith Road). Guardrail removal should not be solely as part of cycle schemes but should also be undertaken where it has particularly adverse impacts on walking.  There are numerous suggestions for guardrail removal in the ‘Tackling Pavement Clutter’ reports sent to Locality Roads Managers in 2019. Other specific locations we want to see guardrails removed are:

  • Morrison Street / Gardners Cres (with associated widened footway). Also north side of Morrison Street, east of Dewar Place.
  • Slateford Road between Ashley Terrace and Robertson Ave (with associated widened footway).
  • Roseburn Street under rail bridge (with associated widened footway).
  • Murrayburn Road (West of Hailsland Road).
  • Polwarth (at roundabout).
  • Colinton Mains Road (at Tesco roundabout)
  • West Port (North side).

5) Enforcement

Many LS supporters have asked for more enforcement of traffic laws, especially speeding (a police matter). Parking enforcement is also going to become even more important to ensure that temporary pavements and cycle lanes are not compromised by illegal parking, loading or waiting. We suggest that a zero tolerance approach is take to such infringements (ie removing any ‘grace period’) so that motorists quickly understand that new traffic restrictions will be enforced rigorously.

In some areas, traffic calming should be introduced. In recent years, there has been too little focus on engineering measures to support compliance with speed limits and we would like to see measures introduced in speeding problem areas.

6) Schools

Although it appears that schools will not generally begin to open until mid-August, we want to see early planning for school re-opening. Measures that should be considered include:

  • extension of the Council’s ‘School Streets’ initiative to ban cars from near the entrances to more schools;
  • engagement with Police Scotland to ensure that a degree of police presence is available to achieve effective enforcement of traffic laws;
  • very clear and early messaging to parents encouraging children to walk, scoot, wheel or cycle. Car drop-off’s should be explicitly discouraged, and not permitted in the vicinity of school gates.

7) Other measures

We have not yet seen any response to our request for removal of street clutter as a ‘quick win’ to aid walking and social distancing. As with guardrails the Council already has a policy of de-cluttering which should be accelerated at the present time.

We want to see public campaigns by the council asking residents to cut back hedges which block pavements and are illegal. Many residents probably do not realise this, or the problems that encroaching vegetation can cause. The council should also take enforcement measures itself, recovering costs where voluntary compliance cannot be achieved.  Due regard should be given to protecting wildlife and nesting birds in particular.

We want to see urgent improvements for people to cross the road, especially in reducing ‘wait times’ for the green man. We look forward to seeing a list of locations where these will be trialled as soon as possible.

A 5 point plan for City of Edinburgh Council to promote walking during social distancing

Introduction

It is currently impossible for pedestrians to maintain social distancing on many Edinburgh streets, which have pavements that are not wide enough.  As ‘lockdown’ measures are eased, but social distancing requirements maintained with more people on the street, it will be even more vital to increase the amount of safe space for walking. This will be a particular challenge when schools eventually re-open. Wider measures – notably to encourage cycling – will also be needed when lockdown measures are eased to ensure safe, efficient transport, with a likely reduction in the capacity of Edinburgh’s bus network. However, now more than ever, action is needed to ensure that walking’s place at the top of travel hierarchies is put into practice.

This paper focus on five immediate measures to encourage walking.   Many of these measures could be introduced at little cost while the additional £10m funding from the Scottish Government could be used to fund others, including the removal of larger, more complex structures such as the obsolete ‘real-time’ parking displays.

There are a number of resources which the Council has commissioned in recent years which contain specific suggestions to improve the walking environment on streets, such as the ‘Street Life Assessments’, ‘Street Reviews’ by Living Streets Scotland and the recent work by LSEG on ‘Tackling Street Clutter’. We recommend that these resources are revisited and used to guide immediate measures.

 

1) Pavement Widening

We want to see a programme of temporary pavement widening, focusing on high footfall streets such as ‘retail/high street’ and public transport corridors. The classification of streets in the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance provides a ready strategic framework to assist in identifying such streets. This will in places require removal of parking/loading/waiting permissions. To complement this process, the following streets have been identified as potential candidates by the LSEG Committee members and also from social media (see especially:

  • South Bridge/Nicolson Street/Clerk Street
  • Great Junction Street
  • Ferry Road
  • St Johns Road/A8
  • Queensferry Road
  • George IV Bridge
  • London Road
  • Easter Road
  • Dalry Road
  • Milton Road East
  • Lower Granton Road
  • Niddrie Mains Road
  • Raeburn Place
  • Morningside Road
  • Morrison Street
  • Captains Road
  • Liberton Road
  • Burdiehouse Road
  • Frogston Road
  • Comiston Road
  • Colinton Road

 

2) Road closures

In residential areas, many streets could be closed to through traffic, while retaining access by motor vehicles to/for residents through barriers (‘filters’). This will reduce traffic on local streets, making walking and cycling safer. This may apply particularly in residential areas (eg Oxgangs, Bingham, Lochend, Stenhouse etc).

 

3) Guardrails

Guardrails which hem in pedestrians over long stretches of pavement (for example, Slateford Road bridge) are particularly inappropriate at present. The Council already has a presumption against these features unless there is a compelling need, but Edinburgh has a legacy of many such guardrails from earlier, outdated street design philosophies. A programme of removal should be introduced immediately to accelerate the removal of inappropriate guardrails.

 

4) Decluttering

Removal of streets clutter is a ‘quick win’ to aid walking and social distancing. As with guardrails the Council already has a policy of de-cluttering which should be accelerated at the present time. This could include ‘sweeps’ of roads to remove old roadworks debris such as traffic cones, sandbags, old signs etc which litter many streets, and also removal of redundant and empty signage poles (many of which have been notified to locality teams as part of LSEG’s ‘tackling Street clutter’ project).

 

5) Signals

Traffic signals, including signalled pedestrian crossings, should be reconfigured so as to give pedestrians priority – eg immediate ‘green man’, increased crossing time, single crossing of staggered crossings, etc. This will aid walking movement and also reduce the risk of pedestrian congestion at lights, islands, etc.