“Active Travel Measures” – Deputation to Transport & Environment Committee

The following deputation was presented to the  Council’s Transport & Environment Committee on 14 October following discussions with local residents and with NTBCC members, along with several other deputations from a  wide range of community groups in relation to Agenda Item 7.1 ‘Active Travel Measures – Travelling Safely Update’ .

The community council’s principal concern is continuing lack of engagement in the process of reviewing the various measures introduced under the Spaces for People programme. These schemes have been in place in many cases for over a year and based on previous reports to committee, have been supposedly reviewed several times over that period of time. We have never been approached for comments about implemented schemes in our area. As a Community Council we believe that we can provide useful input from residents and businesses about how these measures are working but there is no process for us to do so. We understand the reasons why some of these schemes were introduced with little consultation but we are struggling to understand the rationale for this continued lack of engagement. We believe that in many cases the choice between retain or remove is too simple. There will be features of even the best scheme where improvement is possible and likewise in schemes scheduled for removal there will be elements that should be retained.  We urge the Council to put in place an effective and transparent engagement process that allows for local input to be considered prior to extending/modifying measures under an ETRO or indeed removing measures.

Our second concern is that the temporary measures are not suitable for long-term use. As noted many of the measures have been in place for over a year and if retained under an ETRO (Experimental Traffic Regulation Order) could be in place for around three years. For example, pavements have been extended but nothing has been done to make these areas either suitable or safe for those with mobility issues or visual impairment. From a recent discussion with a local resdient who escorts a blind person to church each week, she described  the difficulties now being experienced without proper pavements, lack of tactile paving and the absence of audio signals on temporary crossings. We believe that if measures are to be retained then the design should comply with the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

Overall the NTBCC are broadly supportive of the measures in our area but there are some issues that we would  want to highlight.

  • Waverley Bridge – as a consequence of the decision to make this a largely pedestrian area, the buses and coaches that used this street have been displaced to St Andrews Square and Regent Road. Neither of these streets is suitable for this purpose. The result has additional congestion and loss of pedestrian space. Given that the plan is to progress an ETRO to retain this measure, there needs to be an assessment of the impact on those displacement areas and suitable mitigation for any adverse impact included in any plans.
  • Princes Street (East) – we note the plan to retain the bus gate at this location but we are also aware of plans for this route to be used as a temporary diversion route for traffic while York Place is closed to west bound traffic for the trams project from mid 2022.  We suggest that the plans for this road to be used as a diversionary route are clarified before any decision is taken on progressing the ETRO. We have long argued that the pavement outside the Waverley Steps needs to be further widened to provide a safe route for pedestrians in a very congested area. (N.B. We are aware that the approved planning application for the Waverley Market (Mall) redevelopment in 2019 included a significant increase in the width of the pavement in front of the mall along Princes Street but this is has yet to be implemented).
  • London Road – we note that it is intended to retain the small sections of segregated cycle path along the south side of this road between Easter Road and Leith Walk. We have previously highlighted that there are better options for improving cyclist safety. We believe that it is critical that before a decision is taken on the future scheme that other options are properly considered especially in the light of the current tram works in this area.
  • Broughton Street – in June it was stated that the majority of the measures implemented on Broughton Street would be removed but now it is stated that a review will be undertaken prior to progressing an ETRO. We are not sure what has caused this change of direction and most importantly want to be fully engaged in any review. We have previously highlighted concerns raised in the Commonplace mapping regarding the lack of pavement space at the top of Broughton Street. Given the recent traffic management changes introduced for the trams project there is an ideal opportunity to address this issue now.
  • Broughton Roundabout – in June it was stated that the changes around this roundabout would be retained with modifications to  “amend materials for town centre location”. It is now stated that a review will be undertaken prior to progressing towards an ETRO and specific mention is made of improving pedestrian crossings. Given that we had highlighted the need to improve pedestrian crossings around the roundabout we welcome this addition but we are unclear about what is planned and how we can input into this review.
  • Bellevue to Canonmills – the report is focussed on the removal of the changes from Broughton Road to Canonmills but is silent on the other changes that have been introduced along this section of road. We are unclear about whether the segregated cycle lanes and pedestrian improvements are to be retained.

In conclusion we believe that effective engagement with Community Councils could significantly enhance the quality of the decisions that need to be taken regarding the retention of the various Spaces for People measures. One option would be to ensure that the Active Travel Forum recommences its meetings and that membership of this group is expanded to include Community Council representatives.

Given that there were no questions or comments from members of the committee, we assume that all of the points made above were fully accepted and understood.