The Scottish Government have given Councils £10m to improve travel safety during the Covid-19 crisis and in the recovery phase. In addition to this, the UK Government has launched £2bn fund which will also support safer travel. These investments are really to solve two problems:
- Lots of people have embraced healthier lifestyles – more walking, jogging and cycling. However, footpaths are often too congested for people to keep a safe distance from others when walking and many cyclists are finding the roads unsafe.
- As the lockdown lifts, it appears unlikely (in the short term at least) that people will go back to using the bus as they did before. The Council therefore wants to make the city safer to walk and cycle.
The City of Edinburgh has received some criticism for failing to consult on how this money is being spent. This blog is about how I have consulted people in my Ward on the way forward.
Although the Council has done nothing in my ward yet to make walking and cycling safer, I have received many ideas from local residents for making travel easier for everyone. In short, these focus on making residential areas safer and improving safety for cyclists on key arterial routes through (and into) my Ward. Rather than take the proposals straight to the Council I wanted to give people a chance to rate the ideas and make further suggestions of their own. This is important as, hopefully, it will make the Council more likely to take the proposals seriously.
I complied a survey of all the ideas on Google Forms and issued it on my Blog and via my mailing list at around 8pm on Tuesday (5th of May). I did not share the blog post until 8pm on Wednesday (via Twitter – see below). I posted it on my Facebook page at around 8pm on Thursday.
Releasing the survey on this phased way meant that if it was somehow hijacked on social media, I would know the first 24 hours would not be impacted. The responses were as follows: Day 1 – 179, Day 2 – 63 and Day 3 – 50.
The people responding to the survey were encouraged to give their postcode and 175 did so. When plotted, it can be seen that the vast majority of the respondents live in my Ward.
Let me be clear, I think this is the most authoritative survey of the public in Edinburgh on how we improve safety on our footpaths and roads within the context of the Covid-19 crisis.
The survey focused on three key issues:
- Safer streets for residents – blocking rat runs.
- Extra protection for cyclists on key routes.
- Reviews of parking in key areas
Safer streets for residents – The focus of these proposals was making it safer for people in residential areas to move around by stopping drivers cutting through the area. People were asked if is this was a “Good Idea”, “Bad Idea” or if they were “Unsure”.
The results showed that there was overwhelming support for stopping vehicles using Oxgangs Road North as a local shortcut. When unsure responses were removed, there was also clear support for addressing the other local rat-runs.
Extra protection for cyclists on key routes – The focus of these proposals was making it safer for people using bikes to commute to elsewhere in the city. Again people were asked if is this was a “Good Idea”, “Bad Idea” or if they were “Unsure”.
The results showed that there was overwhelming support for improving routes for people on bikes. Even with “Unsure” responses included, there was a clear desire for cycle lanes to be introduced on key routes.
This question also asked if there was support for immediately reducing the speed limit on all 40mph roads in my Ward to 30mph – the response was clear.
Reviews of parking in key areas – The focus of these proposals was dealing with parking problems – those generated by the crisis (e.g. people driving to beauty spots to take exercise), and planning for the recovery phase.
The results showed that there was overwhelming support for reviewing parking around all schools in my Ward to ensure social distancing can be maintained when they reopen, with 95% of people backing the measure.
Support for reviewing parking elsewhere, however, was dominated by uncertainty. Nonetheless, when “Unsure” responses were removed, there was a clear majority in favour of dealing with some of the problems these communities are facing.
Crossing Points – I also took the opportunity to ask if there were any road crossing points where it may be difficult for pedestrians to maintain social distancing. The word-cloud diagram below shows the responses, but crossing points in Colinton Village were mentioned by 18 people, with one saying:
Colinton Village Pedestrians crossing outside Coop supermarket: path width either side is 1.5m, and southern footpath is not suitable for physical distancing. Worse, the guardrail steals up extra space, pushing pedestrians into live traffic.Colinton resident
Many others raised Fairmilehead crossroads:
The Fairmilehead crossroads (where the A702 meets the B701) is terrible for pedestrians. The metal barriers make distancing really difficult, and the lights are very unfriendly to pedestrians. It really needs an “all-cross” mode in the sequence. A lot of people cross on red,, but vehicles can travel fast around the bend.Fairmilehead resident
A number also raised Oxgangs Avenue:
The end of Oxgangs Ave leading onto Oxgangs Road North. The island for pedestrians is very close to where cars are trying to turn – often groups of school children trying to cross at the same time.Oxgangs resident
Narrow Footpaths – The last question asked people to identify areas where the footpath is simply too narrow. The word-cloud diagram shows the responses, but Braid Road (just outside my Ward!) was mentioned 20 times. The narrow footpath at the crest of Braid Road was a common concern:
Brow of hill on braid road – pedestrians always having to walk in the road and can’t be seen by cars and pedestrians can’t see cars either. Lots of families walking that route to access braid hills entrance there.Buckstone resident
Others raised concerns about the Walkway beside the Braid Burn:
The path along the Braid Burn from Oxgangs Road North up to Colinton Mains Road, continuing up to Redford Road alongside the care home is narrow and fenced in by flood management defences so not currently a usable alternative to the road if trying to socially distance.Colinton Mains resident
Woodhall Road was mentioned by 11 people:
Woodhall Road after Bonaly Road. Several times I have seen children having to go onto the road to allow people past who have chosen the ‘wall’ side, with traffic travelling well over the 20mph limit.Colinton resident
The width of footpaths in Colinton Village was also a concern:
Almost all footpaths are not wide enough to maintain social distancing. Key trip generators and busy roads need to be prioritised. Significant areas that draw in people that are inadequately supported is Colinton Village centre ( this public realm and provision for access by non motorised users is already poor and does not cater well for those with protected charteristics and any area where services are positioned by carriageway.Colinton resident
With almost 300 people completing the survey over a three day period, the the results offer the most credible understanding of the extent to which the community wants the Council to take action to improve everyone’s safety in my Ward. The survey gives the Council the mandate to develop a six point plan to:
- Reduce rat-running in residential ares;
- Improve cycle safety on key routes;
- Review parking in key hotspots;
- Cut 40mph speed limits to 30mph;
- Bring forward measures to enable social distancing at key crossing points; and,
- Review locations where the footpaths are not wide enough for pedestrians to safely pass each other.
I shall be forwarding this blog to the Council and request a formal response. In the interim, if you have not done so already, please complete my survey.
Cllr Scott Arthur, 9th of May 2020