Below is the latest briefing from Council Officers on the closure of Braid Road. It is clear that unlike other roads traffic on Comiston Road is now at (or exceeds) pre-Covid levels (at least in part due to the Braid Rd closure). Traffic data is now being collected and will inform a review (yes, another one!) over the next week or two. This point and the briefing raises a number of questions which I have put to Council Officers:
- Spaces for Exercise – On the 23rd of July I was told: “It is my understanding that Braid Road was one of the initial schemes in first phases of lockdown and was to provide a safe route to a green area when people were only permitted 1 hour of exercise a day. As we have moved through the phases more schemes are required to assist in containing the virus. All schemes go through various approval processes so that we know how they affect each other and are reviewed. Braid Road has been reviewed on a number of occasions with minor changes being made but I believe that there will be another review soon in which a more significant change will be made.” What has changed to justify the closure continuing?
- Suitable for Cyclists – At the Ward Liaison meeting on the 7th of August Council Officers acknowledged that Braid Road was not popular with cyclists due to its steepness. Now that the Comiston Road scheme is coming on line, what role does Braid Road play in “enabling safe cycling”?
- Supporting Comments – The brief says “Various parties have called for it to be reopened, while some have called for it to be made permanent.”. Is it fair to say that the majority of people contacting the Council on this issue want Braid Road reopened? How many of the 4000+ comments lodged on the Common Place Portal asked for Braid Road to be closed?
- 11th of August Recommendation – This said the “closure [will] remain in place with a further review following the implementation of both the Comiston Road Cycleways and Greenbank to Meadows Quite Route”. To whom was this recommendation made, and which of the seven Morningside and Fairmilehead Councillors were consulted? Were Lothian Buses consulted at that point?
- Improved Bus Service Times – Can an analysis of the data on this be shared?
- People choose different routes – The Council appears to suggest that the congestion on the A702 will force cars on to other routes and thereby reduce queuing. Is this not the type of “rat-running” we should be trying to avoid? Indeed, some residents have told me they have stopped using the bus, and now drive! Do we want people to stop taking the bus up town to use businesses there?
- Reclaiming City Streets for People – At the core of this report is making available good quality public transport. Is the Braid Road closure having a positive impact on bus journey times?
- Numerous actions to address recent traffic and congestion issues – This is reassuring, can these be listed along with their impact?
- Traffic Counts WB 31st of August – These are welcome, but will they quantify the delays to buses and allow a comparison with January 2018? Will any seasonal fluctuation in traffic volume be accounted for? Will pedestrian and cyclist numbers on Braid Road and Comiston Road be recorded?
- Options 1 & 2 – I feel it is a mistake not to consider the option of reopening the road completely (as a benchmark if nothing else). I also feel an additional scenario of Option 2 with two-way traffic should be considered. Can these be included?
- Consultation – Greater clarity is required on what part Ward Councillors will play in the decision making process, and how residents can make their views known.
- Summation – The briefing does not fully detail the benefits and consequences of continuing the closure of Braid Road beyond the completion of Phase 1 of the Comiston Road scheme. Should this case not be made if the closure is to continue? Has any Councillor suggested that Braid Road should remain closed indefinitely?
The Braid Road Briefing
As part of the Council’s Spaces for People programme three individual related projects were developed, each aiming to remove through traffic from local streets, benefit pedestrians and enable safe cycling from the south of the city to the city centre.
- Braid Road Closure (initially introduced as a Spaces for Exercise project)
- Comiston Road Segregated Cycleways
- Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route
Braid Road Closure has been in place since early May. Various parties have called for it to be reopened, while some have called for it to be made permanent.
The Comiston Road scheme will provide segregated cycleways along the A702 from Frogston Road to Greenbank Crescent. Construction of the cycleways commenced on Monday 24 August and is expected to be complete by Friday 11 September.
The proposed Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route aims to establish a network of safe quiet streets using modal filters between Greenbank Crossroads and the Meadows, thus providing a safe cycleway from Fairmilehead to the city centre.
Braid Road was closed between the Best Western Hotel and Hermitage Drive. At this time Braidburn Terrace was designated One-Way Eastbound with a cycle contraflow. These interventions remove through traffic from many of the streets in the surrounding area by requiring most North-South trips to be made via the A702.
The Braid Road scheme was reviewed by the Design Review Group on 11 August 2020 and it was recommended that the closure remain in place with a further review following the implementation of both the Comiston Road Cycleways and Greenbank to Meadows Quite Route. (Scheme Review Form enclosed).
The main objections to the closure relate to concerns regarding the level of traffic on Comiston Road, and delays to bus journeys.
Traffic on Comiston Road
It is acknowledged that traffic levels on Comiston Road returned to roughly pre-Covid levels earlier than other arterial routes, and this may be a result of the closure of Braid Road. However, this is not the only factor which has affected traffic levels.
During the week commencing 10th August there were roadworks on the A701 at Kaimes Crossroads which likely diverted additional traffic onto the A702. Unfortunately, these road works coincided with the schools returning resulting in delays, including significant delays to buses. However, following removal of the temporary traffic lights Lothian Buses have reported that service times are much improved.
In order to better understand the current traffic situation on Comiston Road the Council has commissioned traffic counts at Greenbank Crossroads and Morningside Station. These counts will take place WC 31 August with the results available next week. This data will be compared against counts from January 2018 for both Greenbank Crossroads and Braid Road, allowing us to accurately quantify the impact of the Braid Road closure on traffic on Comiston Road, and inform the next project reviews.
While it is likely that traffic will have diverted onto Comiston Road as a result of the closure of Braid Road – it will be important to consider whether overall levels of traffic on both streets has changed.
Furthermore, any increase in traffic on the A702 that has occurred can reasonably be expected to reduce over time as people choose different routes, or make more sustainable travel choices through the principle of ‘traffic disappearance’ as people adapt their behaviours.
[For more information on Traffic Disappearance see: Reclaiming City Streets for People by the European Commission]
Actions to Address Traffic on Comiston Road
The Council have taken numerous actions to address recent traffic and congestion issues on Comiston Road with further improvements planned.
The Council’s traffic signals teams adjusted the signals timings at the junctions with Greenbank Drive and Greenbank Crescent during the past week. This is expected to improve traffic flows.
During the coming fortnight it is proposed introduce a bicycle detection system to the Braidburn Terrace approach to Greenbank Crossroads. This street has been designated one-way, meaning there is no vehicular traffic entering the junction. However, the traffic lights have been continuing to provide a green light phase to this movement, resulting in lost time. Adjusting the traffic lights so that this green phase is only called when required is expected to significantly improve north-south traffic flow on Comiston Road by increasing the green time for these movements.
Delays to Buses
We have liaised closely with Lothian Buses regarding the impact of the Braid Road closure, and the interventions proposed for Comiston Road.
It has been reported that traffic is queueing in both directions from Greenbank Crossroads to an extent that causes delays to the bus services at peak times – especially following schools restarting during the week commencing 10 August.
Northbound it has been reported that queues are stacking back as far as Buckstone Terrace, which will cause delays to northbound buses. However, discussions with Lothian Buses have indicated that this is occasional, and that generally the queue does not extend further south than Comiston Springs Avenue, meaning buses can access the northbound Bus Lane and bypass the queue. (This is confirmed this week with Service 11 buses delayed at the 4 way TTLs at Lasswade Rd but not further delayed on Comiston Rd)
Southbound there are no bus lanes on the approach to this junction which mean that excess queueing will have a more immediate impact on buses. Throughout the week of the 10 August there were temporary traffic lights in place at Kaimes Crossroads on the A701. During this week there were significant queues on Comiston Road and the A702 which caused significant delays to bus services as a result of traffic transferring from the A701. However, following the completion of these works Lothian Buses have advised that traffic has returned to the A701 and they are not experiencing significant delays on the A702 during the pm peak.
Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route
The Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route is the second half of the proposed route from Frogston Road to the city centre. It will run along quiet roads parallel to Morningside Road.
In order to implement this proposed route road closures would be introduced at various locations to remove through traffic.
At its southern end the route runs along Hermitage Avenue between Braid Road and Hermitage Gardens. With Braid Road closed this link is lightly trafficked, however, were Braid Road opened this might require further intervention to ensure it was safe.
The proposed Greenbank to Meadows QR has been designed so as to cut out rat-running traffic from streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road with strategic closures shown in the map overleaf (below). This would include diagonal closures at the junctions of Braid Road & Braid Crescent, and the junction of Cluny Drive & Hermitage Gardens, as well as a modal filter on Braid Avenue. With Braid Road closed, these further interventions would effectively eliminate traffic cutting through residential streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road.
As part of Greenbank to Meadows QR It is also proposed to introduce two closures on Whitehouse Loan. One immediately south of Strathearn Road, the other immediately south of Bruntsfield Crescent. These closures will enable safe cycling on Whitehouse Loan and reflect proposals which have been put forward by local community group ‘Blackford Safer Streets’.
Braid Road – Options
Options considered for the current Braid Road closure.
Option 1 – Retain Closure – This option retains the maximum level of provision for walking and cycling and – alongside Greenbank to Meadows QR – removes through traffic from the greatest number of residential streets. Strategic diagonal closures at several points make it all but impossible to cut through between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road, without having undue impact on residents’ ability to access the road network by car.
Option 2 – One-Way Southbound – Opening Braid Road to southbound traffic only would be a reasonable alternative on completion of the road safety cycle segregation and resurfacing works. There is no Southbound bus lane on Comiston Road, meaning that queueing traffic heading south on the A702 has a greater impact on buses than the reverse.
However, Option 2 requires that through traffic is permitted to travel between Cluny Gardens and Braid Road via some residential streets. Through traffic will tend to route along Midmar Avenue where it is worth noting that residential properties are only on one side, and so traffic will affect the minimal number of households.
Full Re-Opening – A full re-opening of Braid Road is not proposed at this stage, though could still be considered at a further review as the Spaces for People Programme continues.
Option 1 and Option 2 are shown below, along with a table outlining their respective costs and benefits, and where appropriate the mitigations for these.
A further review of all options will be considered in more detail in 2/3 weeks when information regarding traffic counts and traffic light sequencing changes has been received.
- Greatest improvement for people walking and cycling
- Through traffic removed from all streets between Cluny Gdns and Comiston Rd
- Contribution to Traffic Reduction
- Some increase in traffic on Comiston Road (impact on residents as well as road-users)
- Some impact on bus delays on Comiston Road
- Less resilience in case of emergency road closure on A702
- Traffic increase appears to be minor (TBA)
- Bus delays appear to be minor
- Both will continue to be monitored
- Traffic likely to fall over time Closure can be reversed in emergency
- Reduce impact on southbound traffic on Comiston Road
- Reduce impact on southbound buses on Comiston Road
- Less provision for people walking and cycling
- Through Traffic reintroduced on Midmar Avenue and Hermitage Dr
- Additional measures required on Hermitage Drive to provide safe cycling route –impact on parking (for segregation) and additional expense
- Reduced opportunity for traffic disappearance
- Coherent route still deliverable – though at slightly greater expense
- Small number of households affected
- Braid Road still closed northbound