Update on Colinton Dell’s Closed Bridges

Below is a briefing from the Council on the closed bridges in Colinton Dell. The history and wildlife in Colinton Dell make it my favourite part of the Water of Leith Walkway. Generations of local people have used Colinton Dell to restore their wellbeing, but lockdown and the fantastic Colinton Tunnel Mural means that it is now more popular than ever. Whilst the costs of repairing the bridges and dealing with the landslip is not trivial, the Council really does have a responsibility to restore easy access to the area.  I know Council officers are frustrated by the situation, but I feel ashamed telling residents that cuts mean the Council can’t do better. Indeed, I was bitterly disappointed that Sustrans blocked the use of Spaces for People funding as I feel this could be a “Spaces for Exercise” project which would be widely welcomed and come with no disruption.

Briefing
With regard to the Pipeline bridge, colleagues in Structures are looking at this with a view to advise on potential options including, the possibility of building the path up and installing a shorter span bridge or a style over the pipe.  We are also working with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust to investigate options for volunteer involvement which, if possible, may help to keep the costs down.  However, the estimates I have been given suggest the cost is still going to be in region of £20,000.  The Water of Leith Conservation Trust have also approached Scottish Water, who are undertaking work in the area, to ask if they would provide any funding to this community project. [Scott Arthur – I asked Scottish Water about this and they declined].

With regard to the wooden bridge over the river at Redhall Weir we are continuing to seek funding for this.  Again, colleagues in Structures are investigating material options for this bridge however, my understanding is that we are still looking at a cost of over £40,000 and therefore considerable funding will be required.

We have investigated the possibility of obtaining funding through the Spaces for People (SfP) project for one or both of these bridges, unfortunately SfP funding is not available for this – Sustrans gave us the steer some time ago that these projects would not be eligible for this funding as they were neither temporary or immediate in nature.  A more recent response from SfP when asked if there was ‘any merit in exploring whether we can access some of the SfP money currently being used to develop cycle provision on Lanark Road?’ stated:

“I am afraid that, as this funding is part of the Spaces for People grant fund we are receiving from Sustrans, and advice they have previously given would still apply here. The current allocation we have against the Lanark Road scheme is fully committed to delivering the changes to Lanark Road and would not be able to cover any additions of this nature, especially at the amounts you have provided. An additional £60k would be approximately a 40% increase in the value of the Lanark Road scheme. While I can see that the Lanark Road Scheme, and these bridge repairs/replacements share some of the same rationale, and can certainly see the value in repairing the bridges in the context of Covid-19, I don’t think that the SfP budget would be able to support this. The only way this could change would be if Sustrans decided that these bridge improvements were eligible – however the SfP team would then need to consider whether they represented the best use of the council’s limited allocation of funds which is already fully accounted for, meaning that any use of SfP budget towards these bridges would likely require the removal of other schemes from the programme.”

With regard to the bridge closures in the Dells, we understand the importance of these routes to the local community however, we will not be able to progress works to re-open these bridges until we have secured the appropriate funding.

The steps to/from Dell Road are closed due to a landslip.  We have appointed a geotechnical expert consultant to undertake a condition survey and report which will include options for proposed remedial works, including associated costs.  This is the first step in understanding what will be required to stabilise the slope and reopen the path.  We met with the Consultants, following their initial survey work, on 22nd October, we are now waiting on clarification regarding a few points and costed options for remedial works.  We had hoped faster progress would have been made however, this has been hindered due to staff resources and sickness.  We can only apologise for the delay and will get back to you with a fuller response in due course.

City of Edinburgh Council – Winter Weather Operations

Below is a briefing from Council Officers on snow and ice removal in Edinburgh.

Operational planning for adverse weather
The gritting of Edinburgh’s roads, footpaths and cycleways are undertaken on a priority basis – Priority 1 to 3.

In severe weather conditions, as we have recently experienced, our priority is to maintain the Priority 1 network to keep public transport, goods vehicles and emergency services moving. Thereafter Priority 2 and 3 routes are treated as resources and conditions allow. [Scott Arthur – The “priority” appears to be roads rather than footpaths or cyclepaths]

Current Situation
The weather conditions during January have been very challenging, in particular with ice and freezing rain on top of snow conditions coming from the north-east. Freezing rain is a rare occurrence and is difficult to predict. It is very challenging to treat as the ice forms very quickly after the rain and the rain can also wash off the previous precautionary treatments.

Since 1 January, the Roads Operation team, and colleagues from other services from Place Management, have worked relentlessly to keep on top of the Priority 1 network in the first instance.

They have put down around 1,250 tonnes of grit since then. By comparison in the full year of 2016/17, only 2,600 tonnes were required for the full six-month winter period. [Scott Arthur – Why just compare to 2016/17?]

It takes three to four hours for the team to cover the entire Priority 1 network following such weather. As soon as the Priority 1 network is clear and running, the teams moved on to both the Priority 2 and 3 networks as resources allow.

Treatment of the Priority 3 network was hampered by a combination of ice on top of packed snow and lower levels of vehicle movements to work in the grit and activate the rock salt. Often residents have been concerned that their estate had not been gritted when in fact it had been treated multiple times, but the grit had taken time to work though the compact snow/ice.

Through January:

  • all Priority 2 road routes were treated on three out of the five days
  • on three of these days gritters were dispatched to many of the Priority 3 routes in the higher ground areas (predominantly in the south-west).
  • in several instances, gritters were deployed to locations more than once in the same day as the team worked against the freezing ice.

Footpaths and cycleways
Footpath and cycleway tractors have been out alongside the roads gritters round the clock. They have treated several areas twice for increased effectiveness. Footpath and cycle lanes are harder to treat in these conditions as the rock salt is not activated by vehicles in the same way as it is on roads. This is further exacerbated by the freezing ice on top of the snow. Many of the issues raised by councillors have reflected these kinds of circumstances.

The teams then moved to treating local footpath areas and respond to customer reports as best as resources allow. Unfortunately, it is simply impossible to treat all the network daily as there is insufficient resource to do so. This is not unique to Edinburgh and is all local authorities have a prioritisation of roads and footpaths.

Colleagues from Street Cleansing, and Parks and Greenspaces also worked on bank holiday Monday (4 January) to treat key shopfronts, care homes and as many parks areas as possible. Colleagues from these teams also continue to help in replenishing grit bins.

Spaces for People segregated cycleways
Treatment of the segregated cycleways for Spaces for People (SfP) has also been undertaken where possible after the Priority 1 network. We secured three additional tractors to help with this work (funded by the SfP external funding allocation). These routes were also affected by the harder to treat freezing ice. [Scott Arthur – In total Edinburgh has 16 pavement tractors. It had 21 in 2013.]

Impact of lockdown and shielding requirements
Staff shielding requirements as a result of recent changes in COVID guidance have resulted in additional pressure on resources. We will of course do everything we can to maintain the service. We have re-advertised for colleagues to sign up to the winter weather rota to mitigate any risk of a significant loss of workforce over the rest of the winter period.

Overnight forecast 6-7 January
The risk of snow and ice forming is forecast again tonight by the MET Office and the gritting team is on standby throughout the night to react. However, we would advise everyone to take care moving around the city in the morning as there is a risk that surfaces of the Priority 1 network will be hazardous. 

The teams will move on to the Priority 2 and 3 networks as required in the morning (7 January) as quickly as possible and as resources allow.

Grit Bins
There are just under 3000 grit bins across Edinburgh and it takes considerable resource to replenish them following a sudden drop of snow or ice. Replenishment of the grit bins commenced over the weekend and is ongoing. We now have ten teams working on the replenishment of grit bins in priority order and they will continue to do so until they are all visited. This is in addition to those staff that are actively involved in undertaking gritting duties.

We have received several requests to site new grit bins from across the city. These will be reviewed and actioned, where appropriate, as quickly as we can. Officers need to review the suitability of locations and proximity to other grit bins and routes before decisions are made.

You can find information on the locations of existing grit bins as well as request a new bin on our website.

Online information and contact details

(Not a) Braid Road consultation – Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route

23-12-2020 Update – My consultation response.
Below is my response to the Quiet Route consultation.

Point 1
I don’t know anyone who seriously opposes the quiet route concept. It is clear, however, that many people living along the route have concerns about the detail of the design. It’s disappointing that, in the eight months since lockdown began, more resources have not been made available to engage with residents living along the route. Indeed, there is no doubt that community engagement is important as it leads to improved outcomes on infrastructure projects. It increases acceptance of decisions as local knowledge from diverse groups shapes and creates inclusive, effective solutions.

Point 2
Greater acceptance of the scheme may be possible if the evidence base for it is shared. It’s disappointing that in the eight months since lockdown began this has not happened.

Point 3
The Fairmilehead area interfaces with two Spaces for People schemes – those on Buckstone/Pentland Terrace and Braid Road. These schemes have struggled to gain widespread public support due to (1) the lack of community engagement, (2) failure to share the evidence base that justifies their existence and (3) the decision to view both of these as separate units. Pre-Covid, the need to better connect Morningside and Fairmilehead for those able to walk and cycle was clear. Rather than responding to the Covid crisis by working with the community to establish one good quality route we could all be proud of, the Council has stretched limited resources between two schemes and lost the trust of local residents. It is notable that many of those who signed the petition calling for the reopening of Braid Road actually live on or near it.  Indeed, it is only now that data is being collected to understand how these schemes interoperate.

Within this context, I find the decision to view the (1) Quiet Route, (2) Braid Roads and (3) Buckstone/Pentland Terrace schemes separately as difficult to justify to residents in my Ward. If these schemes truly are to form a route for cyclists between Fairmilehead and the Meadows, there they should be viewed as one and residents should be consulted on the formation of a single coherent route which does not impact negatively on public transport or any local school.

Point 4
In terms of accessibility, many disabled people depend on cars (both to drive and as a passenger) and taxis. Road changes shouldn’t prevent disabled people from being able to stop near their destination. Changes to usual travel patterns can add to anxiety for all of us, but to some disabled people in particular. The scheme should therefore be seen in this context – continual changes should therefore be avoided where possible, and should be effectively communicated to the public (including disabled people).

Point 5
Steps should be taken to remind residents along the route of the hazard parked cars and overgrown hedges (etc) pose to pedestrians and those with buggies/wheelchairs/guide dogs.   This is particularly important on the streets surrounding the schools.  

20-12-2020 Update
I have received a message from the Council saying that “For clarification, the Greenbank to Meadows measures do not include the closure of Braid Road, this is a separate scheme…”. This is despite the Braid Road closure being highlighted on the Quiet Route map (above) and the Council report on the Quiet Route saying:

The Spaces for People review of the measures on Braid Road recommends retaining its closure. This assessment has considered the scheme relationship with both Comiston Road and with the proposals for the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Connection… and later… The current recommendation is to continue with the closure of Braid Road and monitoring of traffic flows on Comiston Road (currently average +11%).

Spaces for People Team, November 2020

I asked if the Quiet Route could proceed without the closure of Braid Road and was told: “The opening of Braid Road would have significant issues but these could be addressed if required. So yes, the QR could proceed.”

I asked why Braid Road was currently closed and was told:

1. to improve distancing opportunities and road safety at popular exercise spots. to provide spacious alternatives
2. to paths and routes that are busy with pedestrians and cyclists to safely link together off-road walking and cycling routes
3. to provide spaces for exercising that are safe from traffic.

Spaces for People Team on why Braid Road was closed.

16-12-2020 Post
Last week I reported that I had discovered that the Council had been running a consultation on the Braid Road closure but did not notify me or people in my Ward. This was because, technically, the closure is outside my Ward! Morningside Ward Councillors had been notified, and I only found out about it when one (Cllr Main) tweeted about it (see screenshot it the foot of this blog). The consultation closed last Tuesday, but I have asked for more time so people in my Ward can learn more about how the closure fits into the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route. The Council have agreed that the consultation will reopen for people in my Ward up until 1700hrs on Wednesday 23rd December 2020 via spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk. Feel free to copy me into your response, and I will draft a combined submission.

The consultation text is below, and a map of the scheme is above.

Personally, I don’t think the case for using Covid Powers to close Braid Road has been made and that the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route can succeed without it. Whilst James Gillespie’s Primary School will certainly benefit from the quiet route, closing Braid Road simply forces more traffic past South Morningside Primary School.


Proposed Temporary Cycle Segregation – Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route
Please be advised that as part of overall emergency measures we are proposing to implement improvements to help pedestrians and cyclists travel safely while meeting physical distancing requirements. 

This scheme proposes to create a safe cycling route between the south of the city and the city centre, as well as providing a safe way to walk and cycle to school for several primary schools and one high school. It also improves options for safe cycling to Astley Ainslie Hospital. To achieve this, modal filters (where the street is closed to vehicular traffic) are proposed at the following locations:

  • Canaan Lane north of the Astley Ainslie hospital access;
  • Whitehouse Loan immediately south of the junction with Strathearn Road;
  • Whitehouse Loan immediately south of the junction with Bruntsfield Crescent; and
  • Whitehouse Loan immediately north of the junction with Warrender Park Road.

All feedback will be reviewed and where possible the scheme will be further refined. Feedback will be summarised in an assessment feedback form which will be presented to the Council Incident Management Team for approval. Please note that we will be unable to respond to individual emails.

If the proposal is approved for implementation, publicity will then be undertaken so that local people are aware of the changes. A dedicated inbox will help us to manage any feedback around proposals – spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk

The introduction of, or changes to, any restrictions will be implemented under emergency delegated decision-making powers using a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order.

My Response to the Spaces for People scheme proposed for Buckstone Primary School.

The red box on the graphic shows my understanding of the Spaces for People scheme proposed for Buckstone Primary School. The pink roads are the extent of the (unsuccessful) 2013 “School Streets” proposal.

Below is my response to the Buckstone Primary School Spaces for People consultation, this is essentially a summary of all the comments I have received from local residents and the school community.

Response from Councillor Scott Arthur on behalf of local residents.
Firstly, it is important to note that many local residents/parents have commented positively about the efforts the school staff are making to keep children safe. I visited the school on Monday morning to observe the pupils and traffic, and I could see that the queuing system at the main entrance was orderly and efficient, and that staff were working hard to create a welcoming atmosphere by playing Christmas music and wearing festive clothing.

Although the stated focus of this scheme is the response to Covid-19, road safety issues around the school are well known. Although the Covid trigger for the scheme is not noted, I understand the issue is the risk of cars hitting one of the many children queuing to enter the school. This is a particular concern at the Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Circle junction. I counted 10-20 parents driving cars (often quite large SUV type) around this junction. Can the Spaces for People Team confirm what the trigger is for the use of Covid powers is in this instance, and explain why this scheme was not progressed sooner given that it is labelled “urgent” and “emergency”?

The comments I have received from residents/parents can really be separated into two types – uncertainty about what’s proposed inside the cordon, and concerns about what the impact may be outside it

I chatted face-to-face with 10-15 residents living inside the cordon on Sunday. I could see that the Council could have benefited from engaging with these people before drawing up the plans. There was uncertainty about the following:

  1. Are the plans for peak time only, or 24/7?
  2. Can Blue badge holders visit at any time?
  3. Can deliveries be made at any time?
  4. What arrangements are in place for visitors/taxis/carers/tradespeople? Will these people and residents be issued permits?
  5. Can school staff still use the car park? I understand teachers do normally have a plan in place  to use their own cars to transport children in the case of an emergency.
  6. How will the “residents only” access on Buckstone Circle be enforced?
  7. Will any parking spaces be lost?
  8. Will the closure barrier be well designed – will it compromise planters or cones?

Additionally, any impact on gritting and waste collection will have to be carefully considered. These large vehicles will find it difficult to turn in the restricted area. This and points 1-8 above need to be clarified, and based on this the residents should be given a further chance to comment.

The concerns outside the cordon largely reflect the pre-existing road safety issues around the school. Normally, there are three areas of concern: (1) the area within the proposed cordon, (2) the hill access to the school on Buckstone Lea and, (3) the raised table crossing adjacent to the junction of   Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate. Residents are justifiably concerned that this plan will exacerbate the latter two problem areas and also worsen problems on Buckstone Close. Has this been anticipated?

If the plans are to proceed, I feel the following should happen to reduce this impact on the surrounding area:

  1. Parking should be prevented at the Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate junction (in line with the Highway Code).
  2. The raised table crossing adjacent to the junction of  Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate should have its markings refreshed.
  3. The following giveway markings should be refreshed: Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Gate, Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Lea, Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Close, Buckstone Loan East / Buckstone Circle, High Buckstone / Buckstone Circle, Buckstone Loan / Buckstone Circle and Buckstone Gate / Buckstone Road. The Council should ensure dropped kerbs are in place at these junctions where appropriate.
  4. Homes on Buckstone Loan East, Buckstone Circle, Buckstone Close, Buckstone Lea and Buckstone Gate should be provided with access protection markings for their driveways, or have any existing markings refreshed.  
  5. Steps should be taken to discourage parents from using cars to drop-off/pick-up children on Buckstone Lea.
  6. Steps should be taken to remind Buckstone residents of the hazard parked cars and overgrown hedges (etc) pose to pedestrians and those with buggies/wheelchairs/guide dogs.   This is particularly important on the arterial routes through Buckstone and the streets surrounding the school.  Likewise, a reminder should be issued regarding speeding on the estate.

In terms of accessibility, many disabled people depend on cars (both to drive and as a passenger) and taxis. Road changes shouldn’t prevent disabled people from being able to stop near the school. Changes to usual travel patterns can add to anxiety for all of us, but to some disabled people in particular. The scheme should therefore be seen in this context – continual changes should therefore be avoided where possible, and should be effectively communicated to the public (including disabled people).

Covid-19 Cycling and Walking Measures at Buckstone Primary School

Eight months after lockdown started, the Councils “urgent” “emergency response” has reached Buckstone Primary School! Below are plans I received this evening for a small Spaces for People scheme around Buckstone Primary School. Although the stated focus of this scheme is the response to Covid-19, road safety issues around the school are well known. Nonetheless, the school community and people living around the school may have suggestions to improve the proposals.

The Council have included the following in the consultation: Police, Fire Service, NHS, SPOKES and Fairmilehead Community Council. I have passed details on the the Parent Council and the Headteacher to ensure they know what’s planned.

Covid-19 Cycling and Walking Emergency Response Measures at Buckstone Primary School
Please be advised that as part of overall emergency measures we are proposing to re-designate key parts of the road network to help pedestrians and cyclists travel safely while meeting physical distancing requirements. 

I have attached the proposed designs for the scheme.  In summary it shows:

  • Close road to vehicular traffic on Buckstone Loan East at Buckstone Close maintaining access for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Prohibit vehicles on Buckstone Circus [SA – I think this is Buckstone Circle, I am waiting on confirmation.], maintaining access for pedestrians, cyclists, residents, school deliveries and waste collections.

Given the urgency to make the required changes any comments relating to these proposals should be received by 5pm on Thursday 10th September 2020 to spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk. [SA – I assume this date is an error, I am waiting on confirmation.]

All feedback will be reviewed and where possible the scheme will be further refined. Feedback will be summarised in an assessment feedback form which will be presented to the Council Incident Management Team for approval. Please note that we will be unable to respond to individual emails.

If the proposal is approved for implementation, publicity will then be undertaken so that local people are aware of the changes. A dedicated inbox will help us to manage any feedback around proposals – spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk

The introduction of, or changes to, any restrictions will be implemented under emergency delegated decision-making powers using a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order.

Spaces for People – Inclusion or Exclusion?

I had a really useful meeting today with Guide Dogs Scotland & RNIB Scotland with regard to Edinburgh’s Spaces for People scheme, and the challenges/opportunities it presents for people with sight problems. I learnt a few lessons, not least from this video which they shared.

It is pretty clear that they feel they (and people with visual impairments) have been excluded to some extent from the consultation process. In particular, they highlighted that the Common Place tool is visually driven, and no alternative was provided for people with sight loss- this is shameful stuff.

We also shared concerns about the balance between support for cycling and walking, with things like floating bus stops putting vulnerable pedestrians at a real disadvantage. Their key requests include:

  1. Mobility and accessibility needs of disabled people are fully considered in the planning and delivery of such measures.
  2. It is essential to consider the impacts of any temporary measures on disabled people, including people who have difficulty walking, wheelchair users, people with cognitive impairments, dementia, autism, etc. and people with sensory impairments. This is a legal requirement under the provisions of the 2010 Equality Act.
  3. Many disabled people have found the pandemic extremely stressful. Changes to usual travel patterns, to public transport services, parking arrangements, etc. can add to anxiety. Spaces for People initiatives should therefore be seen in this context – continual changes should therefore be avoided where possible, and should be effectively communicated to the public including disabled people.
  4. Many disabled people depend on cars (both to drive and as a passenger) and taxis. Road changes shouldn’t prevent disabled people from being able to stop near their destination. This is not only about ‘disabled parking bays’ but also considering if measures may reduce vehicle access to kerbs and the flexibility for blue badge holdersto park on single or double yellow lines.
  5. Safe space for pedestrians should be separate from cyclists as far as possible. Any shared-use paths or areas must be designed so that cyclists understand the need to give way to pedestrians and maintain a reasonable distance.

Their guidance to Councils is here:

Spaces for People – We need to put some facts on the table.

As I outlined on my Facebook page earlier today, I have been working hard over the past few days to gain clarity on the legal and evidential basis for the latest batch of Spaces for People schemes. In addition to this I have been saying the Council needs to listen to the needs of residents more when promoting these schemes.

There are clear benefits to even the most controversial schemes such as the closure of Braid Road. They also, however, come with consequences for local residents and businesses. In my view, the Council has a duty to engage with the public and present evidence-based arguments which show the benefits outweigh the consequences. This is the only way to meet Edinburgh’s longer-term goal of increasing walking, cycling and public transport use. Community engagement, not just consultation, is key as it leads to better outcomes on infrastructure projects. It increases acceptance of decisions by the public, and provides a community commitment to outcomes. The Council’s failure to engage with residents and businesses is why 92% of 300+ people who responded to the Council’s “consultation” on the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme oppose it.

Within this context, the Labour Group agreed the following reasonable requests for the Transport Committee tomorrow:

  1. the proposed ETRO in East Craigs be halted and the Council works with residents on a TRO;
  2. that all new Spaces for People schemes be “paused and an evidence-based report is produced which demonstrates that the proposed use of Covid TTRO powers is proportionate”; and,
  3. Braid Road should be the subject of a “specific proportionality study” which includes “monitoring pedestrian and cycle use of Braid Road for a period whilst simultaneously monitoring traffic, public transport delays and air pollution on the A702 corridor”. This should be followed by a temporary re-opening of Braid Road, during which time the same data continues to be monitored for both Braid Road and the A702 corridor.

I understand that these requests were blocked by the SNP Group in the Council. I have therefore decided not to put myself in a position of being asked to vote for something which I genuinely feel may leave the Council open to legal challenge, and shall be asking to be removed from the Transport and Environment Committee.

Final Plans – Lanark Road, Longstone Road and Inglis Green Road

11-Jan-2021 Update
Linked below are final plans for the Lanark Road SfP Scheme. The Council say: “Following feedback received the measures have been adapted to maximise the available parking as far as safely can be provided with loading bays being retained. A letter will be sent to residents along the route with a link to the plans which will be added to the Council website.” 

20-Dec-2020 Update.
Linked below are latest plans for the Lanark Road SfP Scheme.

09-Nov-2020 Blog Entry.
Linked below is the Council’s report on the hundreds of comments received in response to the proposed Lanark Road, Longstone Road and Inglis Green Road Spaced for People Scheme.

The report confirms that “over 300 emails [were] received both in favour and against“, but does not note the balance of opinion (I have asked for that information). It does note, however, that a “public petition with over 1,000 signatures opposing the proposals was submitted to Councillors on 12 October“.

It appears that many comments have been dismissed or dealt with superficially – this is particularly true of comments raised by Community Councils and disability groups.

For example, the Edinburgh Access Panel say: “Please ensure the provision of access and parking for blue badge holders in the roads affected by your proposals is at least equivalent to the current provision“. The Council simply responds saying: “Parking and Loading access has been retained as far as possible”.

It appears that Lothian Buses were not consulted.

Update – Lanark Road & Braid Road Spaces for People Schemes.

The front page of the Evening News today.

The Evening News is today reporting that it has been briefed by the Council that the Transport Committee will next week “rubber stamp” the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. This is despite the final plans and the details of the recent consultation not yet having been made public.

Lanark Road
Overnight the “Spaces for People Update – November 2020” report appeared on the Council’s website. For the Lanark Road scheme, the Council is now publicly stating what I reported on the 28th of October – the aim is “to provide a safe, protected cycling route as an alternative to the canal
towpath and Water of Leith shared use path..
.”.

Finalised plans are not presented. Indeed, the scheme is described simply using 13 bullet points. It is claimed that the scheme will “form part of a longer route intended to provide an alternative to the Water of Leith and Union Canal towpath to enable physical distancing and reduce congestion and conflict on these busy routes…”, but no details of this are provided. The recent consultation gets no mention.

Braid Report
The Braid Road closure also gets a mention in the Council’s report. This has been closed for some time due to the large numbers of people trying to access The Hermitage in early lockdown raising concerns about social distancing. Whilst difficulties maintaining social distancing at site are now much less of a concern, the Council has refused to back down and reopen the road even on a trial basis.

The Council is again saying the closure is needed to enable the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route. Although the Quiet Route plans now appear far less ambitious than I previously reported, the Council want to “maintain the existing Braid Road closure and introduce specific measures near the St Peter’s and James Gillespie’s schools to provide a coherent quiet connection from the Greenbank area through to the existing Meadows active travel network”.

“At present the closure of Braid Road has effectively removed through traffic from the Cluny area. If Braid Road was re-opened in any direction this would re-introduce traffic to this area, primarily on Midmar Avenue and Hermitage Drive which would cause a conflict between general traffic, and users of the quiet route on Hermitage Drive. This could significantly undermine the attractiveness of the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Corridor.”

CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL

The report accepts that the Braid Road closure means traffic on Comiston Road is 11% higher than pre-Covid levels. Whilst this may mean less traffic is passing James Gillespie’s, far more is passing South Morningside Primary School – is more noise and pollution there acceptable? Additionally, added congestion on Comiston Road means buses are delayed and passengers are exposed to Covid transmission risks for longer.

Again, no finalised plans have been make public for the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route and there is now mention of the consultation responses.

09-11-2020 Update – I now have a plan for this scheme – it is at the bottom of this post.

Legal Advice
There are benefits to the Lanark Road scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. Both, however, come with consequences for local residents and businesses. In my view, the Council has a duty to present evidence based arguments which show the benefits outweigh the consequences.

Indeed the use of the Covid TTRO processes removes the rights local people and businesses have to be consulted on these changes. However, using the Covid TTRO process must be a proportionate response to the pandemic. The Council has already been rocked by claims that these powers are not being used properly.

The legal position is only mentioned once in the report, and this is only in relation to the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route – “All of the measures proposed have been considered in respect of the legal powers associated with TTRO powers. An assessment of the measures and the associated legislation has concluded that these proposals have been developed to provide access to appropriate areas which enables safe active travel for all ages during the transition through and beyond COVID-19.”

That’s it. The “assessment” is not shared and no argument is made to explain why the scheme is proportionate or how it warrants the use of TTRO powers specifically. There is no similar statement for the Lanark Road scheme.

We all want safer streets, less pollution and better support for walking and cycling, but this can only happen when the Council works with communities. Time and time again with Spaces for People in Edinburgh we have seen that even the best transport engineers will come unstuck if they don’t draw on local lived experience when drawing up their designs. If the Council wants to go beyond the Covid TTRO remit or can’t show that the benefits of these schemes outweigh the consequences, this is the approach it must adopt.

Expert judgment informed by lived experience leads to good design. Community engagement, not just consultation, is key as it leads to better outcomes on infrastructure projects. It increases acceptance of decisions by the public, and provides a community commitment to outcomes as local lived experience from diverse groups shapes and creates inclusive, effective solutions.
The revised Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route.

UPDATE – Lanark Road & Braid Road Spaces for People Schemes.

The front page of the Evening News today

The Evening News is today reporting that it has been briefed by the Council that the Transport Committee will next week “rubber stamp” the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. This is despite the final plans and the details of the recent consultation not yet having been made public.

Lanark Road
Overnight the “Spaces for People Update – November 2020” report appeared on the Council’s website. For the Lanark Road scheme, the Council is now publicly stating what I reported on the 28th of October – the aim is “to provide a safe, protected cycling route as an alternative to the canal
towpath and Water of Leith shared use path..
.”.

Finalised plans are not presented. Indeed, the scheme is described simply using 13 bullet points. It is claimed that the scheme will “form part of a longer route intended to provide an alternative to the Water of Leith and Union Canal towpath to enable physical distancing and reduce congestion and conflict on these busy routes…”, but no details of this are provided. The recent consultation gets no mention.

Braid Report
The Braid Road closure also gets a mention in the Council’s report. This has been closed for some time due to the large numbers of people trying to access The Hermitage in early lockdown raising concerns about social distancing. Whilst difficulties maintaining social distancing at site are now much less of a concern, the Council has refused to back down and reopen the road even on a trial basis.

The Council is again saying the closure is needed to enable the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route. Although the Quiet Route plans now appear far less ambitious than I previously reported, the Council want to “maintain the existing Braid Road closure and introduce specific measures near the St Peter’s and James Gillespie’s schools to provide a coherent quiet connection from the Greenbank area through to the existing Meadows active travel network”.

“At present the closure of Braid Road has effectively removed through traffic from the Cluny area. If Braid Road was re-opened in any direction this would re-introduce traffic to this area, primarily on Midmar Avenue and Hermitage Drive which would cause a conflict between general traffic, and users of the quiet route on Hermitage Drive. This could significantly undermine the attractiveness of the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Corridor.”

CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL

The report accepts that the Braid Road closure means traffic on Comiston Road is 11% higher than pre-Covid levels. Whilst this may mean less traffic is passing James Gillespie’s, far more is passing South Morningside Primary School – is more noise and pollution there acceptable? Additionally, added congestion on Comiston Road means buses are delayed and passengers are exposed to Covid transmission risks for longer.

Again, no finalised plans have been make public for the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route and there is now mention of the consultation responses.

Legal Advice
There are benefits to the Lanark Road scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. Both, however, come with consequences for local residents and businesses. In my view, the Council has a duty to present evidence based arguments which show the benefits outweigh the consequences.

Indeed the use of the Covid TTRO processes removes the rights local people and businesses have to be consulted on these changes. However, using the Covid TTRO process must be a proportionate response to the pandemic. The Council has already been rocked by claims that these powers are not being used properly.

The legal position is only mentioned once in the report, and this is only in relation to the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route – “All of the measures proposed have been considered in respect of the legal powers
associated with TTRO powers. An assessment of the measures and the associated legislation has concluded that these proposals have been developed to provide access to appropriate areas which enables safe active travel for all ages during the transition through and beyond COVID-19.”

That’s it. The “assessment” is not shared and no argument is made to explain why the scheme is proportionate or how it warrants the use of TTRO powers specifically. There is no similar statement for the Lanark Road scheme.

We all want safer streets, less pollution and better support for walking and cycling, but this can only happen when the Council works with communities. Time and time again with Spaces for People in Edinburgh we have seen that even the best transport engineers will come unstuck if they don’t draw on local lived experience when drawing up their designs. If the Council wants to go beyond the Covid TTRO remit or can’t show that the benefits of these schemes outweigh the consequences, this is the approach it must adopt.

Expert judgment informed by lived experience leads to good design. Community engagement, not just consultation, is key as it leads to better outcomes on infrastructure projects. It increases acceptance of decisions by the public, and provides a community commitment to outcomes as local lived experience from diverse groups shapes and creates inclusive, effective solutions.