Edinburgh’s Circulation Plan will help tackle its congestion crisis.

Edinburgh’s Circulation Plan aims to “develop and deliver a strategic approach to allocating street space between modes of travel to define the degree of priority to be given to different modes on different streets”. This sounds a bit dull, but it is key to us transforming Edinburgh into a climate ready capital that sets economic development and resident wellbing as key priorities. The plan has already been before Councillors twice (October & December), and will (hopefully) go to consultation after the next iteration in January.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the Circulation Plan is needed to both help protect key routes in the city, and also define which transport modes should be prioritised on these routes. The Leith Walk and Picardy Place designs show why this approach is so important. The last Council administration tried to please everyone by endlessly compromising, and ended up making nobody happy. Pedestrians, disabled people, cyclists, car owners, public transport providers and businesses have all raised concerns with me.

As we plan to move to a more sustainable transport system in Edinburgh over the next decade, it is important that we learn lessons from Leith Walk and show leadership in applying them in our other town centres to solve their problems. Right now places like Morningside Road are awful for pedestrians, and the congestion there delays thousands of people using buses every day.

For many routes in our city, we have to accept that there is only room to accommodate two transport modes to the highest standard. With the Circulation Plan consultation, we shall be asking residents and businesses about how this can be done and how ambitious we should be. In central Edinburgh and our town centres we shall need to ensure we have a world class pedestrian environment with first-class public transport connectivity and cycle access.

Doing this will come at a cost. In recent days at the Leith Walk/London Road junction I have seen first-hand how a minority of people are willing to put personal convenience before the safety of others when changes agreed by the last administration were enacted. The fact that many people are not aware of what the changes at these junctions are trying to achieve tells me that we need to engage with residents better.

We shall have to work with residents and businesses in places like Brunstfield/Morningside, Corstorphine, Gorgie/Dalry, Leith/Leith Walk, Nicolson Street/Clerk Street, Portobello, Stockbridge and Tollcross to better manage parking and loading to cut congestion, and sustainable transport access for all. This will not be easy, but we will learn from similar cities which have made this transition. We’ll also learn from the Spaces for People scheme failures in areas like this, and make all of these places more welcoming in order to support local traders.

I also recognise that for Edinburgh to thrive, goods and services must be able to freely move around our Capital – Labour in Edinburgh is not ashamed to say it supports economic prosperity and good employers. We will ensure key routes connecting to the city centre have the capacity to ensure Edinburgh goes from strength-to-strength, whilst also working with companies like Farr-Out-Deliveries on “last mile” logistics. At the same time we will see city centre parking reducing as public and active transport connectivity improves.

I want to be clear that the Circulation Plan won’t just help us manage town centres and key routes, it will also help us deal with the “rat running” traffic which blights many communities. We will start by using the framework the Circulation Plan provides to protect zones around schools (“School Zones”) from the unwanted invasive traffic many communities struggle with.

So far I have been pleased with the response to the Circulation Plan from all political parties, businesses, residents and key stakeholders. Indeed, I feel there is enthusiasm for going further. With this in mind, the next iteration will be more ambitious and will start to show how the plan can be used to reduce congestion and cut traffic by 30%, and we will test the appetite for this via the consultation process.

There will be those who oppose Edinburgh moving towards a more sustainable transport system, but they often do this without proposing an alternative. Edinburgh is already a congested city and land has just been set aside to build 37,000 more homes by 2032. Inaction will not solve Edinburgh’s congestion crisis, but it will make it harder to tackle.

Leith Walk Update – London Road, Picardy Place & Active Travel

The Trams to Newhaven project continues to run on time and on budget and as specified. As the Leith Walk section opens up, however, issues and concerns are arising around the operation non-tram element which were agreed by the last Council administration. Below are two press statements which I issued today in relation to this.

Banned Left Turn on to London Road
The changes to the road layout at the London Road junction are designed to improve public transport efficiency, and protect pedestrians. These improvements are clearly signed, with seven signs in place on approach. Anyone contravening the rules is breaking the law, as well as endangering the safety of themselves and other road users. Ignoring the ban on left hand turns is extremely selfish, and I would urge drivers to take heed of the changes and follow alternative routes.

I visited the junction on Sunday to observe driver behaviour, and yesterday the Police, Council and the Trams to Newhaven team considered the issue. They continue to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and are in the process of installing changes to the junction to make breaking the ban harder. They will also optimise the operation of the traffic lights at Picardy Place so that the time to get around the junction and turn right into London Road is as efficient as possible. We will continue dialogue with Police Scotland and continue to monitor the junction.

Accessibility of Leith Walk
The safety and comfort of all road users, in particular vulnerable groups, was at the forefront of Trams to Newhaven’s development by the last administration. Ultimately, in addition to the new tram line, this scheme aims to deliver a more welcoming environment for everyone travelling by foot, wheel or bike.

The Council’s project team has worked hard to engage closely with the public from the project’s inception, and the design for Leith Walk was developed in close consultation with the community and stakeholders during 2018 to allow residents, businesses, pedestrians and cyclist to co-exist with buses and trams.

The current layout complies with the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG), which recognises that flexibility is required to accommodate a variety of modes in the design of existing streets. The lip between the footway and the cycleway is there to provide clear segregation for visually impaired pedestrians.

I acknowledge, however, that there are genuine concerns regarding this scheme and I will ensure it is closely monitored once it is fully open to the public. Additionally, I have given careful consideration to what lessons can be learnt from what we see unfolding on Leith Walk. Early in 2023 I hope to start the work of collaborating with disability groups to establish an Access Charter against which all transport projects will be assessed. As well as focusing on physical and sensory disabilities, this approach will consider the needs an rights of residents with learning disabilities, neurodiversity and brain injuries.

Edinburgh needs to cut the speed to cut accidents

We all have the right to travel safely on our roads and footpaths, whether we walk, wheel, cycle, use public transport or drive. Deaths and injuries should not be seen as inevitable. Since becoming a Councillor I have had to support three sets of parents in my Ward just after their children were hit by a car. All those hurt made a full physical recovery, but these were still heart-wrenching meetings.

There’s no doubt that some road users are more vulnerable than others – we know that over 100 pedestrians are hurt on our streets every year, and too many of these are children.

In 2018, we became Scotland’s first 20mph city, when 20mph speed limits were extended to cover 85% of Edinburgh’s streets. Independent academic research has shown that not only have speeds continued to fall across the network since then, but both road collisions and injuries have dropped by more than 30%.

Enforcement, however, remains an issue so I was pleased to learn that problem streets in my Ward will be targeted for speed reduction measures. Experts in the Council’s Road Safety Team will soon be implementing interventions like signage or physical traffic calming measures targeted at improving the safety of the most vulnerable groups.

Everyone in the city deserves to live on a safe street, and every child should have the right to walk or wheel to school safely. This is why I was pleased to see the Council has launched a consultation on extending the 20mph road network even further. You can take part here.

In my Ward, this will give residents the chance to approve the Council’s plans to reduce the speed limit to 20mph on Colinton Mains Drive, Swanston Road (south of bypass), Oxgangs Road North (Firrhill Roundabout to Colinton Mains Drive) & Bonaly Road (south of Bypass). Residents could also urge the Council to go further by including: Redford Road (all), Colinton Road (all), Gillespie Road, Dreghorn Link, Oxgangs Road & Frogston Road West. Residents could also suggest Biggar Road, Buckstone Terrace and Lanark Road.

As a driver, cyclist and pedestrian I recognise that extending the 20mph scheme will make our streets safer and reduce accidents. I understand the arguments against cutting the speed limit and other road safety measures, but those against making our streets safer should speak to the parents of children involved in accidents before responding to the consultation.

Congestion charging by the back door?

As an avid reader of Steve Cardownie’s column I was a wee bit disappointed to see I had not made myself clear on my thinking regarding a possible congestion charge for Edinburgh.

As Edinburgh’s new Transport and Environment Convener, I am faced with a situation where Edinburgh is growing at an incredible rate and is the most congested city in the UK. More car use won’t solve this problem, particularly when we are faced with a climate emergency.  

The opposition parties in Edinburgh think a Workplace Parking Levy is the solution, but myself and my friends in the trade union movement have doubts.  If the opposition parties progress with this, however, I have a duty to make it work for our Capital.

I am looking at a range of measures inside the city to encourage people to switch to sustainable transport modes, and to ensure new developments have first class public transport links. I must, however, also consider the traffic coming from outside Edinburgh.  

My focus right now is increasing public transport capacity from surrounding local authorities.  This is about making it safer, faster and more reliable. By 2025 I hope to have the public transport capacity in place to make a real dent in Edinburgh’s congestion problem. If people from outside the City of Edinburgh Council area prove reluctant to switch  to public transport then a congestion charge may help encourage them.

Steve Cardownie called this  “congestion charging by the back door”, but I am planning on knocking loudly on the front door of drivers to ask them to make the switch to sustainable transport.

The congestion charge will be payable as car drivers from surrounding local authorities enter Edinburgh, but there may well be a higher rate for entering the city centre.

For all this to work, Scotland needs a joined-up public transport strategy which focuses on keeping bus, tram and rail fares affordable and the services reliable. Let’s hope we see progress on this by 2025. 

Speed Reduction Proposals for Bridge Road

I want to start by congratulating Colinton Community Council for having the City Council look at speeding through the village and challenging them to bring forward plans to address the issue (detailed above). Whilst there are parts of the plans we all have questions about, I don’t doubt that overall the scheme will have a positive impact.

There have been ongoing discussions at Colinton Community Council regarding the plans since May 2021. After the September CC I concluded that there were two key issues people focused on, and these related to additions sought by the Community Council (plan below):
1. The proposed roundabout at the junction of Bridge Road and Spylaw Street; and,
2. An additional pedestrian crossing or crossings on Bridge Road.
Based on this, I asked to speak to Senior Council Officers. Whilst I do have robust discussions with Officers, I do have a duty to respect their professional judgment and Council policy (the Standards Commission may be interested if I did not).

On the roundabout, they were clear that it could not fit in the junction without major engineering works which would change the area significantly (the area where the phone box is sited would be lost). They were also clear that the area did not meet the criteria for an additional pedestrian crossing and the suggested locations may be too close to the junction. They also highlighted that there is a huge backlog in delivering pedestrian crossings (See: https://tinyurl.com/yc2r7hva), and that installing one would exceed the circa £100k budget allocated to the Bridge Road speed reduction scheme.

In summary, the Council Officers raised concerns about the technical feasibility of installing a roundabout and an additional crossing. Even if this approach was technically feasible, however, the considerable funding needed would have to be sought in competition with other road safety schemes.

They did, however, give a commitment to check speed through the area after their current proposals are implemented and established. They also explained that the pedestrian crossing assessment criteria would soon be updated by the Transport Scotland, and I was given a clear commitment that Bridge Road could be used to test any revised guidance.

So whilst I understand some people may be disappointed, I think it is positive that the speed reduction works on both Woodhall Road and Bridge Road can now proceed and help make Colinton safer. I don’t doubt that once work starts the Colinton Community Council will have a part to play in collecting feedback from residents regarding any issues which arise.

HM The Queen encouraged us to focus on what we had in common, not what divided us.

As a Councillor with two army barracks in his Ward, I never need any reminder of the respect people across the UK had for HM The Queen.

One of my proudest moments was shaking her hand in 2018 at Holyrood Palace when I was part of a group of Councillors welcoming her to Edinburgh. Of course, I was too nervous to even speak so failed to invite her to my Ward(!). I performed the same duty two further times, and each time I was impressed by her attention to detail, and the grace with which she conducted herself.

The 2022 ceremony was one of her last public events. I had read reports of her failing health, but was reassured when I saw her bright eyes and broad smile.

I accepted the news of her death with great sadness, but I also felt grateful for the many years of service HM The Queen gave the UK and the Commonwealth. The 48 hours she spent in Edinburgh so soon after her death, however, also left me feeling immensely proud that Edinburgh did not let down HM The Queen when the whole world was watching. I have never been prouder to say I am a citizen of Edinburgh.

In my time as a Councillor I have attended three street parties associated with HM The Queen and her reign. These were not gatherings of ardent monarchists where God Save the Queen was sang, but a chance for communities to come together. At these events, HM The Queen was like some sort of distant relative that we all shared and gave us all something in common. What we have seen across the UK since her death reinforced this view.

Throughout her reign HM The Queen encouraged us to focus on what we had in common, not what divided us. Her death has only amplified that message. It may sound hopelessly naïve, but I hope that can be her lasting legacy.

Her Majesty The Queen – ceremonial updates and impact on the city

Below is a briefing I received yesterday evening regarding events in Edinburgh from today until Tuesday.

Members’ briefing: Her Majesty The Queen – ceremonial updates and impact on the city

Buckingham Palace has announced this afternoon (10th of Sept) that there will be a period of national mourning following Her Majesty The Queen’s death until the State Funeral on Monday 19 September.

The Queen’s cortege is due to leave Balmoral tomorrow morning (Sunday 11) and arrive at Palace of Holyroodhouse at 4pm. The King and members of the Royal Family will arrive on Monday for the Ceremony of the Keys, followed by a historic procession up the Royal Mile and a service at St Giles’ Cathedral, where the Queen will lie at rest before leaving for London late afternoon on Tuesday.

Her Majesty’s coffin will then lie at rest in St Giles’ Cathedral, guarded by Vigils from The Royal Company of Archers, to allow the people of Scotland to pay their respects. Members of the public who wish to do so will be able to view the coffin at rest from 5pm on Monday 12 September and conclude the following afternoon.

With the city centre already filling up with crowds of mourners, we’re urging people to plan ahead and avoid any non-essential travel on Sunday along the line of the cortege route as people pay their respects to Her Majesty The Queen.

Thousands are expected to gather along the route, and anyone wishing to come along is being urged to do so safely, plan ahead and allow extra time, taking account of local and city centre road closures, weather conditions and the likelihood of spending many hours at the roadside. We will continue to update our dedicated webpages with the latest advice and road closures.

Lying in Rest
Her Majesty The Queen will lie at rest at St Giles’ Cathedral following the Service before the coffin’s journey to London. Members of the public who wish to do so will be able to view the coffin at rest and pay their respects. This will begin at 5pm on Monday 12 September and conclude the following afternoon.

There is expected to be a high level of interest and a queuing system will be in place. The Scottish Government will provide further details on arrangements tomorrow.

Please be aware that this may involve standing for a number of hours in challenging weather conditions, so come prepared.

Security checks will be in place at St Giles’ and certain restrictions will apply on mobile phones. Photography /recording is not permitted.

The queue will pass a number of locations where refreshments can be bought.

Books of Condolence
We have set up both virtual and in person Books of Condolence for the public to sign.

The Chief Executive has issued an appeal on behalf of Police Scotland asking for volunteers for the ceremonial events taking place from tomorrow who can offer support as marshals. This isn’t a formal stewarding role as police officers and stewards will be present. The volunteers will instead provide assurance and help the public feel safe and cared for. This appeal has also been sent to partner organisations and local authorities.

Further updates
full list of ceremonial events taking place across Scotland has been published. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our dedicated web page, the Scottish Government and Royal Household websites. The @edintravel traffic information team will be carefully monitoring the city’s roads, sharing the latest information on disruption and diversions on Twitter. Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams will be keeping people informed about their services.

Strike action suspended – updated advice for residents (2nd of September)

The strike action has been suspended following constructive discussions between the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Trade Unions. 

I find this situation really frustrating. It is great that this action has been suspended, but huge damage to Edinburgh’s international reputation could have been avoided if the SNP/Green Government had tabled this “fair pay deal” offer 3 weeks ago. We have known from the start that only the Scottish Government had the cash available to end this crisis.

Below is the latest briefing on the recovery from the strike – many thanks to everyone who provided feedback on this issue! Like many people in my Ward, I am very happy that my grey bin will be getting collected next week! 

Generally, the recovery is going well but backlogs remain regarding communal bins and litter bins outside the city centre.

Council Briefing

Trade Unions have suspended planned strike action from 6 – 14 September while their members vote on whether or not to accept the most recent national pay offer.

We have updated our recovery plan to take account of this and are now advising the following.

Kerbside collections

  1. Kerbside collections will run according to their normal schedules next week, except for garden waste and blue box glass collections, which remain suspended but will recommence from 13 September.
  2. Residents should put their bins out for collection by 6am on their normal collection day. If their bin is not collected on its scheduled day, they should leave it out and we’ll get to it as soon as we can.
  3. Gull proof sack and red box collections will also be collected on their usual days and should be put out by 6am.
  4. Extra waste will be collected and should be bagged and left neatly beside the bin. If possible, put extra mixed recycling in a clear bag.

The suspension of garden waste and blue box glass collections will allow us to divert resources to cleansing and waste collections. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes and will be in touch with garden waste customers with details of how we’ll compensate for any missed collections caused by strike action.

Communal collections
We will continue to collect excess waste and residents are being advised to bag it and place it beside the bin. If possible, they should put mixed recycling in a clear bag.

Large bulky items, like furniture and mattresses, should not be left beside bins. We are advising people to book an appointment to take these to a recycling centre.

Street cleaning
Our street cleaning teams have made good progress in the city centre, as well as working with waste collection teams to clear excess waste. They will continue to focus their work in town centres, areas with high footfall and high-density areas

Additional information
There may be some delays to collections, and it may take a while to get back to normal.

We’re collecting recycling and non-recyclable waste bins separately. Unfortunately, in some cases recycling bins will have too much non-recyclable waste in them. This means we will not be able to recycle the contents of those. We will recycle as much as we can.

This information will be shared with media, on social media and with our partners. I would appreciate it if you’re able to share the guidance with your residents and networks.

You can find full details of bin collection days, the recovery plan and advice on dealing with waste on the Council website.

Strike action – updated advice for residents (31 August)

Below is the latest briefing on the recovery from the waste strike – many thanks to everyone who provided feedback on this issue!

Members’ briefing 692: Strike action – updated advice for residents (31 August)

Bin collections and street cleansing services restarted yesterday following strike action. Our crews are working hard to clear as much waste and litter as they can across the city. However, it’s looking increasingly likely that strike action will commence again from Tuesday 6 September. Unfortunately, this means we’ve had to update our operational plans. To allow our crews to focus on grey and green wheelie bin collections we will be suspending garden waste collections this Thursday and Friday (1 and 2 September) and changing our advice for residents.

As such, and in line with the contingency plan for two strike periods, we are putting the following advice in place:

  1. Residents who are due any bin collections today, Wednesday 30 August, will still have these collected as normal.
  2. Anyone due a bin collection on Thursday or Friday should:
    • Put both their green AND grey wheelie bins, and bagged extra waste, out by 6am on their normal collection day and we will aim to empty them BOTH. There may be some delays and they may not be collected on the same day as each other, so they should leave them out until the end of the day on Monday 5 September.
    • If they’re due a food waste collection, they should put this out as usual, by 6am.
    • Garden waste collections will be suspended on these days. Brown bins should not be put out for collection on Thursday or Friday – they will not be collected. We’re very sorry for this and will be in touch with garden waste customers with details of how we’ll compensate them for any collections missed because of strike action.
    • The glass collection service remains suspended. We’ll provide an update when this is due to restart.

This approach will mean that there are no kerbside properties that have been more adversely impacted by the two strike actions than any other. It avoids some of the criticism that other councils are facing for not helping out residents that have accumulated waste over a longer period of time than other households.

You can find full details of bin collection days, the recovery plan and advice on dealing with waste on the Council website: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/binstrike.

This information will be shared with media, on social media and with our partners. I would appreciate it if you’re able to share the guidance with your residents and networks.

Edinburgh Strike Action – The Service Re-Starts (for now) Tomorrow

I wanted to update you on the national industrial action which is impacting on waste collection in Edinburgh. The current action will end in Edinburgh as planned tomorrow morning at 5am. It is, however, possible that it will restart on the 6th of September unless an agreement can be reached. The latest offer from the Scottish Government and COSLA was rejected by the Trade Unions as it does not match what the equivalent key workers in England have been offered.  

Personally, I feel that the Trade Unions were right to reject this offer – they should not get less than staff in England. I’ve also been proud of the level of support for the staff, and also by how well people are coping in my Ward.

The Council have developed a recovery plan aimed at returning the city to normal as soon as possible after the action lifts tomorrow.  From Tuesday, additional resources are being deployed to support street cleansing and communal bin collections, particularly in the city centre and other areas most affected by the strike.

Residents receiving kerbside collections are being asked to put their bins out as normal on their scheduled collection day. Extra waste will be collected during this time, if it is bagged and put next to wheelie or communal bins.

Blue box (glass) collections will continue to be suspended to allow the Council to prioritise resources elsewhere.

Household Waste and Recycling Centres will reopen from Tuesday with extended hours. Bookings can be made online as normal.
You can find full details of bin collection days, the recovery plan and advice on dealing with waste can be found on the Council website.