The City of Edinburgh's Spaces for People team has provided this update, on 18 March 2021:
Consultation and Notification Process
On 14 May 2020, the Policy and Sustainability Committee approved a package of suggested interventions to make it easier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists to move around the Capital. As well as providing extra space, the proposals recognise a rise in active travel since lockdown began and aim to facilitate this as the phased lifting of lockdown continues. These changes are being delivered as part of the Council’s Spaces for People programme. In line with guidance from the Scottish Government normal consultation procedures are not being carried out due to the need for expedient delivery.
The Greenbank to Meadows scheme was approved subject to notification by the Transport and Environment Committee on 12 November 2020. It has since followed the Spaces for People (SfP) process of notification and engagement which was approved by Councillors at the Policy and Sustainability Committee. We received a great deal of feedback to the notification process and have made changes to the project designs as a result of this.
Correspondence and Responses
As outlined above we receive a very large amount of correspondence to the notifications for Spaces for People schemes and – given the emergency nature of these proposals – are not always able to respond to each one, or to respond within the timescales that we would normally aim to meet.
The Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route project was implemented during early February. The proposals were adjusted to reduce the number of closures on Whitehouse Loan from 3, to 2, in order to reduce the impact of the scheme on residents of Bruntsfield Crescent and Warrender Park Crescent. The initial implementation used cones and signage, however this was enhanced with more robust materials following numerous incidents of the cones being moved.
The proposal has been welcomed by James Gillespies schools, with many parents walking or cycling their children to school making use of the route.
We have received some concerns regarding displacement of traffic onto alternative routes including Warrender Park Road, Clinton Road, Blackford Road and Hope Terrace among others. Officers have attended these sites during rush hour to assess whether there is intensive traffic on these routes, and at present are satisfied that levels of traffic in the surrounding area is acceptable. This will continue to be monitored as we transition out of lockdown. Additional measures may be considered during project review procedures if levels of traffic increase significantly.
Concerns have also been raised regarding the safety of turning manoeuvres at closure points, officers have attended site during school pick up and drop-off times and have found that generally there are only a small number of turning manoeuvres taking place, these are at slow speeds with good visibility and do not appear to be presenting any significant risk. We will continue to monitor this and consider any required changes as part of the project’s ongoing review process.
The designs have been carefully developed specifically to make journeys by bike, and by foot, along the route safer by significantly reducing the amount of traffic, especially adjacent to James Gillespies Schools.
The project will be subject to an Independent Road Safety Audit in the coming weeks to consider any residual hazards or concerns.
All Spaces for People projects are subject to review by officers every two months. This review considers feedback from stakeholders and residents, the results of the Road Safety Audit, input from project monitoring, and how the project fits with the changing context. Where required the proposals will be revised.
Evidence Supporting Scheme and Monitoring of Success
The intention behind this scheme is to provide a safe route for cycling for local journeys, including those to school and to the Astley Ainslie, and to provide a safe cycling route to/from the city centre from Fairmilehead and the South West of the city, by providing an onward route from Greenbank Crossroads, and the northern end of the Comiston Road cycleways.
We know from many sources – most recently the 2019 Edinburgh Bike Life survey – that the need to interact with traffic is a key factor in discouraging people from cycling more. Generally for a street to be safe for people of all ages and abilities to feel comfortable cycling the level of traffic needs to be very low – ideally less than 1,500 vehicles per day as outlined in our Street Design Guidance.
Counts that we carried out at the southern end of the Greenbank to Meadows route suggest that more than double this number of vehicles are likely to be using this route, even during Lockdown.
Since the scheme was implemented the number of people cycling on Whitehouse Loan has increased, with an average of 452 cycle journeys per day during the week commencing Monday 22 February following the partial return to school. This number has continued to rise during with more than 600 cyclists using the route on both Monday 15 and Tuesday 16 March, and we expect it to rise further during a phased return to school and work over the coming months.
Consideration of Alternative Options
The council did give consideration to various alternative options. Timed closures, which were suggested by several respondents during the notification stage, were considered. There are two reasons why this approach has not been taken.
The first reason is that staffing and managing timed closures come with a significant cost if directly operated by the council, and requires significant management and engagement if operated by volunteers. Neither option is a good fit for the current temporary interventions.
The second reason is that the route is not only intended to operate during peak times. Many people still need to cycle outside of peak times and, as outlined above, it is important that we reduce traffic significantly in order to enable them to feel comfortable and safe doing so.
In addition, introducing the route with Segregated Cycleways instead of road closures was considered, however this was ruled out due to there being several pinch points where there isn’t room for segregated cycling infrastructure, as well as the significant impact that this would have had on residential parking.
Spaces for People Team