An amazing 120 people came to hear Edinburgh City’s Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Hinds, Essential Edinburgh’s Richard Darke and Professor Tom Rye of Napier Transport Research Institute speak about the city centre future, and the role of cycling in it…
[Note: The presentations, a detailed meeting report and other relevant links are at the end of this article].
The presentations and discussion ranged wider than just Edinburgh City Centre cycling, into issues including pedestrianisation of city centres, disabled access, the work of international architect and occasional Council adviser Jan Gehl, and the role of buses and trams.
10% Budget Highlight!
Perhaps the most significant moment of the night for Spokes was Cllr Hinds’s affirmation, almost in passing, that the Council intends to continue its policy, during this term of office, of raising the cycling budget as a % of transport capital and revenue spending from 5% by 1% each year, reaching 10% in the final year before the next elections. This is the first time we remember seeing the 10% figure in writing and publicly stated. Admittedly, decisions are renewed each year at budget time, so nothing is guaranteed, but, provided councillors continue to believe that the policy is welcomed and is succeeding, then it seems likely to continue.
Of course – cycle cash does impact heavily on the city centre, since the Council will not be able to win the hefty Sustrans/government cash it needs for projects like the east-west segregated cycleroute unless it makes its own substantial contribution.
Cllr Hinds won over the audience right away by recalling her promise of getting herself cycling in Edinburgh, and outlining her 3-step plan to acheive this. After not using a bike for many years, she had at last ventured on one during a 2014 investigation of Ghent‘s transport system. Step 2 comes soon on a visit to Copenhagen. Step 3 was decided by fate, thanks to a recent raffle ticket which has won her a Bike Station cycle training course!!
Also from Cllr Hinds’s presentation…
- Transport/ planning decisions such as St James Quarter, St Andrews Square, Hanover Street, will take serious account of cycling needs and opportunities [Spokes note: Leith Street is a particular problem]
- Bikes-on-trams: trial soon
- George Street: June report on interim cycle provision between the experiment end in September and the start of a final scheme [Spokes note: thanks if you contacted councillors about this]
- 20mph: the Traffic Regulation Orders setting up the scheme, to be published this summer, are certain to receive objections, so support from individuals will also be vital
- Bike hire scheme: hoped for in next 12 months
- Tram extension: if this goes ahead the Council may adopt shared bus/tram lanes, enabling more pedestrian/cycle space [see also Tom Rye presentation, below]
- City centre challenge: “segregated, joined-up cycling provision“
- Ambition: “More cyclists; less lycra”
The Business View
Richard Darke, a regular cyclist and Projects Manager for Essential Edinburgh, the Business Improvement District [BID], explained that the BID covers 600 businesses, from the St James Quarter to the West End, encompassing Princes Street and George Street. Their aim is to ensure that “the city centre excels as a place for business, to shop, visit and enjoy.”
Since 2013, when the BID re-launched, footfall and trading are up substantially, and user surveys have shown wide support for extended pedestrianisation.
Although there is demand for more car parking from some businesses, and the BID seeks to enhance this, Richard said it was noticeable that there were often spare spaces in nearby streets and even in George Street itself.
Many more people now access the city centre by public transport and active travel, and Essential Edinburgh is fully behind improved bike access and parking, as well as maximising public transport use.
Essential Edinburgh welcome views and suggestions – Richard can be contacted via the Essential Edinburgh website.
Space, the Final Frontier
Prof Tom Rye, Director of Napier Transport Research Institute, emphasised that roadspace re-allocation to enhance sustainable movement and places – for active travel and bus – was critical for city centres wishing to maximise accessibility, enjoyment and business success. His presentation centred entirely around this theme, with important points including…
- Most space has to come from the car, and this needs political will
- It has been done elsewhere [e.g. Glasgow Buchanan Street, Dundee] and it has been done in Edinburgh [e.g. Princes Street and High Street]
- Space should also come from the tram by using shared onroad bus/tram lanes [NB – see Cllr Hinds notes above]
- Retailers overestimate the importance of car-based customers and underestimate walking, cycling and bus access [example]
- Onstreet car parking should be progressively removed
- Car traffic should be rerouted away from city centres
- Edinburgh Council’s draft Street Design Guidance is excellent – but it will only be widely and successfully implemented through political and managerial leadership, training, resources and a feeling of ownership.