May 2019
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Yes, it’s a Transformation!

Edinburgh City Council’s long-awaited City Centre Transformation proposals have been published and, perhaps almost unbelievably, they do seem to live up to their name. The Council, and particularly project leader Daisy Narayanan and Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Macinnes, deserve huge credit.

Outline map of Transformation proposals

For cycling, “New segregated and safe cycle routes to provide a seamless, connected network enabling those of all ages to bike confidently around the city centre for work and leisure” [May 16 Committee Report para 2.5.3].

At this stage we have only had the briefest look at the extensive proposals, but some immediate points spring out – mainly very positive, though with some uncertainties and concerns which will need clarified in the forthcoming public consultation.

PAST SPOKES CAMPAIGNS BECOME REALITY!

There are new and bold proposals, some of which we had not even thought of, such as lifts carrying people and bikes up and down the City Centre height differences. There are also several major local issues on which Spokes has long campaigned. We can’t resist listing these first, though they now become only parts of a much larger whole.

THE TRANSFORMATION PROPOSALS

The initial phasing plans are as below, though these are likely to vary following consultation and other factors. More details in the May 16 Committee Report [para 4.8] and in 5.4 of the massive full Proposed Strategy document [see below for how to access the document].

Our symbol ‘->’ below gives proposed starting date of each project on the ground – some projects may take several years to complete.

  • YEARS 1-3
    • Jan 2021-> Old Town permanent street closures
    • Jan 2020-> West-East cycleroute
    • Aug 2021-> Meadows – George St cycle & ped route
    • Aug 2022-> George St/First New Town project
    • West End junction road safety project
    • Jan 2020-> Initial reduced onstreet parking & modified bus routes

  • YEARS 4-6
    • Jan 2023-> Lothian Road remodelling (with seg cycle lanes)
    • Jan 2023-> Trial free city centre loop hopper bus, following route of eventual city centre loop tramline, Lauriston Place – Morrison St – Princes St
    • Jan 2023-> Cycle/walk bridge from Old Town to Calton Rd
    • Apr 2022-> Waverley Bridge becomes public plaza, closed to traffic
    • Jan 2024-> Integrated ticketing for all public transport
    • Aug 2022-> Permanent public realm changes in various streets
  • YEARS 7-10
    • Jan 2025-> Princes Street and North Bridge re-modelling
    • July 2022-> Four major public transport (incl bike) interchanges
    • Four new vertical connections/lifts, carrying bikes as well as walkers, Waverley to North Bridge and to Old Town; Cowgate to George IV Bridge and Castle to Grassmarket.

AT THE SAME TIME…

The Transformation covers only the city centre, but at the same time the Council is progressing two parallel initiatives…

  • City Mobility Plan [also known as the Local Transport Strategy] This is at a very early stage – a draft Plan will be issued after public consultation. The Committee report here covers the sort of things likely to be in the Plan, and mentions cycle facilities [unspecified] on main roads, as well as strategic regional routes to connect to other council areas. However the Transformation Strategy [section 5.2] recommends that the Mobility Plan should include “segregated cycleroutes on radial corridors into the city centre.” And working towards last mile deliveries involving electric vans/cargo bikes.
  • Low Emission Zone, LEZ Again, we have not looked at this, but we note that FOE Scotland feels the proposals are far too timid.

TRANSFORMATION RESOURCES

WHAT NEXT & WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Please retweet our tweet of this article
  • Public consultation on the Strategy is expected to run for 6 weeks from 20 May to 28 June and will include public drop-ins and an online survey
  • Spokes Bulletin 134 [early June] – the Council is providing a supplement on the Transformation
  • Spokes Public Meeting, Friday June 14, with Transformation project leader Daisy Narayanan, a Spokes response and a response by Green transport speaker Cllr Chas Booth [poster below]

UNCERTAINTIES

The proposals are undoubtedly transformative, but inevitably there are many uncertainties and questions to be asked. It will be vital for such questions to be clarified in the forthcoming consultation and we urge you to participate in that, to ensure the Transformation reaches its full potential. We raise several issues below.

  • Lack of clarity As always, there are many ‘artists impressions’ and we trust they are just that rather than definitive statements. Several in fact seem to contradict some of the text, as in some examples below. The critical quote at the start of this article, promising segregated and safe cycle routes to provide a seamless, connected network must be fully followed through in actuality.
  • Lothian Road It is very clearly stated there will be segregated routes, and one artists impression shows that. But others (for example at Tollcross junction) seem to show traditional onstreet lanes.
  • Morrison Street

The main map – at the start of this article – shows Morrison Street as a cycle route, and it is vital this is achieved. And yet the detailed proposals show this very worrying drawing.

  • Leith Street We are delighted this is shown on the main map as a cycleroute, after 2018’s massive controversy. But in the detailed text we could see nothing about what if any cycle facilities are intended.
  • Princes Street We are disappointed at the lack of clarity as to what, if anything, will be done for cycling here, as well as the lengthy timescale before major change. Artist impressions show on-road cycling, apparently without cycle provision. Princes Street is already heavily used by bikes, it suffers continuing tramline crashes, and for many trips George Street is not a realistic alternative.
  • Cycle proposals map There is a separate cycle proposals map – see below – but this differs in several respects from the cycle routes shown on the main map. The omission of Morrison Street on the cycle map is particularly concerning and suggests a huge gap in provision between Lothian Road and Haymarket
  • North Bridge to George Street This vital connection is not shown on either map. Links to the new St James development, and its approved bike-friendly James Craig Walk, are also vital, linking both to George Street and to North Bridge.

SPOKES PUBLIC MEETING, JUNE 14 – CITY CENTRE TRANSFORMATION

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