In a deputation to the Transport & Environment Cmte last week, the Community Councils Together for Trams Group (CCTTG) raised safety issues about the design of future public realm in Elm Row (east side, London Rd–Montgomery St) for pedestrians and cyclists.*
CCTTG (represented on Thursday by Leith Central Community Council’s Harald Tobermann and New Town & Broughton CC’s Mike Birch) describes itself as a critical friend of the Tram Project.
Change of plans
CCTTG’s concerns centre around late changes introduced in June 2020 which replace (and do not reflect) earlier designs last consulted upon in October 2019.
Despite repeated and widely acknowledged problems identified in the interim, plans for one 2-way cycle path between Elm Row and Leith Walk have been superseded by plans for two 1-way cycle paths cutting across pedestrian access. Communication between designers and stakeholders during this transition have been, said Birch, ‘far from ideal’.
Increased risk of accidents
CCTTG asserts in a supporting written statement: ‘We consider that this design change increases the potential for significant pedestrian-cyclist interaction with consequent increase in accident risk’, particularly for those with visual impairments.** The lack of grade separation (change in level) and suitable kerb between areas breaches design guidance.
Busy ‘floating’ bus stops are separated from the footway by two cycleways, the statement continues, and cycleways themselves are too narrow for the number of cyclists expected to use them. There is also insufficient separation between cycleways and overhanging, slantendicularly parked vehicles.
No more changes at this stage
These issues had been identified by mid-2021, but nothing was done before work commenced, limiting the project’s scope to make design changes until after construction is completed. CCTTG reluctantly recognises the pragmatic commercial and legal logic of this situation.
Hence, on Thursday it did not repeat an earlier request (made in November 2021) that construction be paused to allow an urgent review of the design – involving key active-travel stakeholders and community councils – before construction proceeds further.
Instead it called for assurances that its points will be addressed promptly once the tram project is finished and revisions to the flawed design come up for renewed consideration. Tobermann called for officials to bring forward clear options at a T&C meeting in December 2022 along with a relevant budget. And in a parting shot, he mentioned that further post-project corrective measures are already being assembled by stakeholders and the Tram Team.
Councillors on the T&E Cmte remained tightlipped after CCTTG’s presentation. Whether this was breathless admiration or stunned silence or reluctance to make a gaffe just before the Local Government Election, Spurtle couldn’t tell. In any case, they asked precisely no questions.
Convener Lesley Macinnes concluded that CCTTG and the Council were ‘essentially moving in the same direction’ but offered no assurances of the sort sought by the deputation. Instead, she aspired ‘hopefully’ to do so following further discussions at some unspecified point with the senior Council official on the Trams Team.
It was an underwhelming response. However, at least CCTTG had points worth making and made them well in a public forum where they can be referred to again later as a matter of record.
* You can follow the whole presentation HERE on the Council webcast. Skip to 0:07:32.
** CCTTG’s written submission supporting its deputation was backed by: Edinburgh Access Panel, Edinburgh Bus Users Group, Leith Central Community Council, Living Streets Edinburgh, New Town & Broughton Community Council, Spokes Edinburgh.