Better Broughton is a new informal group set up by local residents to campaign for improvements to the corridor between Canonmills and the top of Leith Street.
They aim to transform the area for pedestrians, cyclists, and local businesses, with a reinvigorated Broughton Street in particular achieving its full potential as more of a welcoming community hub and less of a hazardous and polluted traffic artery.
To this end, they propose a range of changes which vary in how quickly and easily they could be implemented.
A principal suggestion by the organisers is for community-led consultation focusing on Broughton Street. This, they say, should be followed by Council funding to redesign street layouts and to promote and incentivise use of Broughton’s shops and hospitality sector.
The group, which launched over the weekend, currently comprises five residents including Mark Lazarowicz, the former Leader of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh North & Leith MP. Some of the others have backgrounds as cycling and pedestrian campaigners with Spokes and Living Streets Edinburgh.
For clarity, the group has divided its detailed proposals into seven sections:
- Canonmills–London Street roundabout
- London Street roundabout
- London Street roundabout–Picardy Place
- Picardy Place
- Picardy Place–Calton Road junction–top of Leith Street
- Leith Walk
- London Street.
Eye-catching suggestions at this early stage include segregated cycle lanes; extended footways; shorter crossing distances at junctions; reduced pedestrian-cycle interaction; speed reduction measures; and better enforcement of speed limits.
Pie in the sky or useful step forward?
To some, all this will sound like an expensive wish-list which fails to recognise the needs of those who have to use motorised transport and depend upon its efficient progress through a congested city centre.
To others, Spurtle included, it’s a necessary bottom-up attempt to rebalance the disproportionate prioritisation of cars, vans, and lorries in urban neighbourhoods. Everyone stands to gain in terms of health and amenity.
Through no fault of its own, Broughton Street – repeatedly disrupted, closed, or overfilled with diverted traffic – has been ailing over the last decade. Covid-19 and nearby tramworks have added to those woes.
The area urgently requires TLC. Locals are best placed to know where and how to deliver it.
Success or failure
Better Broughton’s success or failure will depend on it engaging as widely as possible with the community, including local businesses, young people, older people, those with particular access needs, and the New Town & Broughton Community Council.
Ideas are comparatively easy to generate. The hardest part will come in convincing Edinburgh Council to pay for and implement them in an integrated programme with set start and finish dates. Whether such progress can be made without getting mired in the complex politics of congestion charging remains to be seen.
Better Broughton’s founders have, it seems to us, the experience to campaign effectively. Given sufficient public input and support, we wish them success.
UPDATE 17:26, 26.10.20: Better Broughton organisers tell us their Facebook following has now risen to 9, and Twitter following to 211.