Answering queries just fine with me

IT'S a phrase he must be getting used to. Only this week Councillor Andrew Burns was accused by this newspaper of starting another "war on motorists".

After the road tolls debacle, the New Town traffic shambles and the persistent onslaught from overzealous parking Enforcers, the city's transport chief is rarely viewed as the drivers' friend.

And then the council suggested exclusive access to a fast lane for high-occupancy vehicles on the two-lane city bypass - prompting our attack. And we're not the only ones with deep concerns about transport in the city, as shown yesterday when Cllr Burns tackled the first set of questions sent in by readers. Then he answered queries on trams, buses, the state of our roads and cyclists' worries.

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Today Cllr Burns tackles your questions on parking, pedestrian safety and the transport survey. But do all these queries mean that in general Cllr Burns isn't listening to the people of the city? It's a charge he denies.

"How can people accuse us of never listening? We held a referendum on congestion charging," he says. So do you drive a car Cllr Burns? "I do own my own car, and I use it at weekends," he says.

Has he ever tried finding a parking space on George Street? Surely the city's set-up is just too strict?

"The transport survey recently carried out by the Evening News showed that parking is clearly a divisive issue" he says.

And having answered a flood of questions from Evening News readers in detail, is he fed up?

"Not at all," he replies. "The best part of my job is talking to the huge number of individuals I deal with every day."


Q "Why not give residents free parking permits for their area on proof of residency?"

Charlie McGhee, Easter Road

A "Parking permit charges pay for attendants to patrol residents' bays, ensuring they aren't used by those who are not entitled. It is a fair system, as only residents who receive the benefits of residents-only parking are required to make contributions."

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Q "What good is it going to do for residents who work to extend the Controlled Parking Zone but only have it operate from 8.30am to 5.30pm when we're at work?"

Lisa McKay, Abbeyhill Crescent

A "Much of the pressure in areas outside the existing Controlled Parking Zone is as a result of commuters parking in front of homes, and then taking the bus or walking to work. Early evening is one of the most difficult times because many commuters, who will no longer be able to park during the day, leave anytime from 5pm to 7pm or later.

"I do recognise, though, that some residents, particularly those near entertainment venues, would prefer longer operating hours. We may extend hours in the future, but there are concerns: the additional cost of enforcement would likely drive up the price of permits; and many residents who work and don't need permits are opposed to longer controlled hours."

Q "My suggestion is that for an annual, or monthly payment I should be given a permit that allows me to park for indefinite periods, in pay and display bays, and maybe even permit holder spaces not in use. This scheme should only be offered to bona-fide traders."

Douglas McLaren, Kirkhill Terrace

Q "Why are there no special provisions to help the service industry? Surely we all want a plumber to be able to attend to a leaking pipe without forcing him to break parking laws to do so."

Manfred Lillig, Stanedykehead

Q "I am an electrician. I drive a van that contains the material and equipment I need to do my job. My biggest grievance is that you do not differentiate between us van drivers and the private motorist.

"We need our vans. We also need them to be close to the work site. We are happy to pay for parking - we simply pass this on to the customer.

"But sometimes a job can take longer than we are allowed to stay in a parking bay, even if it's a quiet street with ample free spaces.

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"Sometimes there are no pay and display spaces within a reasonable distance. But you won't let us use a vacant resident's bay. You won't allow a sensible amount of time to unload. It's ten minutes no matter if the job is a ground floor flat or four levels up.

"It is not unknown for tradespersons to refuse work in certain areas due to these problems. Margins are so small that a 30 parking ticket can make a severe dent in profits.

"I recently responded to an emergency on George Street. I parked outside the business as there were no spaces available. The fusebox was billowing smoke. While preventing a fire, a member of staff told me that my van was being ticketed and the warden was not interested in their explanation.

"Let us park in a resident's bay if we are working there. Let us use yellow lines when we don't impede traffic or cause danger to pedestrians. Let us pay for parking in a bay for as long as we need to - you still get the money!

"We don't drive around Edinburgh because we want to. We do it because we have to provide a service that people need."

Kevan Gordon, Faside Road, Tranent

A "We have to balance the legitimate needs of many different groups. This includes residents wanting to park near their homes; shops, who, to survive, need short-term spaces for customers; as well as tradespeople like yourself.

"Tradespeople do have special circumstances and we have some changes in store.

"First, we have proposed a trades' vehicle permit to allow tradespeople to park in residents' or pay and display bays for a set fee every year, or a second type of permit which will allow trades' vehicles to still pay but overstay in pay and display bays for a smaller fee.

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"We have also increased the observation period for trade vehicles from five minutes to ten minutes for loading and unloading, with the maximum time to unload at 30 minutes.

"I would suggest anyone with a situation like your George Street experience to appeal their ticket; with proof of the circumstances, we would have cancelled your ticket. We don't give our parking attendants any discretion."

Q "Finding a parking space in some areas at night is a problem. Has the council considered one-way systems to allow more cars to be parked head-on to the pavement?"

Sandy Gemmill, Mertoun Place

A "Unfortunately, most of our roads are not wide enough. Around 4.5 metres is needed to park end-on and another five metres to manoeuvre in. If there is side-on parking on the opposite side, which takes about two metres, then the minimum overall road width to safely provide this parking arrangement would be around 11.5 metres. This is greater than most residential roads in the centre.

"If end-on parking was provided on only one side, then the number of spaces would not increase."

Q "Over the past four years the parking in my street has been very bad. Double lines were painted to prevent people from parking in front of residents' driveways but the situation has got worse. Why can't anything be done?"

Eddie Reed, Arthur Street

A "I'm aware that Central Parking Services have visited this street regularly and have taken action. However, it is not possible for them to visit every time a car parks illegally because they have to enforce the entire city. That said, we are working to improve the situation."


Q "My concern is that as the streets get busier the safety of pedestrians is at risk. I'm not comfortable with letting my kids out on the roads as it is, but I don't want them to feel restricted. What can the council do to assure me that road safety is being looked at?"

Laura Keddie, Burdiehouse Avenue

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A "Road safety is our number one transport priority. Over the last few years we have installed 38 residential 20mph zones. Roads around 108 out of 149 schools now have full or part-time 20mph zones. We are working with schools to develop travel plans which are vital in teaching children how to be street smart.

"These schemes have all played a major role in the fact that we have had no child deaths on our roads since 2002. Serious injuries have also fallen by more than half."


Q "I recently went on the net to fill out 'Edinburgh's transport survey' but the questionnaire is worded so that it is almost impossible to say No. Example: Question 6) Should we ensure that people with prams or in wheelchairs should be able to use buses? Mmmm . . . no? Why does Edinburgh City Council continue to send out biased survey questionnaires?"

Leyla Ogilvie, Carnbee Dell

A "Because it is the second stage of public consultation, the questionnaire on the Local Transport Strategy is a bit unusual. In the first stage, we had a general consultation; in the second stage, we are asking your opinion on our draft LTS. The questionnaire asks point-by-point if you agree with our draft. At the end there is a section reserved for general comments."


Q "Did you tour the city to make a assessment of the situation, and if not why not? Are you aware that most of our traffic problems were caused by interference from London?"

Christopher Fentiman, Polwarth Gardens

A "I do travel the city widely and am aware of the traffic issues across the capital. As for London, since devolution in 1999, it has had no responsibility for transport in Scottish local authorities."

Q "Why does the signalled turning into Queen Street Garden West from Queen Street only allow for a couple of cars at a time and why is it no buses travelling east along Princes Street can make a left into South St David Street?"

Iris Jack, Mountcastle Drive North

A "The limited turning opportunities into Queen Street Gardens West are part of the strategy to reduce through-traffic in the city centre by 30 per cent.

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The closure of the South St David Street junction serves the same purpose, but it has the added benefit of improving facilities and safety for pedestrians on Princes Street by removing a major pedestrian/vehicle conflict point."

• Questions and answers have been edited. To read the full versions - and yesterday's replies - go