Council must work with residents over road changes

Changes to Edinburgh roads, like the introduction of new cycle lanes, need to be made in consultation with local people, says Steve Cardownie.

Has Lothian Buses been properly consulted ahead of changes being made to road layouts? (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Has Lothian Buses been properly consulted ahead of changes being made to road layouts? (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

This paper’s front page on Monday, under the banner headline “A squash and a sqeeze”, highlighted potentially serious traffic issues on Comiston Road due to the “temporary” establishment of cycle lanes which have substantially reduced the road width for other vehicles.

Lothian Buses has raised concerns with the council and has stated that there was “little or no consultation” over the cycle lane proposals. Contrast this with the statement from Councillor Lesley Macinnes, the Transport Convener, when she said that accommodating public transport on the roads was “extremely important” and the council had worked with Lothian Buses on the changes.

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There is an obvious, unambiguous contradiction in both statements. Either Lothian Buses was fully consulted or it wasn’t.

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Consultation with all interested parties on proposals of such relevance to the city’s residents is extremely important if public opinion is to be harnessed in support of the changes and it does not bode well if the biggest public transport operator in the city is complaining that there was “little or no consultation” over the new cycle lanes.

Tomorrow’s Policy and Sustainability Committee at the council will consider a report titled “Spaces for People Initiative – Response to Motion”, written by Paul Lawrence, the director of place.

In this report he places great store in the process of consultation, stating when referring to new transport initiatives, that: “The work will be undertaken in COLLABORATION [my emphasis] with the city’s citizens and businesses and will include evaluation of the short-term measures delivered under the Spaces for People programme to inform the longer term creation of a more sustainable city.”

The report can be found on the council’s website and makes interesting reading, drawing from examples across the world where the creation of additional cycle lanes and the pedestrianisation of city centre areas has not only been warmly welcomed by the public but has also resulted in greater sales in the retail sector, despite predictions to the contrary.

This report will be overwhelmingly endorsed tomorrow, of that there is no doubt, but given the above it is imperative that the council administration reinforces its commitment to fully consult and, more importantly, in the words of the author of the report, collaborate. with the city’s citizens and businesses.

If consultation is to be taken seriously then the results should not be dismissed out of hand just because it does not conform to a preconceived strategy. To collaborate means to “work jointly on an activity or project”, which I am sure will be greatly appreciated by all concerned.

There is a great deal to commend in tomorrow’s report and there is no doubt that this is the preferred direction of travel in cities across the globe, so Edinburgh is by no means unique in this regard. However if such fundamental changes to the city’s transport infrastructure are to be brought about with the minimum of fuss and criticism, then the fact that it can be demonstrated that they are the result of meaningful dialogue with stakeholders should be enough to ensure that the opposition to them, whilst it may be legitimate, is kept to a minimum.

Collaboration with the city’s citizens! A tall order, but no less important for all that!

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