'Travelling Safely' re-brand for Edinburgh's controversial 'Spaces for People' scheme
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Edinburgh City Council bosses have renamed Spaces for People as ‘Travelling Safely’, as the social-distancing requirements that were used to justify the schemes are no longer in force.
And while some measures, such as those on George IV Bridge, are set to be scrapped, they are now planning on carrying out more community consultation in other areas over making the measures permanent.
After councillors from the ruling SNP/Labour minority administration voted to extend the lifespan of many interventions, council officers have been carrying out a ‘technical review’ of the changes.
Among the schemes recommended for retention is the pedestrianisation of Waverley Bridge, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street, and the protected cycle lanes on Old Dalkeith Road, Crewe Road South, Lanark Road and Comiston Road.
The council is also planning on retaining the closures to general traffic on Cammo Walk and Silverknowes Road North.
The ‘technical reviews’ will involve detailed scheme reviews and considering comments received during public consultation and, where appropriate, improving designs.
A number of schemes – Lanark Road, Comiston Road, Braid Road and Drum Brae North – will be subject to more detailed consideration and engagement with local communities to develop options for their retention or modification. A report will then be brought to councillors in October.
At a meeting of the council’s transport committee, due to be held on Thursday August 19, councillors will be asked to approve plans to remove the Spaces for People measures on George IV Bridge – as permanent, long-term changes are planned under the Meadows to George Street project.
Other schemes which are set for removal – such as the majority of Spaces for People measures on shopping streets, and the cycle infrastructure on Forrest Road – are set to be removed after the festivals.
While schemes introduced around schools, such as motor traffic restrictions, have been largely set aside over the summer, the majority will be reinstated around term start dates in August.
Over the coming months the council’s road safety team will undertake a review of measures around schools to consider retaining them by appropriate traffic orders.
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, the council’s SNP transport and environment convener, said: “Over the last year and a half the Spaces for People programme has helped people to travel safely by bike while restrictions were in place on public transport, given room for parents to drop their children at school while physically distancing and provided much-needed space for exercise during the depths of lockdown, amongst other benefits.
“Now, as restrictions are lifted, we’re looking to the future of these changes, and how they can support people to make journeys by foot, bike or wheel.
“Right now, officers are working hard to review and improve those schemes being retained longer term, to engage with community members on those where further development is needed and carefully plan for the removal of measures that we agreed to wind down.”
The history of Spaces for People in Edinburgh has been mired in controversy, with various pressure groups and community organisations both criticising and lauding the traffic schemes.
In May 2020 the Scottish government announced funding for the Spaces for People programmes, which aimed to provide safe options for essential journeys during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since April of that year, the council has used the £5m it received from the Scottish government to introduce various road closures and temporary traffic measures using emergency coronavirus powers.
At the time, the council used Temporary Traffic Regulations Orders (TTROs), which allowed them to install temporary bike lanes, wider pavements and road closures for a maximum of 18 months.
The council says residents living near these schemes were able to provide feedback which was then used to alter and improve the schemes, but campaigners and resident’s organisations have complained about the perceived lack of consultation and improvements to the schemes.
In June, as the council approached the end of the 18-month TTRO period, city planners began extending the Spaces for People schemes for another 18-month period using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs).
This means some ‘temporary’ traffic schemes will have been in place for three years before either being made permanent or scrapped entirely.
Councillor Karen Doran, the council’s Labour transport and environment vice convener, said: “Thanks to feedback to the major consultation carried out earlier this year we’ve been able to carefully assess the schemes we’re planning to keep in on an experimental basis for any changes that could be made.
“We’re also continuing to listen to residents, businesses and public transport operators.
“As a result we’re planning to make some immediate amendments to schemes to make sure they work for everyone, particularly as traffic levels return to normal.”
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