Top of Leith Walk road layout ‘belongs in 1970s’

The new layout with Leith Walk down to the left has three lanes all around the island.
The new layout with Leith Walk down to the left has three lanes all around the island.
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DESIGNS for a new road layout at the top of Leith Walk have been branded as belonging back in the 1970s.

Cycling and pedestrian campaigners say the plans to replace the Picardy Place roundabout as part of the St James Quarter development are all about giving cars priority.

And they criticised developers for failing to consult properly on the proposals.

READ MORE: Plans revealed for top of Leith Walk bike lanes

Dave du Feu of cycling group Spokes said: “We are in an era where local authorities are meant to be moving forward with people-friendly areas, prioritising walking, cycling and buses.

“But this looks like a design from the 1970s – a big triangle with three lanes of traffic on each side and pedestrians and cyclists having to cross these big roads. It’s a waste of a huge opportunity for a really lovely space.”

He said there could have been a bus interchange close to the tram stop, with land still available for open space.

“Instead there are bus stops dotted all the way round and if you’re changing buses you’ll have to cross a major road and probably then another major road. It’s a car-dominated design – something you would expect from last century.”

Mr du Feu said he was also “extremely unhappy” about the consultation, which involved a stakeholders’ meeting on Friday and a public exhibition on Saturday. “Normally, we’re very happy with the way the council does its transport consultations, but this appears to have come through the developers and basically there has been no consultation.

“The first time anyone saw detailed plans was at the exhibition – and the point of that appeared to be to inform people of what was happening, rather than any consultation.”

Stuart Hay, director of Living Streets Scotland, echoed the concerns about the design.

He said: “They have created a place for cars. Normally when you’re creating a new space in a city centre you would have lots of public involvement, asking people what they wanted the space to do, how they felt about it, and how you could make it function for people, not vehicles.

“Even in Times Square in New York – and you can’t get busier than that – they have managed to pedestrianise a bit of it. That’s what Edinburgh needs. We’re crying out for more space for the Festival. It could have been great for that.”

Council transport convener Lesley Macinnes said the designs had been through a number of consultations since first being drawn up in 2007.

She said: “The current proposals include much-improved provision for pedestrians and cyclists compared to both the existing road layout and the original plans.

“This includes the introduction of segregated cycleways linking York Place, Leith Walk and Leith Street, much wider pavements and shorter distances for pedestrians to cross.

“The general consensus of the feedback so far is the proposals offer a clear improvement on the current layout.

“But we acknowledge some groups feel we haven’t gone far enough and will look at ways to incorporate their suggestions as far as possible.”