Edinburgh roads: Locals demand changes to 'rat-run' Polwarth roundabout over safety fears

A local community council has called for urgent safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.
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Residents living near a busy Polwarth roundabout have branded it a dangerous 'rat-run'.

Dismayed locals have warned that the intersection which links Polwarth Gardens, Polwarth Terrace & Granville Terrace is 'awful and risky' for pedestrians and cyclists.

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A local community council has echoed their safety fears over speeding, high volumes of traffic, 'outdated' crossings and streets in the area 'plagued' by goods vehicles.

Locals have voiced their concerns for several years and even petitioned about the dangers they face when taking kids to nearby schools or using the services of Polwarth’s ‘local centre’.

Now the Chair of Merchiston Community is writing to council chiefs pressing them to carry out critical improvements to make the junction safe.

It comes after locals complained to the council last week about a temporary diversion which directed cars into oncoming traffic down a street with a one-way section.

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Road works saw Polwarth Crescent closed with drivers diverted via Merchiston Ave, including up a one way section. Locals witnessed pedestrians in near misses with cars having to 'jump out of the way'.

The community council said speeding vehicles are 'a worry' along Polwarth Gardens and Merchiston Avenue, which are regularly used by primary and secondary school children and college students.

Local parent and resident Vanessa Meadu said: "The Polwarth roundabout is risky and frightening to cross, especially with children. Cars come from every direction and rarely slow down, even when people have started crossing. I urge Edinburgh Council to put community safety first and put simple measures in place that can make a huge difference for walkers, cyclists and even drivers."

Another local parent said: “Pedestrian crossings everywhere near there are a terrifying mess and I am so stressed out every time I have to go near there with my 3- and 6-year-olds.”  

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Merchiston community council carried out a year-long study into road safety at the Polwarth roundabout which identified four major problems, including speed and volume of traffic, 'risky' crossings, neglected pavements and inadequate cycling provision.

As part of the report the community council gathered data showing an increase in vehicles and soaring pedestrian numbers since the council’s last traffic counts. It's feared the roundabout will get busier, with blocks of student accommodation planned nearby.

Ian Doig, chair of the community council said: "Go there any rush hour morning or evening and see how dangerous the driving is and how risky it is to cross the road.  Parents with buggies, wheelchair users and cyclists are especially vulnerable. Just recently, residents have reported near misses as drivers fail to stop at the zebra crossing or give way as they round the corner.

"These are not isolated incidents. A child was knocked down here in 2021. Last year, a vehicle rammed into pavement bollards. Residents and businesses regularly report ‘bent metal and raised voices’ and cyclists come off their bikes. It is a rat-run."

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The community policing team said the junction is tailored for the use of motor vehicles with 'no infrastructure in place at the junction to enhance the safety of vulnerable road users.'

Residents and community council voice major safety fears over Polwarth roundaboutResidents and community council voice major safety fears over Polwarth roundabout
Residents and community council voice major safety fears over Polwarth roundabout

As part of the detailed study the community council also found the increasing use of the Polwarth corridor and Merchiston Avenue as a short-cut for traffic, particularly HGVs was a major issue. The group says the layout was "never meant to support this volume of traffic."

Some 68,000 vehicles a week converge on the roundabout, including nearly 6,000 HGVs. Mr Doig added: "This volume would be expected on a main thoroughfare.  Goods vehicles, most of which have no direct business in the area plague residents in Yeaman Place and Polwarth Terrace, creating noise and air pollution beyond the streets’ environmental capacity."

Its report sets out 12 key recommendations including diverting 'rat-run' HGVs, wider pavements, and replacing the mini-roundabout with a tighter T-junction, a ‘Stop’ sign and an advanced stop line and waiting space for cyclists.

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Works are currently underway to resurface pavements at the Polwarth junction. The MCC says the junction layout will be the same as before. It asked the council if these works could be paused and funds put into pavement widening, raised table crossings, and other measures outlined in the report. But they were told the money had already been allocated and works contracted.

Mr Doig added: "There is still no firm word about how or even if the community council’s proposals will be taken forward. The Council has an 8-year waiting list for improvements to pedestrian crossings and we understand there is a limited budget. But residents have clearly and repeatedly told us improvements at this busy junction are critical. We hope the council will carry out a safety assessment urgently and include our proposals in their active travel plans with a clear timeline for improvements."

Transport and Environment Convener Scott Arthur said:

“Making sure our streets are accessible and safe for all is a real priority, so I welcome the Community Council’s year-long study into the safety of the intersection.”

“The Major Junctions review is about prioritising the junctions most in need of change so that we can focus our resources on early interventions to make them safer, as well as mapping out long-term improvements. We worked with our partner stakeholders to identify which junctions had safety concerns, and Polworth roundabout wasn’t identified as a priority location within that context.”

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“However, we’re continuing to make improvements to the area. These include footway reconstruction and street lighting upgrade works proposed for Polwarth Gardens as part of the Capital footway improvement programme. We also plan to introduce speed reduction markings as part of the adjacent footpath works and to review the guardrail at Polwarth roundabout. “

“I remain open to solutions which protect pedestrian safety at this junction, but the current demand for road safety improvements across the city exceeds the limited budget available. Nonetheless, I will ask Council Officers to review the situation and provide a formal response."

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