Edinburgh's Spaces for People scheme is literally tripping people up and yet SNP councillors refuse to accept there's a problem – John McLellan

Who knew that failing to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing absolves local authorities of liability for injury caused by the state of roads and pavements it is their duty to maintain?

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 4:55 am
The Spaces for People bollards may be designed to be visible, but the bases can blend into the road surface (Picture: Steve Cardownie)

Did Edinburgh Council inform residents if they stepped across the Spaces for People lane-dividers, instead of walking to the nearest pelican crossing, their rights to compensation for trip-related accidents were forfeited?

No, of course not, but that is the implication of a decision by Edinburgh Council’s external insurance assessors Gallagher Bassett (they “identify and unlock better outcomes” according to their website) to dismiss a claim by grandmother Dorothy Maitland, who suffers from impaired vision, after she was hurt falling over temporary barriers on Corstorphine Road, because they were visible and there was “a designated controlled pedestrian crossing located a few metres east”.

While the wands are high-visibility, not so the black lane dividers on which they are mounted and it is not difficult to miss them, but the fact there was no general public warning to always use designated crossings should result in this ruling being overturned, if Mrs Maitland chooses to appeal.

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What Mrs Maitland makes of Gallagher Bassett’s boast that their “resolution managers” are “armed with the most vital of decision-making tools: empathy” is another matter.

And so too is the response of transport convener Lesley Macinnes that 15 complaints arising from Spaces for People is “a tad less controversial” when compared with the 360 claims the council receives every year.

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Councillor Macinnes also regularly reminds the scheme’s detractors that it only covers 40km of city roads from a total of some 1500km. A quick calculation shows the claim rate on roads restricted by Spaces for People is one for every 2.7km, compared to 4.2km for the network as a whole.

Remember, the £5m Spaces for People system was sold as an improvement to pedestrian safety because of the need for safe distancing, yet it has instead resulted in an increase in personal injury insurance claims.

And lest anyone forget, council leader Adam McVey tried to blame critics of Spaces for People for the behaviour of hooligans who strung wire across an off-road cycle path and injured a cyclist, which resulted in the Standards Commission advising him to “consider carefully the potential impact of all social media posts before making them”.

Nor should it be forgotten that critics of this system include Guide Dogs Scotland, Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland and the Edinburgh Disability Access Panel, hardly known for their devil-may-care, you-only-live-once attitude towards road safety.

It’s easy to pass off the hasty implementation of these changes because of a sense of urgency in spring 2020, but that should not have meant the council ignoring the need for proper risk assessments, given the extent of risk aversion in other council activities.

For example, parks and waste staff don’t empty public bins which aren’t next to paved surfaces in case they turn their ankles, yet 15 injury claims are apparently a price worth paying for a back-door experiment which panders to hard-line cycling campaigners.

Once again, everyone’s out of step except oor Lesley and Adam, except it’s people like Dorothy Maitland who find themselves literally tripped up, first by opportunistic zeal and then by a culture in which avoidance of responsibility is the default.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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