Edinburgh's treacherous roads and pavements risk making council's active travel strategy 'all fur coat and nae...' – Jo Mowat

The dusting of snow that has fallen makes the city as bonny as a bride – on the surface.

Road and pavement maintenance is important to people who want to walk or wheel (Picture: Ian Rutherford)
Road and pavement maintenance is important to people who want to walk or wheel (Picture: Ian Rutherford)

The snow hides the imperfections on the roads and pavements, making it treacherous for the unwary as little patches of ice have formed where water had pooled on the uneven surfaces. Whilst there have been more words spoken and opinions opined on active travel and the transport hierarchy over the last five years, there has been a lack of attention given to the delivery of maintenance. In their current condition, the city’s pavements are not an incentive to walk or wheel. But fear not, another strategy is along soon.

The last active travel strategy contained proposals for a series of links to join up cycling routes – but most have not been delivered. For example, the very useful canal-to-Meadows route which would take cyclists safely through a very difficult road layout is still being waited for. The focus of the council badly needs to shift to delivery of policies, rather than writing them. It could also do with freeing up capacity to review the implementation of previous projects to ensure that they deliver what is promised and are safe.

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Pavements in the northern half of the World Heritage site are renewed with Yorkstone flags – like Snow White’s apple they are beautiful, but treacherous when wet or icy. Regular reports of slips have secured increased cleaning but the ever-resourceful residents have investigated the underlying problem and found a solution.

It appears there is a one-time physical fix and they are desperate for a trial. From where I’m standing, this looks like a community wanting to work with the council to fix problems in their area but getting the go-ahead for a trial is taking far too long. If the fix works, then it would a pragmatic solution to ensuring that the materials used in the World Heritage site are appropriate but also safe for anyone walking.

Councillors can pass as many policies as they want but if they don’t recognise the limitations of council resources, there is the danger that debate in the council becomes all fur coat and, well, you know the rest, when what people really want is their tea (or a nice smooth pavement).