Ok so people need spaces - but our traffic needs somewhere to go too
It comes as no surprise to me that Edinburgh Council is keen to press ahead with The Spaces for People programme by making as many of the so-called temporary schemes as they can permanent.
The Council obviously grasped the opportunity to embrace the “emergency” powers and money provided by The Scottish Government (introduced to enhance social distancing due to Covid) to advance their goal of drastically reducing car usage across the city.
Residents awoke to find that traffic schemes had sprung up overnight after scant consultation with local communities, which was allowed as the “emergency” nature of the changes were stressed time and time again. Some local communities were adamant that the plans for their area were so ill-conceived that they threatened legal action, forcing the Council into a rethink. This was particularly so in the case of East Craigs where the local community took action against a Low Traffic Neighbourhood being imposed in their area, essentially demonstrating that the measures were a solution in search of a problem.
Although some of the traffic flow changes are welcome, others defy logic. Schemes that enhance safety around schools are long overdue but “floating bus stops”, some cycle lanes, removal of parking and car access in areas that boast local shops and businesses and badly positioned disabled bays, have all attracted criticism on the pages of this newspaper.
An overall assessment of the schemes’ popularity-or otherwise- was required and the Council embarked upon a city consultation exercise which has now concluded and is in the process of being assessed. Of the 17,600 residents who responded a majority were generally opposed to various aspects of the Spaces for People programme which was predictable and which prompted the Council to engage independent consultants to carry out some market research in an attempt to provide some much needed counter-balance. This time a cross -section comprising of just 583 residents were canvassed for their views and they gave the Council what it was looking for- support of the traffic measures.
Whatever the pros and cons of Spaces for People there is a significant section of the public which voiced it’s concern about the methodology used in implementing the traffic plans and the “we know what’s best for you” hectoring statements from some Council members which did little to enhance it’s reputation as a listening Council.
Although the Council administration may be committed to now making the “temporary” traffic designs permanent, the future promises to be just as controversial as a legal process will now have to be gone through when objections will certainly be lodged to some aspects of the programme.
Where I believe the council went wrong was in introducing so many measures at once throughout the city where a more measured approach might have produced better results. It was as though some Councillors could not contain themselves. After all they had been presented with the money and the power to bypass proper consultation and to advance their own traffic agenda-why hold back?
It is just a pity that some ill-considered statements from people who should have known better have done little to attract adherents to the green agenda but, on the contrary, may well have produced opponents.