Our city needs to work for everyone, not just cars - Lorna Slater

Last week my caseworker Kayleigh exposed one of the many problems that comes from living in a city designed for cars.

Carless parking means some struggle to navigate pavements with powerchairs or wheelchairs
Carless parking means some struggle to navigate pavements with powerchairs or wheelchairs

Kayleigh is a wheelchair user and was going for lunch on Canongate, only for her path to be blocked by a parked van right in the middle of the pavement.

Thankfully Kayleigh was with a colleague who was able to help her to safely and confidently move down the hill and get back to work. Kayleigh Tweeted about her experience with a photo. Within minutes she was getting responses from other people across Scotland who knew the problem all too well.

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I really wish Edinburgh’s streets were more friendly and accessible. Nobody should have to put themselves in a vulnerable position or rely on others to help them to move around independently just because a driver felt they were allowed to park wherever they wanted.

Lorna Slater, Green MSP

There are laws against pavement parking, but at present it is not being enforced effectively enough and there are too many loopholes. The problem is not just a legal one, it is also a cultural one. Drivers need to have a better awareness of the dangerous impact this kind of parking can have on people with mobility issues.

But beyond that we also need to reconsider what a liveable city centre looks like. I want to see an Edinburgh where the needs of people take precedence over the needs of cars.

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This week my Green colleague Patrick Harvie joined councillors, transport planners and residents to mark the start of construction on a safe and direct cycle route to connect Roseburn to Leith Walk via Haymarket and the West End. This is a vital connection and one that will make cycling a natural choice for people crossing our city.

I want to see similar schemes in place across Scotland. By focusing on clean and sustainable transport we can improve our high streets and open our communities.

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That can’t happen on its own. It needs investment and support. With Greens in government we are putting people first and providing alternatives to cars.

We have just introduced free bus travel for everyone aged 21 or under, and over the next four years, we are trebling the active travel budget to at least £320 million to provide more and better infrastructure for walking, wheeling and cycling.

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However, a lot of the most important work has to be done by councillors rather than MSPs. In Edinburgh, Green councillors have been leading my example and were pivotal in securing a low emission zone. With more Green councillors elected this May, we can do even more to improve our city’s environment and reduce air pollution.

The barrier that Kayleigh experienced last week was not a one-off. It is a daily experience for so many people. She is doing everything she can to ensure that pavement parking is not such a problem in the future.

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I am pleased to say that she is one of the excellent candidates who will be standing for the Greens this May. With more councillors like Kayleigh we can build on the progress that has been made and ensure a safer, greener and more accessible city for all of us.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity