Congestion is a problem for all urban centres across the globe and Edinburgh is no different. With increased congestion comes poorer air quality, not to mention the frustration caused by getting stuck in queues of traffic as you try to get across town.
Enter stage left a powerful new public consultation exercise, entitled Edinburgh: Connecting our city, transforming our places, which was approved by councillors last month.
Supported through Sustrans’ Community Links Programme, this far-reaching prospectus has the potential to be a real game-changer in how Scotland’s Capital looks, feels and functions.
For eight weeks from Monday at the council’s consultation hub, we’ll be seeking feedback to help inform three interrelated ongoing projects under the council’s leadership, namely the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation, which I am taking forward during my one-year secondment to the council, Low Emission Zones and the City Mobility Plan, which succeeds the existing Local Transport Strategy. All of these are guided by the principle of putting people and place at the heart of city design. They’re about creating a city which works for everyone, through attractive, liveable public spaces, with sustainable and active travel made as easy as possible and with people’s overall health and wellbeing centre-stage.
It’s vital that we make sure that everyone, including those with mobility impairments and vulnerable users, can enjoy all the city offers in a safe, accessible and welcoming way. Transport – when done well – is an enabler. The way we design our spaces has a tangible and lasting impact on our citizens’ quality of life. Our vision is of a city where cars are less dominant, where traffic volumes and freight are properly managed, where goods are moved efficiently and sustainably around and, when necessary, through the centre. A city that recognises that some people have accessibility or mobility needs, and enables those who rely on vehicles to get around safely and easily.
We want a city where the layout actively encourages and promotes healthier – and cheaper! – transport like walking and cycling and where a truly integrated public transport system with smart, flexible ticketing enables residents and visitors to get reliably and safely from A to B.
Improved civic spaces where residents and visitors can enjoy spending time amid the hustle and bustle of city life are another key aim, as are better wayfinding and transport hubs to help people navigate their surroundings.
Enhancing the city centre and our town centres by making them easier and more pleasant to get around will boost the retail and tourism sector as well as local businesses. There are a number of truly bold and ambitious ideas on the table in the forthcoming consultation, all of which come directly from numerous workshops held in the spring with a huge range of groups, from school pupils, community councils and private sector organisations to transport providers, third sector bodies and businesses.
I’m both excited and daunted by the prospect of the lively discussions ahead in the coming weeks. Excited because this is a huge opportunity to do something really transformational in our city; daunted because it’s bound to be a sizeable task evaluating all the feedback we’ll receive and pulling out the key issues raised.
I know there will be a lot of different views out there so please don’t miss your chance to have your say. You’ll be helping to shape Edinburgh’s city centre for generations to come.
Daisy Narayanan, director of the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation project for the City of Edinburgh Council.