Kevin Buckle: The direction of travel is not all it should be

Getting people from the Royal Mile to Victoria Street is a real problem. Picture: Esme Allen
Getting people from the Royal Mile to Victoria Street is a real problem. Picture: Esme Allen
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While there is much talk about cycling in Edinburgh it will always be a minority interest for getting around while unsurprisingly walking is something we all do. There are plans to make Edinburgh city centre a more pleasurable place to walk around of course with pedestrianisation high on the list.

What does concern me is that I’m not sure that those involved understand that getting folk walking around a city needs more than simply getting rid of traffic. Edinburgh has everything going for it in that its centre is small enough for walking and it is a lovely place to walk around.

Chris Rutterford retrospective at Leith Custom House is not to be missed. Picture: Scott Taylor

Chris Rutterford retrospective at Leith Custom House is not to be missed. Picture: Scott Taylor

However what people need is a reason to walk from one place to another and that is not so simple. Similarly the idea that businesses will automatically benefit from increased footfall is not true.

Sometimes it is just a case of pointing out where things are and encouraging routes that can be taken but while Edinburgh has many places to visit it does not have all the attractions people are looking for. A good example of that is a really good daily indoor market which I’ve mentioned before and is at least on the council’s radar too.

Helping businesses is a tougher task. Certainly those selling food and drink will normally benefit from improved footfall but otherwise times have definitely changed. The worry is that all the focus is on making Edinburgh a more pleasant and easier city to walk around with the assumption that benefits to business just automatically follow.

In terms of spreading footfall further there is for instance a real problem, again well documented, in getting people from the Royal Mile to Victoria Street despite it being very little distance indeed. Visitors are naturally drawn to walking up closer to the Castle and then on returning often walk back along the High Street or down The Mound.

This was recognised by the Grassmarket BID and an arrowed sign was attached to a pole outside the Bank of Scotland on the corner pointing the way but really something more visible was needed and to add to the confusion the sign had a habit of turning around and pointing the wrong way!

Signage is something I hear about a lot as if all it will take is a good sign and people will dutifully follow. Signs do have a place in directing footfall but far more is needed.

While Essential Edinburgh has monthly footfall reports there has been nothing for some time for the rest of the city centre and my worry is that those looking at the changes are basing their plans on gut feeling as to how things are rather than looking at the detailed analysis.

The proposed Old Town BID will hopefully have some input but again they will need to base their suggestions on widespread examination rather than individual experience. The need to direct and control footfall only highlights what I have said before about everybody in the city centre working together.

There are key areas where people have to decide which way they are going to walk and up until now I haven’t seen any recognition that at these points the choices need to be available whether that is through a sign, an app or some other means.

The good news is Edinburgh is an easy city to navigate, it already has many attractions and places of interest and with the addition of just a few more in some areas it could easily persuade visitors to circulate a little more widely and alleviate the current overcrowding. Of course this is not just about visitors and locals too need more reason to visit and shop in the Old Town and bring back some of the vibrancy it has undoubtedly lost.

Edinburgh is not just about its city centre of course and hopefully there will be further plans to encourage more widespread travel throughout the city in the future.

A new public consultation exercise, entitled Edinburgh: Connecting our city, transforming our places, was approved by councillors last month and for eight weeks from Monday will be available at the council’s consultation hub.

You can read more about all this from Daisy Narayanan, director of the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation project in her piece for the paper earlier in the week.

Have a brush with genius at exhibition

I first met Chris Rutterford when I was at the Tron arts market and Chris was there for a while also.

It was an appropriate place to meet as he had been the artist in residence at the Tron Kirk in August 2013 and painted what has become a famous 15 metre mural based on visitors to what was then a bar and music venue.

From 10am to 2am he painted visitors to the venue into the scene until he had an astounding 3000 portraits for his Hogmanay at the Tron mural. There is a great short video showing him at work on his website .

Chris now has a ten-year retrospective at the Custom House, Leith which runs until September 29 and features many of his large scale renowned artworks that is well worth a visit.

Jetpacks fired up for new album

Out this week is the new album from We Were Promised Jetpacks: The More I Sleep The Less I Dream. Often seen as the kid brothers to Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad when they were all on the FatCat label they did more than hold their own Stateside with their peers so it is no surprise they will be touring the States and Canada until the end of October.

They return to Scotland to play Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh mid-November and then spend the rest of the month touring Europe, starting in Leeds and finishing in Cologne.

Guitarist Michael Palmer of course is not the only pop star in his family as his dad was, and indeed is, the guitarist with post-punk favourites TV21.

While TV21 to my knowledge didn’t get to play in the States they did get to support the Rolling Stones so I guess in the bragging rights they are even!