Edinburgh's Spaces for People scheme: residents claim collisions have increased since safety measures introduced

Collisions on a busy stretch of road have risen from zero to five since the implementation of Spaces for People measures intended to improve safety, residents claim.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 4:55 am

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And they complain the scheme in Lanark Road and Longstone has not given due weight to safety issues right from the start.

Professor Derryck Reid, chair of South West Edinburgh in Motion (SWEM) said data on road-safety website CrashMap showed there had been no collisions involving pedestrians, cyclists or drivers in 2019 or 2020 in the areas where cycle lanes now operate.

A motorist collided with the traffic island after apparently swerving to avoid a car in a floating parking space.

"However, since the scheme was introduced by the council in 2021, residents have witnessed at least five collisions. These appear to be partly related to the design of the new scheme and ongoing poor road maintenance.”

He said the collisions included a female cyclist coming off her bike due to the poor road surface; a cyclist knocking over a pre-school child; a driver “under the influence”, apparently confused by the layout, smashing into a vehicle in a floating parking space and knocking it across a cycle lane and pavement, through the wall to the Union Canal; a vehicle in a floating parking space being struck in a “hit and run”; and a pedestrian refuge island being demolished when the driver swerved to avoid a car in a floating parking space.

Prof Reid added: “Seven weeks later, the traffic island remains unrepaired and in a dangerous condition, showing a complete disregard for pedestrian safety and safety of other road users.”

SWEM claims that since the whole scheme involves 4.4 miles of complex carriageway with hundreds of access points with driveways and side streets, there should have been an independent safety audits of the designs before it was launched.

Traffic island demolished when hit by a motorist said to be swerving to avoid a car in a floating parking space.

Prof Reid said: "There was plenty of time to do this in the eight months between design and implementation. However, no independent safety audit was completed until several months after installation. Residents formally raised safety concerns about this scheme from the very beginning.”

And he said safety auditors should have been provided with details of collisions, health and safety incidents, near-misses and injury claims which residents had reported to the council.

"However, freedom of information and complaint responses show that the council did not even formally log such incidents.”

Colinton/Fairmilehead Tory councillor Jason Rust said: "There is clearly something amiss when the council's flagship policy which aims to make our roads safer, in fact results in local residents feeling less safe. I am very concerned about the number of recent collisions and near-misses and the apparent failure of the council's processes to take these into account."

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said the council took road safety issues and collisions anywhere in the city extremely seriously.

She continued: “We must all drive to the conditions of the road, and that this list of alleged incidents includes someone claimed to be driving under the influence and ‘hit and run’ damage shows that this has not necessarily been the case. In fact, these events demonstrate just how much we need to protect the safety of people walking and cycling, on a route where one cyclist so tragically lost their life in recent years.

“We have been open from the outset that these measures were introduced on an emergency basis to provide a safe alternative to public transport at a time when this was being discouraged, as well as a different option to the crowded Union Canal and Water of Leith paths. Officers exercised due diligence in the implementation of this scheme, including the audits required for such urgent changes and consideration of previous collisions, as well as liaising with community members since.

“This is a clear bid to upend a carefully thought through policy aiming to protect public safety based on anecdotes, many of which have not been reported to police and, in some cases, involve criminal behaviour by drivers.”

The council said arrangements were being made to repair the island this week.

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