Edinburgh cycle campaigners highlights 'hokey cokey' traffic measures as councillors agree to keep most Spaces for People schemes
Cycling campaigners complained about “hokey cokey” traffic measures as councillors decided the future of Edinburgh’s controversial Spaces for People programme.
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Temporary measures installed on George IV Bridge and Forrest Road, which include bollards to separate cycle lanes from the main carriageway, are to be removed as the permitted 18-month period comes to an end, but similar measures will be introduced again at some stage in the future under an already-agreed permanent scheme.
A representative from bike group Spokes told the city’s transport committee: “We would like to mention this infrastructure hokey cokey, where we see infrastructure going in and then being taken out or revised and potentially going back in under future plans.
"That would not be acceptable for any other mode of transport – we wouldn’t put a rail line in, take it out and then out it back in – so it’s not acceptable for active travel and cycling.”
A fellow campaigner said George IV Bridge was at the heart of a well-used cycle network from the city centre to Middle Meadow Walk and a range of designated Quiet Routes and ending the measures would deter people from using it.
The committee agreed most of the city’s Spaces for People schemes – now rebranded Travelling Safely – should be continued for another 18 months using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs).
But council officials said because a new scheme for George IV Bridge/Forrest Road had already been approved by the committee the legal advice was an ETRO could not be used in that case.
Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “I well understand the frustrations of those who want to see improved active travel and it is very much part of the general drive from this administration that we should be providing precisely that.”
She said Forrest Road was “a deeply dissatisfying position, where we’e having to revert to poorer quality infrastructure in order to ensure the possibility of a better quality scheme later”.
Although most SfP schemes will continue, most measures in local town centres, like wider pavements and reduced parking spaces, will come to an end.
And some of the most controversial schemes – at Comiston Road, Braid Road and Lanark Road – are due to be considered at the committee’s next meeting, once officers have discussed options with the community councils and local residents.
Tories called for the removal of all Spaces for People schemes except for those around schools and said future active travel measures must be developed in consultation with residents, businesses and others.
But councillor Macinnes accused them of adopting a “slash and burn” approach, and added: "The idea we would remove all SfP infrastructure flies in the face of the direction this city is supposed to be going in, towards a greener, healthier, more sustainable city.”
Tory transport spokesman Graham Hutchison hit back: “The concerns we’re trying to address are that you’re approach has throughout been tone deaf and dismissive of the very real concerns the citizens of Edinburgh have raised.
“You were very clear when the programme was first presented that these were temporary measures. What we see now is an attempt to make these temporary measures to be made permanent by the back door. Consultation throughout has been severely lacking.
“When I was raising points that were brought to me by constituents – concerns which were impacting their everyday life – the responses I received from officers were ‘We’re not listening to any evidence, we believe what we’re doing is right ‘ dismissive, arrogant, unhelpful and it engendered an atmosphere of hostility to the Spaces for People programme amongst large section of the Edinburgh public.”
Lib Dem Kevin Lang claimed the new Travelling Safely name was “a fairly weak attempt at a rebranding exercise”. He said: “There is no question the process that have been used around Spaces for People have deeply damaged relationships with some communities in some parts of the city.”
But he claimed the change could cause confusion with other areas of the council work.
Green Gavin Corbett called for more of the schemes to stay. "People want to walk and cycle more, but what we're still miles away from is having a network that makes that the easiest choice – that’s where the future is.
“I don’t think this city is well served by ripping out scheme which have given priority to people walking or cycling Let’s keep what we have, make it better and do far far more in the months ahead.”