Revamp of Edinburgh's George Street: residents say plans are discriminatory

The proposed revamp of Edinburgh's George Street will mainly benefit wealthier, younger, non-disabled men, residents have claimed.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 4:55 am

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And the city council has been criticised for failing to carry out an equalities impact assessment to see how the plans to ban cars and buses to create more space for cyclists and pedestrians will affect women, disabled people and those on lower incomes. New Town and Broughton Community Council (NTBCC) claimed despite consultation on the plans, the impact on residents in the area and surrounding communities, as well as disadvantaged groups, had not been properly considered.

It suggested allowing buses and taxis on George Street would improve safety for women going home late at night or opening shops early in the morning.

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And it called for free public toilets to be added to the plans, arguing older people, women and disabled people were among those likely to need to go to the loo more often.

"If George Street is to be accessible to all, including people on low incomes, then suitable facilities at no cost should be included."

NTBCC said the main change to George Street would be to prioritise cyclists and pedestrians over car, taxi and bus users. But it said: "Only seven per cent of males and three per cent of women cycle for transport in Scotland. They are more likely to be non-disabled, and likely to be younger and wealthier. Therefore the council’s over-concentration on cycle provision is not only unbalanced, but is also discriminatory against those who are not able to cycle and contrary to equalities aspirations."

People on lower incomes were more likely to go to work by bus, it said. And the most common reason for not travelling by bus was that there was no direct route. "It would therefore, seem strange to discourage people from using buses by making then further away from George Street. During the Edinburgh Fringe, the buses were diverted from George Street to accommodate events, making bus journey times of 10/15 minutes take 30/40 minutes. How does this encourage bus use?"

The proposed revamp would open up George Street to pedestrians, bikes, and outdoor seating areas.

It also voiced concern about access for carers of disabled people, deliveries for disabled people and picking up or dropping off disabled people in and around George Street.

And NTBCC also questioned plans for event spaces in the area. "We are aware of the distress that these big events cause residents. How will this development support the needs of residents over the desires of tourism?"

The council said no decision had been made on taxi access to George Street and bus services would still be available on the interconnecting Hanover Street, Frederick Street and St David Street.

Daisy Narayanan, head of placemaking and mobility at the council, said the plans followed several years of development and engagement with the public and organisations including NTBCC. “Issues facing those with disabilities, women and any vulnerable members of society are, of course, extremely important to us, and have been carefully considered both as part of Integrated Impact Assessments, which continue to be updated, and right through the design process. Public safety is a key objective of the project – we have been working closely with Police Scotland as part of its development.”

She said research had shown the inequality which poor walking and cycling infrastructure posed for women, minority groups and the disabled.

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