“Transport supports our economy, enhances the social and cultural fabric of the city. The choices we make affect our health and quality of life.”
It’s hard to disagree with those words, which appear near the start of the Edinburgh city council transport strategy. Click here to see a copy: Transport_Strategy
The council are inviting views on it, and I urge them to be bold.
Transport does indeed support our economy but it also hinders it. At the moment we have a very inefficient network with regular gridlock, costing business and putting public health at risk.
Studies from the US show where cities have embraced cycling local retailers have enjoyed a surge in business. After all, you can fit a dozen bikes in a single car parking space.
We can talk about different ways of routing traffic until the cows come home but if we’re serious we should talk about ways of reducing traffic in the first place. That’s why we must prioritise walking and stress-free cycling, along with good bus and rail links for commuters into the city from other parts of Lothian.
It is true that transport affects social and cultural fabric. Just look at the positive culture they have in cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam where going from A to B on a bike without breaking sweat is the norm, compared to here where many feel the need to put on a suit of high-vis armour.
Missing from the strategy’s options is the creation of a stand-out piece of cycle infrastructure so we can see the benefits in action. The recently-unveiled “Quality Bike Corridor” was a damp squib and combining a cycle lane with tram tracks on Princes Street was plain daft. If we’re going to showcase our commitment to this fun, affordable and efficient form of transport let’s do so properly.
Edinburgh could have a truly continental-style street café culture. At the moment any enjoyment is easily shattered by thundering traffic, with fumes that leave you coughing up your croissant. Air quality remains a scandal in our capital city; in several locations Air Quality Management Zones have been introduced where the pollution threatens to breach World Health Organisation standards. I hope the proposal for low emissions zones – restricting the most polluting vehicles – goes ahead.
The assertion that it is our individual choices that affect our health and quality of life must be taken to task. Many people feel they have no choice but to drive, and those who don’t have access to a car – half the households in the city – have no choice but to inhale the fumes and put up with the congestion. It is vital the council strategy gives us our choices back.
I’m amazed to discover the council is “frequently” approached to help organisations plan their travel to reduce car use but it has “no resource available” to do so. Spending a small amount on this would pay big dividends.
It’s pleasing to see an emphasis on road and pavement maintenance. Our city streets are plagued with potholes yet government prefers to fund new motorways, bypasses and bridges. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies are obviously hard to resist.
More 20 mph zones – one of the council administration’s pledges – can’t come soon enough. These are proven to reduce injuries and create streets safer for cyclists and children. We have roads in Edinburgh that are 40 mph when they are no different from others that are 30 mph. Let’s lower those limits too.
Of course the top gripe for any Edinburgh motorist, whether you’re a petrol head or an occasional driver like me, is that search for an elusive parking space. There are city centre car parks regularly underused so the spaces are there. In the same way that Lothian Buses developed a free smart phone app for its customers could the council invest in a free app showing car park spaces? We won’t change our car-is-king culture overnight but we could end unnecessary journeys.