What to ask for: 13 ways the council could improve their Leith Walk plan

Leith Walk - room for improvement...

The draft council plans for Leith Walk have only been out for a few days, but the public consultation “drop-in session” is to be held on the plans on Monday 3rd of December, between 10am and 8pm, at the MacDonald Road Library.

Various Greener Leith members have spoken to people about the plans, and the feedback we’ve had is that most people think the council proposals have not done enough to improve the design of the street.

Furthermore, most people would like to see the plans improved for pedestrians, businesses and cyclists but they’re not quite sure what to ask for when it comes to the detail.

To this end, we’ve produced this summary of the key changes we think need to be made to the current proposals. We’ve put this together to try to distill the main points that various people have made including local business owners, cycle safety campaign groups and planners. 

We’re urging as many people as possible to try to get along to the MacDonald Road meeting, or to take part in the online consultation, to call on the council to make some – or ideally all of these changes.

You can download this summary as a two page pdf that you can print out and take with you by clicking here. 

We should add that this summary of the key points we’ve identified so far is likely to form the basis of our final written submission to the Leith Walk consultation.

However, it is still a draft, and we’re keen to hear opinions from anyone who can help us refine our suggestions – and anyone who knows of any relevent research to help us make a more robust case. We’d particularly like to hear the views of other civic society groups in Leith.

If you’ve not had a chance to see the draft plans yet – you will be able to see large paper plans at the MacDonald Road library event, or you can download online versions from the council website here. 

Picardy Place

1. The proposed northbound dedicated cycle lane between the pedestrian crossing opposite the Playhouse and Gayfield square is not likely to be used by cyclists who have already braved Leith Street or Queen Street, and it also likely to be more dangerous than helpful to cyclists. It should be removed – unless it can be continued far further down Leith Walk.

If it is retained, red surfacing should be continued across the junctions to warn drivers to look out for cyclists and loading bays prior to the junctions removed to improve visibility.

2. The proposed southbound dedicated cycle path running between London Road and Leith Street should be retained. However, far greater thought should be given to how people access the northern end – particularly from Leith Walk.

Elm Row

3. After the roundabouts – the southbound section of Elm Row is possibly the most threatening part of Leith Walk for cyclists. The design should be revised to provide a far less intimidating route, including a protected lane, from the Annandale Street/Montgomery Street junction to the London Road roundabout for cyclists. The scope to move the pedestrian crossing on London road closer to the roundabout should be investigated with the aim of allowing cyclists to cross to the segregated bike lane south of the roundabout at the same time as pedestrians – in one phase.

Annandale Street/Montgomery Street Junction

4. The Annandale Street/Montgomery Street junction should be simplified to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. The left turn feeder lane for northbound traffic turning into Annandale street should be removed. This will improve safety as it will mean cyclists travelling north on Leith Walk will not have to filter across this lane and pedestrians will be able to cross the streets in one phase – instead of being held up at traffic islands.

Annandale Street Junction to Pilrig Street

5. An early draft of the plans for Leith Walk showed that the street is wide enough on this entire section to accommodate a protected cycle lane on the southbound/uphill side of the street. This should be reinstated. The current plans propose a wide hatched “central reservation” on the street on this section of Leith Walk. This is a waste of expensive tarmac that could be used to provide a protected lane on the northbound carriageway on the inside of the parking/loading lane.

Pilrig Street Junction

6. The left hand feeder lane for northbound traffic turning into Pilrig street, and the associated traffic island in the middle of the street should be removed. It is dangerous for cyclists and inconvenient for pedestrians. Removing it will improve road safety and allow pedestrians to cross both Pilrig street and Leith Walk in one phase.

Foot of the Walk

7. This junction should also be further simplified, and treated as a straightforwards crossroads, with pedestrians able to cross all sides of the junction in one phase.

This will improve the pedestrian experience and make it safer for cyclists.

In addition, the number of northbound lanes entering the junction from Leith Walk should be reduced from three to two.

This will also make it safer for cyclists, as those wishing to proceed to Duke Street or Constitution Street will be required to filter across fewer lanes of busy traffic.

Moreover, the street widens out on the section between Leith Cycles and the Foot of the Walk. Further consideration should be given to the provision of protected cycle lanes on the northbound side of the street at the Foot of the Walk and indeed this whole section.

20mph limit

8. The council should consider applying a 20mph speed limit to all motor vehicles on Leith Walk. This is proven to improve road safety and promote liveable streets.

Colour of road markings

9. Red surfaces have been used elsewhere in the city to denote bike lanes. On Leith Walk it is apparetnly proposed that red surfaces will also be used to identify bus lanes. The council should seek consistency and colour bus lanes green – reserving red for bike lanes. This will minimise confusion amongst all road users.

Management of parking

10. The current arrangements for parking on the street are ineffective and dangerous, partly due to poor enforcement. Parking should be managed with a view to maximising the number of unique visitors to the street.

Even if parking is free for a set period, all drivers should be required to display a ticket that shows when they occupied a parking space to aid more effective enforcement.

Research from New York shows that promoting a greater turnover of parking spaces is equivalent to creating more new parking spaces. In turn this allows physical parking spaces to be cut, freeing up room for cycle lanes on narrow sections of the street – whilst increasing turnover at businesses on the street.

The scope for better parking enforcement, combined with fewer parking spaces should be investigated in order to allow a protected northbound lane to run the length of Leith Walk.

11. Additional bike parking should be located at key destination points. For example, the tram stop at Picardy Place, Pilrig church, supermarkets and the Foot of the Walk will require more bike parking facilties.

Management of commercial bins

12. Proposals to locate communal bins for domestic waste in the parking lane, rather than the pavement are welcome. The same strategy should be extended to the commercial waste containers too. This will vastly improve the pedestrian experience of the street, particularly those with sight and mobility impairments.

Location of greenery

13. Planters can be used to demarcate cycle lanes from the parking lane along the length of the street. Street trees should be added to the design wherever practicable.

You can download this summary as a two page pdf that you can print out and take with you to the MacDonald Road meeting by clicking here. 

Photo credit: Chris Hill