Seeking your views on keeping Spaces for People measures

A citywide consultation launches today (2pm, Monday 22 February) seeking views on where improvements for walking, cycling and wheeling made during the COVID pandemic should be kept longer term.

In line with our wider ambitions to create a green, healthy and well-connected future for the Capital, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to get from A to B using sustainable, active modes of transport.

With these ambitions in mind, we’re asking residents if they’d like to see some of the schemes introduced as part of the Spaces for People programme, or elements of them, retained or removed.

In response to the COVID pandemic, we’ve been rolling out changes to help residents to travel by foot, bike or wheelchair while physically distancing, as well as providing alternatives to travel by bus while restrictions are in place. During lockdown we saw a surge in people walking and cycling, and we want to support that longer term, and the benefits this can bring to the environment, to people’s health and to quality of life.

Responses to the Spaces for People: Moving Forward consultation will help inform any proposals to keep measures in place, either on a trial basis or more permanently. The Council’s Transport and Environment Committee will consider the consultation results in April and the relevant statutory procedures would be followed before any schemes were made more permanent.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said:

We know from our own engagement with the public that people do want to see change happen. Our consultation on the City Mobility Plan found the vast majority of respondents supported proposals like introducing protected cycle lanes on arterial routes and creating more space for walking, while over the last year we’ve heard from many, many people who have gained from Spaces for People measures.

We’re working toward a more sustainable, inclusive and connected future and we want to see if we can deliver longer-term benefits by extending the life of Spaces for People projects, whether through trial schemes or by retaining projects in place more permanently. This is in line with Scottish and UK Government aspirations to support and encourage walking and cycling through better infrastructure. We’ve had encouragement from the Scottish Government to consider turning the most useful of these schemes into permanent infrastructure to help further support walking, wheeling and cycling.

As we look beyond the pandemic, we really want to know what difference retaining, modifying, or removing schemes would make to your lives. Please help us by sharing your views.

Councillor Karen Doran, Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said:

It’s been a particularly challenging year and we’ve been doing everything we can to help people to make essential journeys or take daily exercise safely, as well as spending time in local high streets when restrictions allowed.

As we look to make a green recovery from the pandemic, we’re considering whether some of the temporary schemes in place could be kept longer term to help people to continue to walk, cycle and wheel, and we’d like to know what you think. Of course, we’re just beginning the process - I want to reassure people that we’ll be carefully reviewing their responses as we consider the best way forward, and that we’ll be following the statutory procedures before anything is made more permanent.

In January, members of the Transport and Environment Committee approved recommendations to assess Spaces for People schemes by a set of criteria to determine whether it would be appropriate to keep some of them, and to commence a public consultation to seek people’s views.

Amongst the interventions to support safer walking, cycling and wheeling introduced or developed since last May are 39km of pop-up cycle lanes, widened footpaths in 11 key shopping streets and the introduction of safety measures at every Edinburgh school. We’ve also implemented several schemes based on suggestions via the Commonplace consultation and have made changes to help pedestrians get around the city, including removing street clutter and improving pedestrian crossings.

Many of the Spaces for People projects align with the Council’s broader aims, particularly those of the City Mobility Plan, a ten-year strategy for transforming travel and mobility in the Capital, which was approved by Transport and Environment Committee on Friday (16 February). The Plan envisions a connected, net zero carbon future, a healthier environment and better air quality, achieved by providing reliable, sustainable transport options, including much improved active travel links.

An enhanced environment for walking, cycling, wheeling and spending time outdoors is also central to Edinburgh City Centre Transformation, the Active Travel Action Plan and several other key Council commitments. It also reflects the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review 2, which states that making successful Spaces for People schemes permanent is the next key step in creating a change to the way road space is allocated and supporting active travel.

Find out more about the Spaces for People consultation and take part on the Council website.

Published: February 22nd 2021