The Council are consulting on the future of the Greenbank-Meadows Quiet Route. This blog post collects information together about the consultation and how you can contribute to it, as well as outlining my views about the options being put forward.
If you would like to contact me to discuss the Quiet Route and consultation in more detail, contact Cllr.Ben.Parker@edinburgh.gov.uk
The short of it
The brief or TLDR (“too long, didn’t read”) version:
- I support Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route and will continue to advocate for its strengthening and expansion in our area through low-cost measures and interventions which will make our residential streets safer, quieter and more pleasant to be around. I believe this is reflective of the views of residents in the area.
- I believe it was a mistake of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors to introduce additional layers of consultation about the Quiet Route. Additional consultation puts unreasonable expectations on residents to spend more of their time responding to further Council surveys on the same subject and will delay permanent implementation of a scheme which is popular and important.
- I believe that parties who campaigned on manifestos to take action on the climate emergency are reneging on their promises by not supporting decisive action to make the scheme permanent, and by watering down aspects of it. I believe there has been ample discussion and feedback received about the Quiet Route for the Council to address concerns raised, tweak the existing scheme in response to this feedback and strengthen it. I think that there is a real danger of the Council “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” with the new options being considered.
- I encourage all residents to submit feedback about the route as part of the Council’s latest consultation. You can do this on the consultation website here by 22nd October.
The long of it
What is the Greenbank-Meadows Quiet Route?
The Greenbank-Meadows Quiet Route describes the current series of road layout changes in place from the Meadows / Whitehouse Loan to the south of Braidburn Valley Park which facilitate a safer environment for those walking, wheeling and cycling.
The route restricts traffic flows through residential areas by strategic use of ‘modal filters’ such as at Whitehouse Loan and Braid Avenue which limit the ability of private vehicles to drive through an area (but which still permit pedestrians and cyclists to travel through).
Filters make areas quieter and more pleasant, improve air quality and encourage more people to walk, wheel or cycle. They do not restrict anyone’s ability to travel by private vehicle anywhere in the area, but they do limit the routes people can take through it and prevent rat running.
You can read more about the route on the Friends of the Quiet Route website, including its interesting connection to the history of the first piped public water supply to the city in the 17th century.
Why is the route important?
The route is important because it provides a safe active travel connection from the south of the city to the Meadows – and therefore wider active travel network – for those who wish to walk, wheel or cycle. Connecting up the active travel network will encourage more people to use it.
The two biggest contributors to climate emissions in the city are related to:
- Our buildings and the way we heat them;
- Our transport system and how we get around the city.
Schemes like the Quiet Route help people to make more sustainable travel choices by providing infrastructure to support them to walk, wheel or cycle. If we are to meet our targets to reduce climate emissions and tackle the climate emergency for the benefit of people now and for future generations, we need to take bold and decisive action.
Reducing the flow of traffic through residential areas make our streets safer and more pleasant which have a multitude of benefits.
What have we learnt about the route so far?
The Council has already undertaken consultation and engagement around the route and residents have submitted views. This previous consultation has shown that the route is popular, and monitoring has shown the scheme has achieved its aims of encouraging more people to walk, wheel and cycle.
There have been concerns raised about how the scheme has inadvertently led to increased traffic levels in parts of the Braid estate at Midmar Gardens / Midmar Avenue, and around Clinton Road in the north. Feedback has also highlighted the need for better wayfinding along the route, and a desire for more attractive materials.
Why is the Council consulting on this (again) and what does this mean for the permanent implementation of the scheme?
At the Council’s Transport & Environment Committee in June 2023 – in response to a Liberal Democrat motion – Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors voted to set apart the Greenbank-Meadows Quiet Route for additional consultation, delaying the potential implementation of the scheme. You can read the details of the motion here (Item 9.1) (and note that the final decision agreed the motion, with the Labour addendum found here).
Green councillors did not support separating out the scheme for additional consultation because this option costs the Council money, increases the workload of council officers who are already stretched and puts more work on residents to respond to additional consultations about the same subject which can be frustrating and confusing. Instead, we suggested to continue the “standard” process for the scheme which would have seen a “tweaked” route readvertised for comment now, based on feedback already submitted.
We also felt that the motion unreasonably singled out the route for being “unpopular” when this is simply not reflective of the views of residents. I was especially disappointed that Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors were unwilling to accept any part of the Green amendment submitted, including the simple statement of fact that “there has already been a high volume of positive feedback received about the scheme”. You can read the Green amendment which was not accepted in full here.
What do I think about the consultation and options which have been put forward?
My view is formed from many conversations I have had with residents on the ground about the route, consultation responses to date and the policy priorities which I was elected on – in particular, to increase action to tackle the climate emergency and make our streets safer and more pleasant for people, in particular children and young people.
In my view, several of the options put forward significantly weaken the Quiet Route. These are the options which remove existing modal filters along the route:
- Options 2) and 3) for the Braid Estate
- Option 1a) and 2a) for Clinton Road / Whitehouse Loan.
I believe that the removal of modal filters will significantly compromise the character of the route by reintroducing motor traffic to residential areas. I believe that this will make areas busier and less pleasant to walk, wheel and cycle through. Making walking, wheeling and cycling less attractive undermines the Council’s ambitions to tackle the climate emergency and I do not believe has the support of residents in the area.
I do not support the introduction of segregated cycle lanes as an alternative to the Quiet Route in the Braid Estate. Segregated lanes are very expensive to implement compared to simple filters, are generally deemed inappropriate for residential areas and will not result in the other benefits we get from filters. For example, segregated lanes will have no benefit to pedestrians or local residents as they will not make areas quieter or improve air quality. Furthermore, they are less likely to be used by less confident cyclists who use the route currently, precisely because of busy traffic around them, and the difficulties associated with making right turns / crossing busy traffic on the route.
I believe that the best options for addressing the feedback received about the route already is to add additional filters to the route, as represented by:
- Option 1) for the Braid Estate, and
- Option 2) for Clinton Road.
This will tackle the concerns raised by other residents in the area about rat running traffic and ensure the benefits seen by the route already are shared more widely across the area.
When the route becomes permanent – and ideally before – I agree that we should use more attractive and permanent materials and improve wayfinding along the route through additional signage.
Because of this decision, an additional consultation period is now being conducted for the route. This consultation will look at different options officers have designed for the route. After this consultation period (ending on 22nd October 2023), new recommendations will come before the Transport & Environment committee. At this point – assuming councillors agree to continue to take the scheme forward – a further consultation process will open as a new ETRO (experimental traffic regulation order) is written for a “tweaked” route, most likely representing one of the options put forward at this consultation point. This will see the scheme fall back into following the “standard” practice/process.
How you can contribute to the consultation
It sets out several options for consideration by residents. There are a number of questions to complete as part of the consultation, including open comment boxes. You do not need to support any one option put forward in its entirety, but it is helpful if you have preferences between the options.