Building on Edinburgh’s transport strategy

At Transport and Environment Committee today the City Council adopted its Local Transport Strategy for the next five years. It may not be on everyone’s must-read list, but it is important in that it sets out the transport policies which the Council hopes will contribute to its ‘vision of Edinburgh as a thriving, successful and sustainable city.

And there is much in it to commend, in particular the efforts to reduce the need to travel, encouragement of the use of alternatives to the car, the push to reduce emissions from motorised travel, and the prioritisation of walking, cycling and public transport.

However, there are also considerable gaps in it and areas where I believe the Council could and should have gone much further.

For example, it sometimes feels that the city is simply juggling one set of pressures against another, within an overall unshifting or even growing volume of traffic. So I would have liked to have seen much greater efforts to reduce road traffic volumes, with a fixed target and timetable.

There’s clearly an appetite for the introduction of physically segregated cycle paths, to enable cycling to go beyond just confident on-road cyclists and to ensure that everyone from 8 to 80 feels safe enough to travel anywhere in the city by bike. I’ve called for 20-mph zones as standard with exceptions on a case-by-case basis, together with greater physical traffic-calming measures and genuine and consistent enforcement.

I’d urge proper integration of land use and planning with a lowering of parking provision in new developments and greater support for local shopping facilities; and enhanced priority given to pedestrians over road users, to allow them to cross and move around with ease; and concerted action on air quality.

In other words, although progress will undoubtedly be made over the next five years, the Council’s vision could have been much more far-reaching and delivered greater improvements to our beautiful but sometimes fragile city which is still blighted by heavy vehicle traffic and has many shortcomings for pedestrians, cyclists and those with mobility problems.

The Local Transport Strategy points in the right direction, and I’ll be seeking to make sure it delivers on its modest aims; and, just as importantly, builds on them.