Update on the Greenbank-Meadows Quiet Route

Following the consultation, Green Cllr Ben Parker explains his position on the future of the route.

Last year the Council completed a consultation about the route. At the time, I wrote a blog post explaining more about what the Quiet Route is, and also outlining my position on the consultation which you can read here. Now, following the consultation, the Council’s Transport and Environment committee will be deciding about the future of the route on Thursday (7th March). This blog post explains my position on that decision.

The TLDR version:

  • I support Option 2 for the northern end of the route, adding an additional “modal filter” on Clinton Road to deter rat running and retaining the modal filters outside James Gillespie’s Primary School
  • I support Option 1 for the southern end of the route, retaining all “modal filters” and adding additional ones in the Braid Estate to keep the benefits of the filters felt on some streets already, and to extend these to others
  • I support these options because I believe the evidence shows they have been successful, they have support from residents, they retain the character of the Quiet Route in making streets quieter and safer, they support principles of social justice, are good value for money for the Council, are scalable across the city and they support efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
What are Councillors being asked to decide?

The paper coming forward to the Transport & Environment committee is here. Councillors are being asked to “[select] a preferred Option for the two sections [of the Quiet Route] to be taken forward for further development and implementation, on a trial basis”. The two sections of the route being referenced are the northern section on Whitehouse Loan near James Gillespie’s Primary School and the southern section in the Braid Estate. Once the decision is made on Thursday – assuming that the route is taken forward in some way – a new “Experimental Traffic Regulation Order” (ETRO) will be made, triggering a further 18-month consultation period before another decision is made about whether to make the changes permanent. My previous blog post explains why this is the process being followed. 

What options are being put to Councillors?

In the northern section Councillors are being asked to choose between options which respond to concerns raised in the consultation process about traffic levels along Clinton Road. The options are: 

  • Option 1 – “Remove parking on Clinton Road, thus allowing vehicles to pass without mounting the footway”
  • Option 2 – “Introduce a modal filter on Church Hill (between Clinton Road and Greenhill Gardens) preventing through traffic from using Clinton Road”

There are also options 1a and 2a which are the same as above, but with Whitehouse Loan re-opened to southbound vehicular traffic at Strathearn Road.

In the southern section Councillors are being asked to choose between options which respond to concerns raised in the consultation process about traffic levels in different parts of the Braid Estate. The options are: 

  • Option 1 – “Modify and introduce additional filters to remove through traffic from all streets internal to the Braid Estate, requiring through traffic to route via Hermitage Drive and Midmar Drive to travel between Braidburn Terrace and Cluny Gardens.”
  • Option 2 – “Re-open Braid Avenue to through traffic, with segregated cycleways on Braid Avenue and Hermitage Drive. Retain modal filters on Braid Road and adjust to remove through traffic from Hermitage Gardens.”
  • Option 3 – “Re-open Braid Avenue and Braid Road to through traffic, with segregated cycleways on Braid Avenue and Hermitage Drive.”

The report which is being discussed at the Committee discusses each of these options in turn, highlighting consultation responses about each of these options and, where appropriate, outlining possible modifications to each option based on feedback received. These are described as “revised” options in the report.  For all options, it is also proposed that increased wayfinding is used on the route, better quality materials used throughout and additional safety measures pursued along Hermitage Drive and Midmar Drive.

Green Councillors will move the position to support the (revised) Option 2 for the north of the route, and (revised) Option 1 for the south of the route (as well as the general measures proposed alongside all options).

Why are Green Councillors supporting those options?
  • Evidence shows that the Quiet Route is working
    A key aim of the Quiet Route is to reduce traffic on residential streets making them safer for people walking, wheeling or cycling. The report explains that “available evidence suggests that, with these road closures in place, overall traffic through some affected areas has reduced by around 40%” (9.3) and that – contrary to what might be assumed – “traffic does not appear to have simply re-routed onto Morningside Road” (4.38). The data shows that “traffic evaporation” is taking place.
  • The Quiet Route has support from residents
    Feedback from residents on streets which currently benefit from the modal filters – for example, on Braid Avenue and Braid Road – are overwhelmingly supportive of the measures and do not support options to remove the filters. The report explains that “respondents who live on streets which have modal filters are experiencing benefits from the low traffic environment and do not want to lose these benefits” (4.26). It is right to retain these benefits for those residents and look to extend them to others. Notably, Parent Councils from multiple schools along the route also do not support options to remove filters.
  • Options to remove modal filters threaten the character of the route
    Transport policy should support the sustainable travel hierarchy, which is to promote walking, wheeling and cycling, not just facilitate the movement of private vehicles through an area. This is in line with the Council’s wider priorities to end poverty and tackle the climate emergency. Proposals to remove modal filters and reintroduce traffic into residential areas threaten the sustainable travel hierarchy. The report explains that “there is a risk that removing the filters could result in an overall increase in traffic through the Braid Estate, by making vehicular trips more convenient, which could lead to an adverse impact on the safety of people walking and cycling.” (4.33). Furthermore, the proposed “remedy” of introducing a segregated cycle lane will have no benefit to pedestrians who are at the top of the transport hierarchy and will only benefit the most capable cyclists.Additionally, the modal filters in place have been shown to significantly reduce vehicle speeds. A report to the Transport and Environment committee in August 2022 explained how Braid Avenue (where filters are currently in place) saw the biggest decrease in speeds across the whole city since the measures were introduced. It is right to retain these benefits for residents on Braid Avenue and look to extend them to other parts of the local area where speeding occurs (for example, Hermitage Drive and Midmar Drive).
  • Options to remove modal filters only benefit wealthier people
    Green Councillors believe in social justice and therefore do not support proposals to remove modal filters. As the report explains: “[O]ptions which would re-open roads to vehicular traffic which are currently closed are considered to have the greatest negative impact in terms of equality and poverty. The benefits of these options are primarily felt by motorists. Car access and use is higher among higher income households and lower among lower income households. While benefits to motorists may also benefit people with mobility and visual impairments, the benefits of re-opening through roads in this regard are considered to be small as all premises on affected streets are still able to be accessed by private vehicles with fairly minor diversions required.” (7.2).Additionally, “the negative impacts of re-introducing through traffic onto streets which are currently closed include additional risk to pedestrians and cyclists, and additional pollution with potential impact on local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. These negative impacts affect everyone who uses affected streets, but disproportionately affect those who do not have access to private vehicles – such as young people and lower income households.” (7.3).

  • Scalability, cost and principles of fairness
    Proposals to introduce segregated cycle lanes are significantly more expensive than other measures and will mean that other active travel projects planned for different parts of the city will be delayed, cancelled or re-scoped. This includes in parts of the city which have suffered from years of underinvestment. Furthermore, because the costs of segregated cycle lanes are so high, it is unlikely that similar measures could be implemented across all other parts of the city. This is a justice issue – it would be wrong to invest this amount of money in Morningside to the detriment of other parts of the city when alternative, cheaper and more effective solutions exist.
  • Genuine action on the climate crisis
    The Council has ambitious targets to tackle the climate emergency and is not currently meeting these. As the report explains: “[a]ctive travel is recognised as a key factor in the reduction of emissions associated with vehicular transport. Measures which increase active travel uptake will make a positive contribution to carbon emissions reductions and improved air quality.” (8.1). Additionally, the report explains: “following the principle of induced demand, if [options for re-opening roads to vehicular traffic] are selected this could encourage additional car use which could increase the production of greenhouse gas emissions associated with transport in the city.” If the Council is serious about tackling the climate emergency, we need to see measures like the Quiet Route strengthened, not diluted.
Responding to concerns / comments made by others
  • “But more people voted for other options in the consultation!?”
    In the first instance, it is important to recognise that a consultation is not a referendum, and we should not think of consultation responses as “votes” one way or the other. The decision Councillors make on Thursday should be based on an analysis of feedback received from residents as part of the consultation process, as well as the manifestos they were elected on and the priorities / policies of the Council. Whilst there has been “negative” feedback received about the scheme, some of the concerns raised are either being addressed through all schemes – for example, concerns about the aesthetics of current filters, or road safety issues on Hermitage Drive and Midmar Drive – or can be addressed by Option 1 through the addition of more modal filters – for example, worries about increased traffic in parts of the Braid Estate. Other concerns raised – for example, about traffic displacement or the environmental impact of circuitous routes – are simply not supported by the evidence.
  • “Greens support cycle segregation – why oppose it here?”
    Segregated cycle lanes are important tools for increasing cycling safety on main roads. However, they are expensive to implement and only benefit experienced cyclists who are confident cycling alongside traffic. Quiet Routes are significantly better for less confident cyclists (including children) because they allow cyclists to cycle side by side and contain less traffic which can be daunting. Additionally, the proposed segregated cycle lane on Braid Avenue will be very steep and difficult for many people to navigate. The Quiet Route should be about encouraging more people to walk, wheel and cycle – including those who have not tried it before – and a single segregated cycle lane will not achieve this desired outcome.
  • “All of the traffic which was previously travelling down Braid Avenue has been displaced to other streets” / “Re-opening Braid Avenue to vehicle traffic will reduce pressures in other parts of the Braid Estate.”
    There is no evidence to suggest this is the case – the data shows a reduction in traffic across the whole estate and no displacement to Morningside Road / Comiston Road as had been feared. In line with the theory of induced demand, the way to reduce traffic on other streets in the Braid Estate is to introduce more modal filters, not less.

If you would like to contact me to discuss the Quiet Route and consultation in more detail, contact

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