Edinburgh’s Circulation Plan – A Framework for Allocating Street Space: TRANSPORT Smart Class, Scotland 2023 Retrospective


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Our streets work best when they move people around efficiently and make it easier to get things done. At the same time, streets should provide a more pleasant environment for everyone.

Cities, including Edinburgh, acknowledge that streets are not just travel corridors but important ‘ecosystems’, places and destinations in their own right. They play an important role in adding to the city’s green and blue networks, helping to combat climate change and poor air quality, enhancing biodiversity, and improving wellbeing.

To achieve Edinburgh’s agreed local transport strategy – City Mobility Plan 2030 – the city is in the process of agreeing a new approach to the way streets are planned and designed to reduce modal conflict and create more space for people, businesses and nature to thrive.

Councillor Scott Arthur (Convener of the Transport and Environment Committee at The City of Edinburgh Council and Chair of Transport for Edinburgh) and Daisy Narayanan (CEC’s Head of Placemaking and Mobility) joined us at TRANSPORT Smart Class, Scotland 2023 earlier this month to discuss the opportunities and challenges of designing a truly integrated transport system. Taking learnings from the continent, their co-presented keynote set out Edinburgh’s emerging vision and key principles for a ‘Future Streets’ network, referred to as Edinburgh’s ‘Circulation Plan’.

Summary of presentation highlights:

  • Low Emission Zones Scotland – LEZs have been introduced in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow to protect public health and improve air quality;
  • Transport Uncertainty – Post pandemic travel (“in the past month, Lothian Buses have had two days with over 100,000 contactless payments in a single day…fantastic for a city of about half a million people Edinburgh”; City growth (land set aside for 39,000 to be built over next 10 years); Inequality in terms of both income and access to travel (“Edinburgh has one of the best bus services in the UK and the best in Scotland but West Edinburgh has one of the worst”); Economic shocks (Pandemic, Brexit, war in Ukraine); Attracting investment;
  • TomTom Traffic Index rankings and British cities with the best Public Transport – Edinburgh is the most congested UK city but has the second best public transport in the UK: “Unwritten social contract between CEC and the bus and tram operators”;
  • Transport Challenges – Combined challenges (net zero, reducing car miles in city by 30% by 2030); Getting the basics right (e.g. potholes) or showing ambition (e.g. strategy, decarbonisation); Getting Edinburgh ready for the future (e.g. evolving MaaS with Lothian Buses, air quality monitors linked up to road traffic control); Five dimensional party politics (the need to work in partnership to get things done); Chronic underfunding; Change is painful (be mindful that project implementation can be harmful to business and wellbeing, at least in the short term e.g. works on North Bridge re tram to New haven, cycle infrastructure work in West Edinburgh);
  • Edinburgh Challenges – Narrow streets cause conflict between sustainable modes; Congestion; Impact of vehicular dominance on historic/WHS streets/listed structures; Ageing assets have strategic function (North Bridge); Difficult decisions (Holyrood Park, N Bridge, tram etc);

  • Opportunities – Placemaking and public realm (great parks to boost wellbeing & public health, though connecting those spaces is a challenge); Safe cycling, bus priority, wider footways, enhancing WHS; Examples incl. CCWEL, George Street, M2GS; Need to decarbonise as well as reallocate space (reallocating space just one tool) – as a publicly owned transport network, Edinburgh’s trams have already decarbonised and buses are moving down that road;
  • Transport, Economic Development or Quality of Life? George Street project also about boosting the economy and well being, not just pedestrianisation of the street; Substantial income from parking to consider; Belated extension of tram to Newhaven (“Taking you to the shops”) – should have been delivered in 2011; Cycle routes into the city centre facilitated through a conservation area; How do people access a local high street and how do they account for local spend? Prioritise buses and taking parking off the streets – 31% of people are coming by car but this only accounts for 10% of business; New street layouts still unsafe, say blind people – CEC engaging with disability groups to get it right through a just transition;
  • Equitable Street Space Allocation? Participatory engagement methods to consider user needs; Creative thinking around opportunities for improving place and sustainable networks; A just transition to reduce inequalities and maximise benefits ; Net zero 2030 ambitions require bold leadership and collaboration with communities, businesses etc;
  • Opportunities – Listening to the silent majority; Working with employers & accessibility campaigners to avoid exclusion; Cross boundary work with local authorities; Contributing to national progress;
  • Joining the dots between transport and planning, economic development and everything place based;

  • Edinburgh’s ‘Circulation Plan’ – How we move people and goods across the city to achieve a truly integrated transport system and strategic networks for public transport and for walking and cycling; Connecting 4 big regeneration areas in a way that puts sustainable development at its heart;
  • Case Study 1: Granton Waterfront – The regeneration will create a new coastal quarter based on the principles of place making and the 20 minute neighbourhood. New residents and the surrounding communities will have access to amenities including a new primary school, a medical facility, commercial and cultural space, a coastal park, high quality open space and active travel network – 25% parking provisions, sustainable travel options, renewable energy/energy efficient buildings for a new mixed use community etc. Granton will be a place to live, work, play and thrive. Through public sector led regeneration, the Council will work with private sector development partner on adopting an infrastructure first approach to delivery;
  • Case Study 2: George Street – “Putting transport within the wider context of place and placemaking”; A key street in the city centre and part of the wider City Centre Transformation Strategy which encompasses pedestrianising certain streets, potential introduction of hopper buses, dealing with Edinburgh’s topography etc – “Not just a transport or place project”, it’s also an opportunity to tell the story/history of the street;
  • Case Study 3: Wester Hailes – Excellent example of community engagement in the local plan;
  • With a pipeline of projects, Edinburgh is at a “tipping point” in its sustainable transport transition

If you meet our regular delegate qualification criteria but were unable to join us at Riddle’s Court, Edinburgh, for the live in-person event on September 7th, CLICK HERE and complete the short “Download form” (located at the bottom of the post) to receive a unique link enabling free access to the presentation video recordings and slides (including the film footage and slides from Scott and Daisy’s keynote).

Those qualifying to receive the rich presentation content from this event include commissioning, procurement, trialling, partnering and policy leads, senior influencers, strategic decision makers and planners from local authorities (e.g. city, borough, metropolitan, district and county councils); public transport operators; regional transport partnerships, sub-regional transport bodies, combined authorities, integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives; highways authorities and road operators; government and supporting national transport agencies; fleet operators, parking operators, prime contractors etc.

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TRANSPORT Smart Class, Scotland 2023

On September 7th we will be casting a spotlight over Scotland, hosting our speakers discussions on how the latest digital innovations can help overcome the transport and mobility challenges faced by the city-regions of Glasgow & Clyde Valley, Edinburgh & South East Scotland, Stirling, Tay, Aberdeen, Inverness & Highlands, and beyond.


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