Two people walking

To launch National Walking Month, we polled residents of the UK's biggest cities about the walkability of their hometowns. And Edinburgh came out top of the pile - but, David Spaven, convenor of the Edinburgh Living Streets Group, begs to differ.

 

Parent, child and pram
Walking

If you walk in Scotland’s capital on a regular basis, you may be just as gobsmacked as Living Streets Edinburgh Group to see our city score highest in a ‘walkability poll’ of the UK’s largest cities.

It’s not a description that we recognise, based on our experience of Edinburgh’s car-dominated public realm.

Drilling down into the survey results, however, a rather different picture emerges.

While 147 people (out of a sample of 200 in Edinburgh) said the city had good pavements, 164 (82%) thought that more measures were needed to encourage walking in Edinburgh.

The latter is the message we have been pushing hard in the last few years, taking the City of Edinburgh Council to task for its widespread failure to turn some excellent policies on walking into delivery of practical improvements on the ground.

In Edinburgh, people on foot have been at the bottom of the transport priorities for a long time now.

Those aspects of Edinburgh which do make it walkable are largely in spite of – rather than because of – Council action, reflecting the vision of planners and politicians hundreds of years ago, creating a compact city and great buildings which today, only just, hide a multitude of modern failings.

In Edinburgh, people on foot have been at the bottom of the transport priorities for a long time now.

A key example of the City Council’s failure over many decades is Edinburgh’s shameful statistic that it has only two genuinely pedestrianised streets (High Riggs, near Tollcross, and the Kirkgate in Leith) where vehicles cannot penetrate.

Meanwhile, the surface of the supposedly pedestrianised Rose Street has been destroyed by vehicles. This is a desperately poor performance compared to, for example, Dundee, Glasgow, Newcastle and London.

Whilst London is seeking to pedestrianise Oxford Street, similar treatment for Edinburgh’s George Street appears to be going nowhere.

The last thing that Edinburgh needs is complacency

We will be redoubling our efforts locally to press the new Council administration to transform the quality of our streets, with action on speeding vehicles, longer pedestrian phases at road crossings, and wider, well-maintained and clutter-free pavements.

Prospects for the latter do look better now, following the recent success of our campaign to persuade the City Council to undertake a strategic review of its policy on A-boards (and its enforcement).

If you share our frustration at the City Council basking in undeserved praise in the local media for its walking actions, then why not help with the collection of more data to reflect the reality of Edinburgh, by taking part in Living Streets’ survey of your everyday walking experience.

Walking

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Find out more about Edinburgh Living Streets Group.

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Walking Cities: Edinburgh

Call for the city to put people at the heart of Edinburgh and make it a world class city for walking.

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