Since 2013 Sustrans Scotland has been working with City of Edinburgh Council to enhance streetscape designs for Leith Walk. The designs seek to transform these streets into a high quality example of Scottish urban streetscapes, where space has been reprioritised to genuinely support pedestrian and cycling modes of transport.
During this time we have held conversations about how the project will interface with the emerging designs for Picardy Place and how Picardy Place could, and should, fulfil its potential as a key city public space and transport interchange, rather than remain the vehicle-dominated area it is at present. However, the resulting designs focus on maintaining traffic capacity, rather than creating public space.
Our key issues with the final design, as presented, are:
- The concept of Hierarchy of Street Users is not at the centre of project thinking and does not follow Scottish Government policy for Designing Streets.
- The multi-lane gyratory traffic system appears unsuitable for an area at the gateway to Edinburgh’s World Heritage area.
- Designs developed with traffic modelling as primary driver rather than places for people will result in a poor public realm experience.
- Though we welcome the addition of cycle lanes, the gyratory system limits cycle infrastructure to an unintuitive design.
We have consistently brought up these issues at stakeholder and design meetings. Therefore, while we will continue to work with our partners at the Council in order to ensure that the enhanced streetscape design for Leith Walk integrates as effectively as possible with the new road design for Picardy Place, Sustrans Scotland is no longer directly involved with the Picardy Place project and would like to express our disappointment at this lost opportunity.
We would like to reiterate our strong support for the City of Edinburgh Council’s work to make it easier for people to walk and cycle. Edinburgh has led the way in Scotland in terms of investment in cycling and this investment is paying off: 11% of commuter journeys in Edinburgh are now made by bike.
To build on this success, not only does the City need continuous, safe cycling infrastructure, but also to ensure that our civic spaces are recalibrated towards people. Sadly, we feel that the design for Picardy Place, as it stands, is a lost opportunity for Edinburgh leading the way in people-friendly public realm design.
Last week’s announcement regarding Edinburgh's double success in the Community Links PLUS design competition has created a renewed sense of urgency in reviewing the Picardy Place designs. The two successful bids from Edinburgh will only achieve their full potential if the design of the junction at Picardy Place integrates into a cohesive vision for the City Centre, a vision that prioritises people and place over vehicular movement.
We have consistently argued against a gyratory at Picardy Place and now, more than ever, the need for this outdated urban planning needs an urgent review.
We urge the new administration to reconsider the current design proposals for Picardy Place.