Published: 4th DECEMBER 2017

Update: Picardy Place, our position

Sustrans have welcomed the opportunity to examine the latest developments to the designs for Picardy Place, Edinburgh.

women walking in the city

We understand that the City of Edinburgh Council is bound by Growth Accelerator Model (GAM) to create a gyratory junction for Picardy Place and that departing from this concept would constitute a breach of the GAM, and risk loss of a significant amount of funding.

On 20th November 2017, CEC invited Sustrans to a stakeholder engagement session at City Chambers to give feedback on the latest iterations of the design. The meeting was well attended and facilitated and allowed a number of concerns to be aired from people representing a wide range of stakeholders, and people who spoke on behalf of the local community.

Sustrans appreciates the complex challenge of developing a design that is successful at many competing demands. However, we remain unsupportive of the gyratory concept because we feel it does not adequately balance the pressure of traffic, with the opportunity to create a successful, quality public space and transport interchange.

Edinburgh is seeing an exciting trend towards more cycling, underpinned by excellent investment and commitment to active travel. The city has also undertaken many ambitious cycling projects including the East to West cycle route that will link up with the Leith Walk cycle infrastructure.

Currently, and under the proposed designs, Picardy Place would be a weak link between these projects, and cycle infrastructure along Leith Street. Given the context of the GAM, Sustrans thinks that any potential development for the junction-centre should not be delivered until the gyratory is removed, either leading to or in response to a reduction in through traffic.

In 2014, we developed an outline concept design that pulled together many aspects: placemaking; simple, direct crossings for people on foot; intuitive cycling infrastructure; and a quality public transport interchange between buses, trams and taxis. In essence, we would like to see Picardy Place become a destination in its own right, in addition to being a through route.

This would work as a part of a wider strategic approach in the City of Edinburgh Council to encourage a modal shift towards more active forms of travel.

To this end, Sustrans would support any initiative by the City of Edinburgh Council that supports Edinburgh in joining global cities reducing dependency on the private car and putting people at the heart of placemaking.

Picardy Place: Our position

Published 25 September 2017

Since 2013 Sustrans Scotland has been working with the 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 the 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 a 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.

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