Pedestrianisation of the High Street

Heart Talk Porty

Pedestrianisation of the High Street – 20th November 2021

Meeting notes of comments made by participants

The following notes are based on comments made during the discussion and no weighting is given to any particular comment. They are grouped together roughly in topics rather than being verbatim. Participants were given the opportunity to put their own comments on post-its attached to a plan of the town centre. These are recorded as written. 

The High Street is not a pleasant place to be because of the traffic

Aldi car park is free for shoppers to use but not well advertised and supermarkets have a disproportionate amount of parking compared to town centre retailers. Idea of peripheral car parks with access to town centre on foot. But there are problems observed by a local resident of cars trying to access and egress from the Aldi car park. 

Pedestrianisation may not be a total ban on vehicles and some examples of full pedestrianisation lead to sterile environments and lack of activity after shops have closed. Public transport must not be adversely affected but can mean conflicts in how to design. 

Shared space is not just for pedestrians but low speeds for cars and cycles with more seating areas for people to congregate where there is a need for space to accommodate street cafes and pedestrians.

All were agreed that provision for disabled access was to be retained in any scheme for the High Street. This doesn’t just mean blue badge holders as many with mobility issues do not qualify for a badge. Any scheme has also to take into account the needs of partially sighted or deaf people in accessing the shops and other facilities. 

Mention was made of the pavement parking ban, yet to be enforced, that will have to be taken into account for some streets in Portobello. Other parking controls, such as the eastern side of Southfield Place are urgently required.

The land occupied by a bus garage could be car park for residents, shoppers and visitors with a connecting shuttle bus to local shops, supermarkets, cafes and the beach 

There is a question about the use of Sir Harry Lauder Road as the by-pass. Massive traffic congestion exists which will only get worse with the amount of new housing being built. Do we need another by-pass?

One major difficulty is that no one knows where the traffic using the High Street comes from or goes to. The feeling was that much is through traffic from Musselburgh to Leith and vice versa. Traffic counts carried out for the Barratt development would indicate 700 vehicles per hour each way at peak times along the High Street. From Dutch research, in order to give pedestrians confidence in a low traffic environment this needs to reduce to 100 vehicles per hour in total.

Discussion took place on the role of different surface textures and colours in shared space areas and the removal of street furniture which along with a 10mph speed restriction would create a more pleasant and traffic-free environment. There are passive interventions that make the motorist feel they are intruding on a shared space and the example was given of coloured surfacing reducing the active carriageway to virtually one lane. Other physical changes could be raised crossing tables although the example at Craigmillar Castle Road would show that motorists speed-up between raised tables.

Prevention of cars using Portobello High Street as a through route is a worthwhile goal. A simple redesign of the Eastfield junction to direct traffic up Milton Road rather than towards Portobello would assist.

The level of air pollution was raised but doesn’t seem to be at a point that gives the Council a concern. Measuring station at the vet’s on the High Street.

For a shared space or pedestrianised solution there would have to be a cultural and behavioural shift to take place and for us to take ownership of the effects of our behaviour. There are conflicting messages from City of Edinburgh Council where car-generating developments are approved but then other schemes to limit car use are proposed. An integrated approach from the council is required especially over safe routes to schools. Routes have to be more direct, safe and easier to use in order to access shops and other services.

Bus gates were proposed as a good way of allowing necessary public transport to still use the High Street but stopping private vehicles. A favoured position was at the Portobello High Street/Brighton Place/ Bath Street intersection where a prohibition on private vehicles turning left and right on to the High Street would inhibit through traffic. These could be controlled by camera rather than a physical barrier and possibly only operate say 7:00 am to 7:00pm.

If bus gates were introduced at this junction then perhaps the junction of Bath Street and Straiton Place would need to be closed to vehicles to prevent rat-running.

Examples were given of the bus gate at ASDA and at Prestonfield. An alternative, depending on the position of the bus gate, would be to give residents a key or number plate recognition.

The City Plan 2030 proposes Portobello High Street as an active travel route rather than the existing promenade therefore traffic should be reduced to achieve this aim. It was suggested that we need to keep talking to councillors.

There is a view that changes effected little by little may add up to a whole however the majority view was that sometimes there needs to be a far larger intervention to make a real difference within a reasonable timescale.

The equality of access to meetings such as this session was raised and is it just preaching to the converted. How can engagement be widened and the wider community brought along with what some would see as drastic action?  It was noted that whilst we were talking about the effect on the town centre no traders were present. This was accepted as a major omission but the session was on a Saturday afternoon and no specific invites were sent to traders. This will be rectified for future meetings. 

Although not strictly on the topic of pedestrianisation there was support for re-opening of Portobello railway station and the south suburban line.

As a next step, it would be necessary to control traffic in the whole of the Portobello area and it would be necessary to get the community on board with the idea of pedestrianisation and a low traffic neighbourhood for the whole of Portobello and Joppa. One of the difficulties is to get more people involved at this stage but this is the start and further meetings are to be planned.

The participants were thanked for the many suggestions, examples and ideas made. They were asked to look out for further meetings and that notes of all the sessions will be posted on the Heart Talk Porty website.

Stephen Hawkins

PEDAL – Portobello Transition Town

Post-it notes comments left by participants

More space for seating (restaurants), less for cars

One lane each way – if a bus stops then cars have to wait

Set up car sharing/pooling schemes for residents

Make sure disabled drivers still have full access

Request traffic count from Council to get idea of volume of through traffic

Create a 10mph zone eg. From Brunstane Road to King’s Road with cameras     and enforcement

Use of High Street is actually now better than say 10 years ago due to all those cafes (something positive)

Get Traders on board!! They should be represented in this meeting as it is in their interest

Improved access for active travel – widened footways and segregated cycleways to make active travel safer

Like: 10-15mph traffic restrictions. Alter traffic light sequences to make it slower to go through Portobello

10mph speed limit – not advisory – but ENFORCEABLE backed up by a police presence & fines for at least 6 months until behaviour changes and route is avoided

Zebra crossings on all side-streets is a cheap way to make continuous pavement

Reduce through traffic Musselburgh to Leith.

Make the Milton Road junction be straight on to Milton Road when coming from Musselburgh with a conscious right turn to Portobello

Change the look and feel to make drivers feel they are intruding and therefore be more cautious eg. Different pavement colours and textures, road sections raised to footpath height, no parking spaces

A by-pass around Portobello with park and ride and shuttle busses using Milton Road and Sir Harry Lauder Road 

More disabled parking – a subtle way to make it clear that the only necessary parking is for people with mobility issues

Speed limits 10mph or 5mph

Close the main junction to all through traffic except busses and bikes

Keep some for short stay parking in town centre eg. outside Town Hall, pharmacies and wine shop for people with mobility issues

City Council tried to resolve traffic issues in Bath Street/Regent Street/Marlborough Street/Bellfield Street and Straiton Place a good few years ago. Public meeting held in Town Hall. Changes now with traffic going through Portobello. How much space for busses/cars? Bigger pavements for people walking

Portobello railway station – loop rail Waverley – Portobello – Brunstane – Southside(Morningside) – Haymarket

Park and walk – Ring bus between car park and shops. Aldi – Porty High Street – ASDA – Range. Bus depot = car parks

Extend the tram from Leith to Portobello via Seafield

Camera controlled bus gates to stop through traffic by private vehicles at peak times (7:00am – 7:00pm). Exemption for disabled access

Bus gates

Vehicle activated speed limit signs on Brighton Place, Introduction of 15/10 mph speed limits

Re-open Portobello Station

Re-open the South Suburban

Re-open Station Brae train station

Portobello is better than other neighbourhoods in Edinburgh as far as local shopping facilities are concerned. Let’s not lose sight of that

Bus gates Southfield Place/Brighton Place

Reconfigure junction Milton Road at Joppa so straight on is Milton Road

Traffic count – how many cars stop in the High Street

CPZ throughout Portobello/Joppa

Make the Harry Lauder by-pass the main through route not the High Street

Any measures being considered eg. 10mph zones or no single-occupancy cars must be enforced to ensure proper understanding and adherence

Disabled and other access needs to be thought through AND attempts made – at all levels – to maximise engagement. This should then result in better adherence

Re-open the train station

Pavement build-outs on all side-streets off the High Street

More cycle parking spaces

Vehicle activated speed signs

Number plate recognition camera

Need to ensure access for deliveries and peripatetic care services and essential car use eg. disabled drivers and carers.