In­side Trans­port

Stop treat­ing pedes­tri­ans like weird so­cial de­viants, says Alas­tair Dal­ton

The Scotsman - - Perspective -

Ihate not know­ing where I’m go­ing. When you are head­ing some­where, there should be clear di­rec­tion signs, by what­ever mode you are trav­el­ling.

That’s es­pe­cially the case if your des­ti­na­tion is a ma­jor pub­lic build­ing or venue.

For mo­torists, that’s not usu­ally a prob­lem, with a plethora of signs to guide driv­ers. There’s sat­nav – in your car or on your phone – as a back-up. But we’re en­cour­aged not to drive and in­stead walk, cy­cle or use pub­lic trans­port.

That’s be­cause it re­duces pol­lu­tion and con­ges­tion, and should also ben­e­fit our health by trav­el­ling more ac­tively than sit­ting largely mo­tion­less in a metal box. Cars are also not avail­able to ev­ery­one – only half the pop­u­la­tion in some Scot­tish cities. Driv­ing could be con­sid­ered “dead time”, when vir­tu­ally all you can do while be­hind the wheel that’s not a safety risk is lis­ten to some­thing.

That all points to the ad­van­tages of not driv­ing, where that is a vi­able op­tion. And that means, for all other jour­neys, there’ll be an el­e­ment of walk­ing, at least from the sta­tion, bus or tram stop, to where you’re headed.

But too of­ten, as soon as you at­tempt to make such a trip, it soon be­comes ap­par­ent that pedes­tri­ans are the for­got­ten-about mi­nor­ity.

Walk­ing to some venues can at best feel like you’re em­bark­ing on a mini ad­ven­ture, at worst that you are some weird so­cial de­viant.

Di­rec­tion signs are vi­tal be­cause sat­nav walk­ing di­rec­tions can be un­re­li­able and do not guar­an­tee there’s even a pave­ment.

I dis­cov­ered this to my sur­prise and hor­ror when trav­el­ling to – ap­pro­pri­ately – the Roads Expo Scot­land trade show at Inglis­ton, be­side Ed­in­burgh Air­port last week.

Com­ing from Glas­gow, the trans­fer from train to tram at Ed­in­burgh Park was seam­less, but the fi­nal leg of my jour­ney from the Inglis­ton Park and Ride tram stop was an eye-opener.

There were signs guid­ing visi­tors to the Royal High­land Cen­tre, where I was go­ing, through the car park and on to the main road.

Then the signs and some in­ter­mit­tent red ar­rows in the pave­ment pe­tered out.

But of much greater con­cern was to find I had been guided to­wards the Inglis­ton Road ap­proach to the cen­tre, where the fi­nal 100 yards to the venue has no pave­ment.

There is a nar­row gravel strip on one side and a muddy verge on the other, both hemmed in by fences, so pedes­tri­ans have pretty much no choice but to walk on the road and take their chance with the traf­fic.

To cap it all, where the pave­ment re­sumed be­side the show’s hall, it was blocked by a car trans­porter de­spite dou­ble yel­low lines.

As is so of­ten the case, there had been no walk­ing di­rec­tions on the venue’s web­site, just that the tram stop was ten min­utes away.

Ed­in­burgh Trams said it was re-de­sign­ing signs to the cen­tre, but one of its walk­ing routes still di­rects peo­ple to­wards the same sec­tion of un­suit­able road I en­coun­tered.

The Royal High­land Cen­tre has been stag­ing events for half a cen­tury and the park-an­dride site has been open for 11 years. To have not sorted some­thing as fun­da­men­tal as this is shock­ing. It just hap­pens that 2006 also saw the launch of Scot­land’s last na­tional trans­port strat­egy, which in­cluded a pledge to in­crease the pro­mo­tion of walk­ing, with a fo­cus on the “safety, qual­ity and lo­ca­tion” of routes.

Work on an up­dated ver­sion of the strat­egy is un­der way, so that’s a very good time for a hard and com­pre­hen­sive look at cur­rent pro­vi­sion or we’ll make no progress to­wards more walk­ing.

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