Stop treating pedestrians like weird social deviants, says Alastair Dalton
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.