Improved road safety measures including widened pathways, cycle parking at beaches and other popular destinations, and lowered speed limits in towns and villages are some of the actions first introduced under the Spaces for People programme and approved to be retained permanently, according to East Lothian.
This will be discussed this week in a council cabinet meeting.
Early in 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Scottish Government announced a funding programme, Spaces for People, available to local authorities for the purpose of introducing new measures to provide additional space for people accessing local towns.
Proposals in East Lothian were open for public consultation and more than 3,000 comments were received. A number of priorities were identified including the reduction of speed limits in towns to 20mph and reducing speed limits on some urban routes to 40mph to support safer environment for increased number of cyclists. In addition, localised measures were taken near some schools to provide appropriate space for physical distancing and also within some town centres for browsing and queuing outside shops.
A funding application was made to Sustrans to implement the measures, including monitoring and evaluation, and a grant of £1.4m was award to East Lothian Council of which £1.01m was committed and £180,000 carried over into the financial year 2021/22, but limited to be used to ‘amend, remove or monitor existing interventions or make them permanent’.
Cllr John McMillan, Economic Development and Transportation spokesperson said: “The Spaces for People initiative was brought in to provide temporary support for the changing ways people were travelling and using public areas during the pandemic and recognised both the need for individuals to be able to observe the physical distancing recommendations and also the significant increase of active travel such as walking and cycling.
“Although COVID restrictions have eased there has been interest expressed in retaining and making permanent some of these introduced measures and so further consultation was carried out in late 2021 and the council has now made permanent the footway widening to the west of the signalised crossing on Countess Road, Dunbar, and approved a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to make permanent the closure of the southern end of Countess Crescent in Dunbar to motorised traffic. In addition a new ebike hire point will be created at Prestonpans station (for a period of two years) which will be linked with the existing ebike hire points in Musselburgh.
“As part of the Council’s wider commitment to reduce carbon emissions as part of our Climate Change Strategy we are also both retaining and extending cycle parking at coastal and town centre locations and the off-road segregated cycleway from Cockenzie to Prestonpans. Creating a safer environment in more urban areas will see the retention of the re-timing of pedestrian crossings to both reduce waiting time for pedestrians and also to provide longer time to cross safely. We will also continue to monitor travel activity and respond to requests from our local communities to enhance their environments even further.”