Spaces for People - our approach
Spaces for People is a new, temporary infrastructure programme in Scotland which offers funding and support to make it safer for people to walk, cycle or wheel for essential trips and exercise, while physical distancing is in place during Covid-19 and as we transition out of lockdown. The Spaces for People programme is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Sustrans Scotland. East Lothian Council has secured £1.4 million.
We continue to follow Scottish Government advice and guidelines, implementing the recommended measures as and where appropriate. At this time, we are in Stage 3 of the 4-Stage Scottish Government route map through and out of the Covid-19 crisis. For more information please visit the Coronovirus routemap
The temporary measures
The temporary measures are in response to a national public health emergency and are focused on protecting public health, supporting physical distancing and preventing a second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak. This funding has been made available to local authorities to assist people as restrictions on physical distancing are gradually eased and ensure that we are all able to move around our local areas safely. These temporary measures are designed to assist the public in maintaining physical distancing for essential journeys and to promote areas for safe exercise. These measures are focused around our six main towns which have the highest concentration of people accessing shops and businesses and employment. They have been developed and tailored to meet the needs of our local communities.
These are temporary measures and will be subject to ongoing monitoring and evaluation. It is reasonable to expect these measures to be in place for as long as physical distancing requirements are enforced by the government.
The council conducted an online consultation which received nearly 3,000 contributions with over 750 detailed comments from across the county which, where feasible, helped inform the council on the implementation of the temporary measures. There is also ongoing engagement with local businesses, communities and their representatives.
Lowering the speed limits to 20mph
Since national lockdown restrictions were introduced in March, there has been a huge increase in cycling following the requirement that regular exercise be taken close to home. Many comments received from the public sought opportunities to continue cycling as the lockdown eases and some changes are being made to roads for the creation of circular cycle routes of 3-5km in each town which can be used by novice cyclists building up confidence to cycle in traffic. Lowering the speed limit will contribute to making the roads safer for all users by ensuring e.g. that vehicle speeds are closer to the speed of cyclists’, making it easier to react to hazards and reducing accident risks and severity. Creation of temporary cycle lanes at key locations will support cycling.
Public hire electric bikes in East Lothian
Electric or e-bikes will provide an alternative choice for public transport users, and non-vehicle owners. E-Bikes offer a greater mileage for commuting with less physical effort required and a safer means of physical distancing. E-bike public hire stations, which will be managed by another company, will be installed in Musselburgh at the Brunton Hall and next to Musselburgh Train Station in Autumn. E-bike hire areas in other towns across East Lothian are proposed. In addition, discussions are ongoing with local bike shop businesses as how they can support the public hire scheme.
Road closures and restrictions
With the increase in walking and cycling there are some roads within towns where there is no footpath available and thus measures are being taken to create a safer space for pedestrians and cyclists either by closing roads to vehicles or reducing vehicle space to allow for effective physical distancing.
Car parking spaces in towns and the needs of local businesses
With the relaxation of movement restrictions and as shops and services re-open, more people will need to be able to walk safely around our town centres. There is concern that some individuals may choose to use out-of-town locations where shops may have more space in their premises to allow easier circulation. We have been identifying locations in and around town centres where narrow pavements make physical distancing difficult. In such locations, measures may be required to meet the guidelines that will promote and create a safe environment to move in. We also want to support the additional space requirements that those who are visually impaired and/or have mobility difficulties may need. Since the full extent of footways and, in some cases, partial road space is likely to be needed to allow people to pass at the 2m separation distance, it may be necessary to look to parking spaces and traffic lanes to create additional space to support local businesses e.g. to display goods in the street, put tables outside, and make room for queuing.
At this time, discussions are taking place with local businesses, their representatives and community groups to identify how best to achieve this and meet the government guidelines on physical distancing. Should the removal of parking spaces be necessary, the council will endeavour to provide additional parking in alternative nearby locations. These temporary measures will help protect public health at a time when the county is re-opening for business but progress in tackling the virus remains fragile.
Wheelchair users and people with additional mobility support needs
All temporary measures will be additional to existing infrastructure and so will not make it harder to get around. Temporary measures will be assessed prior to installation to ensure dropped kerbs, ramps and other supporting measures are installed where needed.
Advice on walking and cycling during Covid-19
Sustrans the national walking and cycling charity have provided advice for walking, cycling, wheeling during this time with three themes:
- be safe - look after yourself and those in your care
- be smart - stay in your local area and plan ahead
- be kind - look out for others, particularly more vulnerable groups
More information on these can be found on the Sustrans website.
Maintenance of the equipment
Any structures, signage or associated equipment installed by East Lothian Council will remain our responsibility.
Deliveries and waste collection
Any changes to on-street parking will be discussed and agreed with local businesses prior to implementation to ensure that they do not impact adversely on the delivery or waste collection at these locations. Where necessary temporary alternative arrangements will be put in place by mutual agreement.