The plan by Edinburgh council has taken over three years to devise and is aimed at helping meet targets both on the environment and tackling poverty. It will replace the current transport strategy and support the wider emerging city plan for 2030.
Environmental and urban campaigners have been broadly supportive, although one conservation charity has described the proposals as "a wish list" rather than a detailed plan.
Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener at Edinburgh Council, told Keep Edinburgh Thriving:
“The City Mobility Plan is a bold, forward-looking strategy, befitting of this pioneering city, which will transform our streets, neighbourhoods and connections with the rest of the world for generations to come.”
Edinburgh is one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK, which is one of the reasons the new strategy is so multi-faceted. The plan needs to support local and national milestones set out by the council and Scottish government such as being net carbon zero by 2030 and eradicating poverty.
Maccines said tackling carbon emissions would help resolve other issues affecting the city.
“Transport is the biggest generator of carbon emissions in Edinburgh and our commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2030 depends on a step-change in the way we travel, a change which would also significantly impact on air quality, congestion and road safety.”
The strategy can be broken down into three segments: people, movement and place.
This concept, which is being adopted by cities throughout the country and beyond, is based on the idea that you should be able to walk or cycle to reach an essential service within 10 minutes of leaving your home – or a 20-minute round trip. These essential services include access to a GP, supermarket and public transport.
“If we provide good infrastructure facilitating these modes of transport around town and local centres, this will foster stronger communities and reduce the need to make longer journeys,” Maccines said.
Karen McGregor, director of sustainable transport charity Sustrans Scotland, said:
“The Mobility Plan is key to ensuring that Edinburgh can tackle problems such as congestion and pollution, while meeting the demand for growth and local services. We welcome the new vision for Edinburgh, particularly the inclusion of 20 minute neighbourhoods. This puts schools, shops, leisure facilities and workplaces within easy walking, wheeling or cycling distance of people’s homes, reducing the number of journeys made by car.”
A critical part of making transport inclusive and accessible is creating a completely integrated system that brings each mode of transport together. In particular mobility hubs – and viewing mobility as a service – will play a key part in achieving this.
Mobility hubs will bring together different modes of transport in the same place to act as information centres on travelling more sustainably, as well as providing a number of services. These may include bike storage, electric vehicle charging, click and collect services/parcel lockers and public transport points.
Treating mobility as a service would involve using a digital platform such as an app that would allow users to plan how they would travel across the city using different transport methods from cycling to hopping on a bus. However, the specifics of this have not yet been decided.
Reducing motor traffic in the city centre is not exactly a new concept for Edinburgh but is a crucial part of the strategy to reduce congestion and make the city more environmentally friendly. The mobility plan aims to create a city centre that prioritises people over cars with a specific emphasis on encouraging people to make active choices such as walking or cycling.
An example of this would be the recently unveiled final vision for George Street as part of the transformation of the New Town, supported by the mobility plan. The new George Street will have wider pavements, a cycle thoroughfare and less room for motor traffic. Completion of the vision for George Street below is set to be completed by 2025.
The completion timeline is broken down into three milestones of 2023, 2025 and 2030.
Originally the first milestone was set to be complete by 2022 but the pandemic has pushed this back to 2023. However, the longer-term effects of the pandemic, not only on the plan but on the way residents and visitors of the city choose to travel, are yet to be seen.
“We will of course be reviewing our ‘Path to 2030’ in light of the Covid pandemic, once a more settled position is reached. We’ll then continue working to deliver the elements within the implementation plan, which will be reviewed every two years, or as circumstances require, and monitored against key performance indicators to ensure we are continuing to meet our goals.”
Covid is not the plan's only challenge. Many of the aspirations do not yet detail how exactly they will be achieved or what their impacts may be on both residents and tourists.
Daisy Narayanan, director of urbanism at Sustrans and a member the Edinburgh Climate Commission, said: “Edinburgh’s City Mobility Plan is a strong, positive step in the right direction. But the proof of the plan’s effectiveness and ambition will come in the city’s actions over the coming months and years. The choices and actions made by the people of Edinburgh now will decide our collective future as a city and our collective success. This will mean making our streets attractive and safe places for people, instilling confidence in our public transport, and making walking, cycling or wheeling the most desirable way to meet everyday needs.”
The Cockburn Association, a conservation charity, voiced concerns about how realistic the scheme was when a draft plan was released last April.
“We have doubts about the realism and deliverability of some of the schemes within the CMP given the extremely limited amount of time between now and 2030. Even before the advent of Covid-19 the actions listed in the plan as ‘bolder actions’ and ‘a city transformed’ looked ambitious in a 10-year delivery context,” it said in a statement.
"We do not believe that this is a plan or even a strategic framework. It reads like a project list, a wish list or an infrastructure and investment programme and not a detailed one at that."
However, the Cockburn Association also said it “broadly supports the draft City Mobility Plan (CMP) and commends the City of Edinburgh Council for its ambition to achieve citywide carbon neutrality by 2030 as part of the capital’s action to address the Climate Emergency”.
This is an active 10-year plan that, as Maccines mentioned, will be reviewed every two years. Further research and feedback will determine exactly how those ideas and goals will reach fruition by 2030.
You can read the full plan here.