Friends of Redhall Park
One park in the Sighthill/Gorgie ward which really needs support and development is Redhall Park. Just west of Slateford Viaduct and running alongside the rail line and canal, Redhall Park is home to a playground, a football pitch, and range of trees and wildlife. However, the park was recently inundated with a horrifying sewage leak. The pitch, normally used by local kids football teams, were unusable, and authorities have only recently begun to address the issue. How long will residents be expected to wait in future if similar problems occur?
With Redhall Park so well-valued by Longstone residents, we believe a Friends of Redhall Park group would help these residents to protect this park and its facilities. The park also needs work to improve access, including new steps and a decent climbing frame in the playground area.
Whether you live in the Longstone area, or you are just a fan of the park - if you are interested in getting involved and helping out in any way with the new creation of Friends of Redhall Park group, please check out their website.
Inspired by an idea from Gorgie Collective, we are campaigning for a new "pocket park" at the end of Smithfield Street, connecting to Gorgie Road.
The goal of these miniature parks is to create safe and usable green areas, taking advantage of neglected or overlooked spaces. These should be easy for everyone and anyone to enjoy. Benches, planters, public art, etc, pocket parks can provide a green oasis which improves physical and mental health alike.
Smithfield Street is currently dead-ended to cars, providing extra pavement space between neighbouring shops and the Stewart Terrace (eastbound) bus stop. Roughly 60m2 at the end of Smithfield Street is available to make up this pocket park, and we are also calling for Wardlaw Street to be dead-ended to cars. This would allow both sides of the street to have greenery in planters and benches for seating, with no impact on car access to the rest of Wardlaw Street.
If the westbound Stewart Terrace bus stop was likewise moved to this spot, both halves of this pocket park would be integrated with bus stops. Converting these bus stops into "bee stops" (see below) would further improve the value of this pocket park as a green space, brightening up the Gorgie town centre.
Who wouldn't want to wait in a miniature park while waiting for the bus? On the Wardlaw Street side, the Costa is right there for a coffee too, as well as a playground (where kids could now play without cars driving to/from Gorgie Road). This could be trialled very easily in the current climate, using Spaces for Distancing measures recently brought in by the Council.
Bees Bus Stops
Bumblebees are pretty important – they pollinate around 80% of our wildflowers, so we need to take care of them. The Dutch city of Utrecht has a great idea to help bees thrive – turning bus stops into little bee havens. The ‘bee stops’ are basically just standard bus stops with grass and wildflowers on top to encourage pollination.
Cardiff has recently decided to follow this Utrecht example too, so there's a UK precedent to mention too. Utrecht has 316 bee stops, which not only give bees a food source through native wildflowers, but also capture fine dust and store rainwater, so they have a slight but important benefit in terms of improving air quality and slowing the draining of rain into nearby rivers during storms/floods.
Most bees look for food in a circle around their hive roughly two miles across. Anything over four miles, and bees spend more energy gathering food than they get from it. This means that bees across Sighthill/Gorgie can forage across a range of parks, trees, and gardens, but the more food they have in urban areas, the better!
Heavily used avenues like Gorgie Road and Calder Road are hard for bees to cross - bee stops will help them move across urban areas. GrowWild UK report that the UK's population of honeybees has halved in the last 25 years, along with many butterflies and moths, and any patch of flowering plants can help support those that remain. The more they can move, the more easily they can feed, breed, and resist disease.
As Cardiff is starting with a sample of 10 such bus stops, we are pushing for 14 pairs of bus stops east of Balgreen/Saughton Park as a trial run, or alternatively, the Haymarket-Bypass axis along Dalry/Gorgie/Calder Road - the A71 - which has 20 pairs of bus stops.
Cycle Parking Units
We have since discovered not one of these 180 units will be in Sighthill/Gorgie according to the 'Find your nearest space to rent' map. They are essentially clustered in the City Centre and Leith while our public-dependent community is constantly ignored.
If you would like to see a Cyclehoop in your area to store your bike, you can suggest potential locations via the Council website.
Saughton Park Links
While Saughton Park often feels like a lovely green island in the south-west of Edinburgh, it can be surprisingly hard to get to. Small wonder that most residents in the rest of the city don't know it's there, and it isn't talked about in the same terms as the Botanic Gardens or Holyrood Park (at least, not as often as we'd like!). Did you know the park generates electricity for its cafe and facilities from its own micro-hydroelectric facility? You can't say that about Princes St. Gardens!
You can get into Saughton Park along the Water of Leith, but the riverside path there is narrow and inaccessible for many. Gorgie Road and Balgreen Road are wide and busy, unnerving pedestrians trying to cross over to the park. Even though Balgreen Primary School is just over the road, it isn't a safe or easy crossing for adults, let alone children! The tram stop at Balgreen is only 215m away in a straight line, yet you'd never know it if you try to walk there via the cramped railway underpass. To cap it all, there is no easy way to cycle to the park.
Saughton Park is well-cared for, well-maintained, and well-loved - if it was easy to access, it would be properly recognised as one of Edinburgh's great parks, and provide a better space for local residents. We need wider pavements, dedicated cycle lanes, and a reduction in traffic and on-street parking to make this possible. Though it may require more expensive works, revising access to Balgreen tram stop via Balgreen Road should also be pursued to connect Saughton to the rest of Edinburgh.
Tynecastle Information Hub
Edinburgh has a series of unique, distinctive police boxes from the early 20th century scattered around the city. Many in the city centre have become coffee and street food outlets, and one here in Gorgie is used to monitor weather and air pollution. One old, disused policebox, at Ardmillan Terrace, presents an opportunity for the community - we believe this could be a valuable community information hub and potentially the centre of a new pocket park.
Moving this disused police-box to the south-west side of the Tynecastle Rail Bridge, it would be easily visible to anyone walking up Gorgie Road toward the city centre. This spot is also right outside Tynecastle High School and Gorgie City Farm, further tying it into the local community. To make it pop, the box would be painted by local art groups like Gorgie Collective, and hopefully made the centre of a new Tynecastle Pocket Park. Benches and planters would allow locals to sit among a little green oasis on Gorgie Road, checking up on community events and developments with JustEat bikes available from an existing station.
Haymarket - Saughton Protected Cycle Link
Some dedicated cycle lanes are beginning to emerge in Edinburgh, such as the renewed area around Picardy Place and Leith Street - proper bike-only lanes, separated from pedestrians and cars. Cycling only works if it is safe for people of all ages and abilities, and it won't become a reality without dedicated cycle lanes.
The transport artery that forms the spine of Sighthill and Gorgie is the A70 - a.k.a. Dalry Road, Gorgie Road, and Calder Road, or the route of the 25 bus. While the dual carriageway of Calder Road requires a lot more re-imagining to include bikes, the section of this route from Saughton Park to Haymarket can quickly, easily, and cheaply be turned into a route which supports the kind of all-abilities cycling that Edinburgh needs.
From Saughton Park up to Haymarket, much of Gorgie Road / Dalry Road is already marked out with red paint at the edges for bikes - but painted lines on the road don't keep cyclists safe! We are simply proposing that these spaces marked out for bikes are properly "segregated" from the two lanes of car traffic in the centre of the road. Like our 'Pocket Park' proposals, this could easily be done using the Spaces for Distancing measures open to the Council, and this has already been done to great effect on other Edinburgh streets since March, such as Ferry Road and Crewe Road South.
In the long term, the orange bollards currently used to create these lanes will need to be replaced with a permanent separating kerb or other barrier. Bus stops will need to be turned into "floating bus stops" to keep cyclists, buses, and those waiting for buses separate. However, even in the short term, making Gorgie and Dalry Road a cycling avenue will have many beneficial effects:
- Reducing air pollution from exhaust fumes, and noise pollution from engines.
- Increasing how many people can actually use the street to get where they're going at once!
- Tighter lanes for cars and buses means slower vehicles, further improving noise reduction, safety, and the through-flow of this route.
- Making other areas of Edinburgh jealous...
This picture (created using Streetmix) shows how a cross-section of the street would look.