July 19th, 2011
Ray Perman’s recent commentary on Leith Walk prompted Ross Armstrong to put down some thoughts about how to improve Edinburgh’s most interesting boulevard (but first he measured it on Google maps).
The amazing potential of Leith Walk strikes me every time I walk down it. It’s a great big boulevard that feels like it’s going to waste. Perhaps because the potential is so obvious to all, it’s always been assumed it will fulfill it eventually on it’s own.
It has history, architecture, excitement and an edge to it, so it’s not that strange to compare it to Las Ramblas, and it’s actually longer (1.6km long as opposed to 1.2km), so there’s plenty of space to work with. This is most likely the biggest problem – because of it’s sheer size it is hard to manage coherently – so it’s perhaps unsurprising the council treat it just like any other big road. However, I believe this is a significant street, and it needs sympathetic improvements, not just box ticking efforts required to make it a functioning dual carriageway.
For starters: one of the big problems I see is clutter. It’s got to be one of the most cluttered streets in Edinburgh. Things off the top of my head that could go:
The aforementioned “ugly metal shutters”, and “garish keep left signs”, and excessive signage in general.
Those Tram adverts, just insulting now.
Cut down on phone boxes, there are loads of them and they’re hardly used these days.
Cut down on bike racks- these are all over the place. (It seems like there was money for these at some point and the council went crazy! They look like they’ve been placed randomly and most are rarely used from what I can see.)
Bins of every shape size and colour, perhaps more effort should be put into standardisation and concealment.
Bus ticket machines. Fail.
Speed cameras, I can think of at least two, they look terrible, take up space on the pavement, and are they really necessary?
Shop signs in the street should be tightly regulated.
“Feeder pillars” or what ever they are called, I’m sure some of these mysterious metal boxes on the pavement are redundant, in some places on Leith Walk there are 3 right next to each other, seems unnecessary. I’ve heard of these being plonked out without prior warning, this certainly shouldn’t happen.
Replace broken bollards/railings, or just get rid of them.
Sell all this for scrap and buy some trees!!
[Many thanks to Ross who kindly let me use his comment on Ray's blog as a stand alone post. He will soon be receiving a copy of Prospect magazine featuring Sir Terry Farrell's design challenges for Edinburgh – including Leith Walk's potential to become Edinburgh's Ramblas]