Melville Crescent Consultation Exercise

The City of Edinburgh council periodically releases consultations about various aspects of the city. This one caught my eye, in which they “are seeking [citizens’] views on proposals to improve Melville Crescent to make it a more pleasant environment for local residents, staff and people passing through by foot and bike“. Here’s what I thought:

Option B Melville CrescentOption B is my preferred option, however it requires some enhancements, as there does not appear to be adequate visible pedestrian crossing facilities. If traffic volumes are low, then a zebra crossing is not necessary, however there does not appear to be a clear provision for north-south movements across Melville St. The east-west CCWEL (that’s the City Centre West-East Link cycle route which they refer to only as an acronym) alignment appears to be the safest, provided the cycle route is clearly visible – for example through a different surface treatment. I imagine that due to the location in Edinburgh’s New Town, restrictions on materials will be in place to maintain the historic feel, but appropriate sett paving (the subject of another recent consultation) can be used to good effect.

This option appears to have the largest amount of public realm which should serve to make the area more attractive and a place where people will want to dwell. As far as I know of the area, it is primarily residential and offices therefore it would present a great opportunity for a café, bookshop or other similar commercial venture to enhance the appeal and ‘sense of place’ for the location.

In summary, I believe it is most important to ensure pedestrian and cyclist provision is prioritised over vehicular traffic to improve the public realm and make the area more pleasant and inviting. What are your thoughts? Did you complete this consultation?

Making places better

Urban designers must concern themselves with the making of the physical world so as to not disadvantage first-off and future users. What they can do and must do is ensure, as far as possible, where finite resources are being allocated, that they work through and evaluate the physical implications of that allocation so as to not disadvantage the less powerful and less influential users. What this means in practice is a willingness to engage in open, exploratory and interactive design processes; it means promoting tried and tested solutions so that we are least likely to disadvantage unknown future users; and it also means challenging urban forms which are promoted by the development industry, but which clearly disadvantage particular groups such as ‘the transport poor’. This simple reversal from ‘maximising choice’ to ‘minimising disadvantage’ is an important reorientation of the focus of urban design practice. It moves away from the rather grandiose claims of much urban design rhetoric and leads more strongly towards and evaluative process. It requires the working through of the implications of location and configuration for the widest possible group of users in the making of better places.

– “Reviewing the Rhetoric” by Sue McGlynn, from “Making Better Places: Urban Design Now”, 1993

The article was written nearly 20 years ago, but I don’t believe it to be ‘dated’. On the contrary, I think that if anything, the points raised are even more relevant today.