Integrating active travel with green infrastructure

A series of new cycling and walking paths in Edinburgh are featured in a new series of case studies to promote green active travel.

The case studies have all been published on the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) website and also cover projects in Copenhagen, Hamburg and Belfast.

They are designed to give a flavour of how active travel and green infrastructure can be integrated in different contexts.

One focuses on the Little France Park development in Edinburgh as an example of how to integrate the two from the outset.

Previously known as the South East Wedge Parkland, Little France Park forms part of a larger development area in the south east of the city, which also includes the new housing developments and Edinburgh’s new BioQuarter.

According to the case study, plans for high-quality cycle and active travel routes through the parkland have been integrated into the larger development masterplan from the start.

‘The park was previously undeveloped low-quality arable land,’ the report states.

‘This provided a unique opportunity to design and implement a high-quality path network and cycle infrastructure with few constraints, forming more direct and convenient connections than similar journeys by car or public transport, and through an extensive and attractive park landscape.’

Making the connections

In the development’s first phase, an off-street cycle corridor was built, which was ‘essential to improving overall accessibility and connections in the area’ during the short term.

When complete, the park will include three character areas. All of them will have integrated and cycling routes, but each with have a different focus.

The northern area, where Hawkhill Wood has been extended, will have meandering cycle and walking trails.

These paths will interconnect with the key access node into the park from the north.

The central area of the park will focus on movement and connections, linking the meadows in the north to the more formal parkland in the south.

New paths have been designed to connect with existing cycle routes, helping deliver an integrated and expanded active travel network for the city.

The path network will also include a floodwater storage area, wildflower seeding and a meadow strip along the main access the route.

Little France Park’s southern area will be a more formal parkland, incorporating avenues of trees, which will help frame views of Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat.

‘Together these areas create a parkland that is both habitat and species rich, as well as integrating active travel routes, as part of an overarching masterplan,’ the study adds.

In terms of lessons learnt, the report highlights the ‘need for a shared vision and a realistic expectation of the timelines needed to agree and implement a design’ for the parkland and the various routes.

A low-cost solution?

According to the report, the process for Little France Park was eased by the involvement of the Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust (ELGT), which brought ‘stakeholders together around a deliverable vision’ that would benefit both the local community and the environment.

And mindful of recent cuts to local authority funding, the study notes the active travel routes have been designed to require ‘low on-going maintenance’.

‘This approach, combined with the fact the green active travel routes were delivered prior to some of the new adjacent housing developments, means their benefits have been felt since the start of the area’s regeneration, and will be easier to continue maintenance of into the future.’

It also notes the project has already successfully improved links between Cragmillar Castle Park with Little France Drive for those on foot or bike, and connected Greendykes Road with the new residential developments to the east of Little France Park.

ELGT is now in the process of obtaining further funding for the next phase of development, which will include linking Midlothian with central Edinburgh, via the Wisp and Craigmillar Castle Park.

The development of the parkland is expected to be complete within the next few years and the study adds it is hoped the use of the green active travel routs and parkland will increase further as time goes on.

‘One of the main lessons learnt was getting the principle of green infrastructure and active travel combined at an early stage of the process,’ said project manager Ross Woodside.

‘The benefits of deliberately integrating green infrastructure and active travel [from the start] ensure that the multiple benefits of both are linked.

‘This includes improved health and well being, increased environmental and aesthetic quality, and improvements in quality of place.’

  • Photo shows Sam Thompson Bridge, part of the Connswater Community Greenway in Belfast, which is among the CSGN case studies.

Photo by Northern Ireland Executive

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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