Inclusive and Equitable Access in Holyrood Park, Part 2

As a highly visible space adjacent to Scottish Parliament, there is a real opportunity and need to model best practice in Holyrood Park with regards to health and wellbeing, active transport and inclusivity. 

Part 1 of this blog post concluded that the status quo of allowing motorised through-traffic in Holyrood Park is not accessible, inclusive or equitable. The most inclusive step Historic Environment Scotland can take right now is to end private motorised through-traffic in Holyrood Park.

In Part 2 of this blog, we lay out the additional measures we suggest to further enhance inclusive access in a car-free park, including establishing an inclusive access hub with a Cycling Without Age Scotland chapter and adding accessible parking bays.

We would urge Historic Environment Scotland, as we did in our previous Spaces for People Consultation report in August 2020, to engage local accessibility groups in a consultation meeting when planning the future of road management in Holyrood Park.

A Possible Vision: Inclusive Access Hub

In a car-free park, there are considerable opportunities for a truly inclusive park through opening more paved space for walking, wheeling and cycling in a traffic-free environment.

Trike user on the High Rd. Trikes provide greater stability than two-wheeled cycles and could be available from an inclusive access hub.
Trike user on the High Rd. Trikes provide greater stability than two-wheeled cycles and could be available from an inclusive access hub.

Holyrood Park could offer an ideal location for an inclusive access hub which offers many different types of mobility equipment in a free hire scheme. A wide range of mobility equipment could be made available: mobility scooters, Trampers, rollators, accessible cycles, power attachments for wheelchairs and more. The mobility equipment available from the inclusive access hub would be suitable for the inclines in the park and could be stored in a shipping container placed in Meadowbank Carpark.

Mobility scooter user on the High Road. Free mobility scooter hire could be available from an inclusive access hub in Meadowbank Carpark.

The inclusive access hub could also include a local chapter of the well-established organisation Cycling Without Age Scotland, in which volunteers (‘pilots’) give free trishaw rides. There are already more than 30 local chapters established throughout Scotland and Holyrood Park would be a great addition, in particular opening access for care home residents nearby and those who may not have the required strength or control to move mobility equipment themselves.

A young lady drives a trishaw with two elderly persons along the Rhine river near Bonn, Germany
Two older people on a trishaw ride. There are more than 30 chapters of Cycling Without Age Scotland.

An inclusive access hub would bring a number of wider benefits as well. Such a hub would need to be created in co-design with local access groups and could be part of the de-stigmatisation of mobility equipment, provide an opportunity to try out different mobility equipment options at no cost, as well as legitimise alternative and active travel modes. It could imaginatively and sustainably facilitate inclusive access, befitting Scotland’s premier urban park.

Learning from successful organisations

Many organisations currently run successful mobility equipment hire schemes that Historic Environment Scotland could learn from.

Countryside Mobility South West has offered Tramper mobility scooters suitable for outdoor terrain and steep inclines at a number of countryside locations across South West England since 2010.

Closer to home, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh operates a free mobility scooter hire scheme on their site that any visitor can access.

Beyond mobility scooters, Wheels for Wellbeing are piloting an inclusive cycle hire scheme in collaboration with Bikeworks and Sport England. The aim of the pilot is to explore how cycle hire schemes can offer more inclusive options and enable more people to use the scheme. Edinburgh All-Ability Bike Centre, which operates at Saughton Park, also offers sessions with accessible cycles. The lessons from these organisations can be applied when thinking about what equipment to include in an inclusive access hub.

Mobility scooter user on the High Road. Free mobility scooter hire could be available from an inclusive access hub in Meadowbank Carpark.
Hand cycle user on Duddingston Low Rd. Hand cycles are one type of accessible cycle that could be available from an inclusive access hub.

Further suggested measures

In addition to the inclusive access hub, three accessible parking bays could be added to the end of Ulster Crescent to give another option to users with limited mobility. If the existing entrance cannot be widened, the path could be re-routed to the wider entrance directly adjacent to the narrower existing entrance. The path should also be paved to enable more people to use it. Upgrading this entrance would reduce the distance travelled to Dunsapie Loch by 75% and reduce the elevation travelled by 65%, compared to starting at the foot of the High Road by St Margaret’s Loch.

We’ve also suggested the following steps in our August 2020 Spaces for People Consultation report to increase inclusive access to Holyrood Park:

  • Consultation workshops with local disability groups: This was the first action we suggested and all other steps below would need to be assessed within this context.
  • An Equality Impact Assessment published by Historic Environment Scotland regarding the park and consider a Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment.
  • Accessible parking bays in Meadowbank and Duddingston car parks: currently there are no accessible bays in Meadowbank or Duddingston car parks. Other organisations, including Living Streets Edinburgh, have previously called for this.
  • Improvements to step-only accesses, especially at Dumbiedykes.
  • Increase pedestrian crossings at entrances where motor vehicles interact with those walking, wheeling and cycling.
  • Improvements to gates to allow mobility scooters, wheelchairs, and accessible cycles to pass (minimum 1.5m width).
  • As suggested in the By All Reasonable Means report by Natural Resources Wales:
    • Increase number of benches along the road for resting 
    • Improvements to signage about the length and gradient at key points
    • Improvements to public transport links
    • Designated taxi drop off areas
Recent changes to the gate to the High Rd enables greater access for those using mobility scooters, cycles, and prams. Other gates would require similar measures to ensure access.

Final thoughts

An inclusive access hub is one vision, but in a car-free park, many options are possible. There is an engaged local community here who is keen to help Historic Environment Scotland make Holyrood Park a truly inclusive space for all.

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