City Centre North Engagement – Our Reply

Our reply to the council for the engagement being carried out for the North of the City Centre.

The councils website for the engagement: https://northnewcastle.commonplace.is/

Our Reply

As the City Centre North proposals cover a number of different schemes, we will provide feedback on the overall aims of the plans for the City Centre North proposals, followed by more detailed feedback on each of the schemes. As the schemes are currently going through engagement, this is not an endorsement of the schemes, but comments that we hope will be useful to the council in developing the schemes further.

Our comments are in line with the principles of sustainable safety http://newcycling.org/sustainablesafety/.

As we have pointed previously on a number of occasions, the council must urgently put together a city centre movement plan (for walking, cycling, public transport and motor traffic) and describe how these routes and networks connect to the wider areas of Newcastle. Without the movement plan we can not be clear on how the council intends for any transport routes to link up in the wider city context. Any comment we make here can only be secondary and stand-alone in their nature until this vital work has been carried out and published by the council. The movement plan should identify the purpose of each road within the city centre.

In connection with the missing movement plan, we are worried about the two-way cycleway in particular, this could reduce the feasibility and usability of further future development for a cycle network within the city centre, the movement plan is needed to resolve this question.

A car parking strategy is also vitally important for future decisions and the coherent planning of the transport networks. We think that the Transport Forum, could be a good place to help develop a city transport plan.

Overall

What seems to be the key aim of all these schemes is the reduction of through routes for private motor traffic and claiming space back from motor traffic to provide better facilities for cycling and walking. If achieved, this would create a city centre that is more accessible to people and is something that we have been asking for.

Simplifying how drivers get in to and out of the city centre, should also help create safer roads where the actions of drivers would become more predictable.

There is one potential rat-run that still exists in the overall design which will allow traffic coming from the east (St Mary’s Place) to travel to the West through the areas covered in the schemes, the most obvious place to close this rat run would be the on Claremont Road by making the Bus only section apply in both directions. If this rat run is not closed, it will be used by drivers to avoid the intended routes that would keep through traffic out of the city centre.

It is not clear from the material provided how wide the cycleways are intended to be. As these routes will be heavily used, a clear usable width of 4m on two way cycleways should be considered the minimum width, 5m would be much more comfortable and allow users to easily use the space in a safe manner. Where cycleways are one way, 2m should be the minimum clear usable width that is provided, 2.5m would be more preferable.

Where restriction will be placed on private motor vehicle use, some form of enforcement will need to put in place to ensure that the measure are not ignored, this could be achieved through physical measure (such as rising bollards) or through automated enforcement.

Barras Bridge and St Mary’s Place

The current drawings suggest that at certain points, the cycle specific infrastructure will just end. This is shown at the top of John Dobson Street, near the crossings at Haymarket and at the end of Claremont road. These area will see high volumes of cyclists and pedestrians, at these locations, the space should be clearly separated, so that users can negotiate the space in a way that is predictable.

Entry has been provided in to Claremont Road, for a street that has access from other sections of wider road road network, it seems strange that this access has been maintained. Keeping the through route open, allows for rat running traffic to continue coming through the city centre from the East heading West.

It is not clear how the John Dobson Cycleway links up with the cycleway on St Mary’s Place.

There is also an isolated cycle way shown on the East of Barras Bridge (beside the green space). The purpose of this section should be made clearer including how it connects to the wider cycle network.

There may be a need to provide an additional crossing point by Haymarket (near the Monument) across to the University area.

Percy Street

On Percy street it is not clear why the cycleway splits in two at the southern end. While with flow cycleways are normally more advantageous, throughout the rest of the planned circular route around the main shopping areas in the city centre, cycleways have been provided using a two way arrangement on the outer edge of the circular route. For consistency, this should be maintained here. Having the route spit here will also mean that it has to converge again somewhere else on the route. Both of these have potential to create conflict with other road users and add significant delays to cycle journeys depending on how the separation and joining is managed.

It seems as though no consideration has yet been given for how cyclists will access the facilities on the Eastern side of Percy Street. On the Eastern side of the street there a number of pick up areas for shops that need to be accessible to cyclists and the Eldon Square car park also contains cycle parking that needs to be easily and safely accessed from the cycle route. In addition to this there is also cycle parking in the Eldon Garden car park, also needs be easily and safely accessed from the cycle route.

Creating a large bus and authorised vehicle section, removing general through traffic will be an improvement for the street.

There is a need for a pedestrian crossing beside the Eldon Square entrance beside the Eldon Square Bus Stops, that crosses to the other side of Percy Street. The provided crossings from this entrance are too far away and will likely lead to people behaving in unpredictable ways to cross the road.

Due to the way that the car parks and bus stations have been designed in this area, there is a large area, that will still feel like it is not really intended for people. This creates a severance between the shopping area and the Western side of Percy Street. As a pedestrian or cyclist this area feels very much like a back door to the shopping area of the city centre and does little to encourage movement between the areas to the West (for example Newcastle University and Leazes Park). Ideally the council should look at fixing this severance, though it will take significant changes to resolve the major causes of this (for example Eldon Square Car Park and the bus stations).

It is not clear how it is intended for St Thomas Street to be used by motor traffic. This needs to clarified by the council. Private motor traffic should be prevented from using this road as a through route to prevent it being used as a rat run.

We have also been told by numerous people that they want to use St Thomas Street as a route to walk and cycle into the city centre. The council should find a way to provide pedestrian access directly across Percy Street from St Thomas Street, this would likely involve making changes to the layout of the Haymarket bus station, but improved pedestrian links to the bus station would make the station more accessible.

Claremont Road

The Bus (and authorised vehicle section) at the Barras Bridge end of Claremont road will help cut out the potential through routes through this area of the city centre. However it is not clear why this bus only section is only planned in one direction, just as vehicles can exit the area further west (as explained in your drawings) they can also enter the area further West. Keeping this East to West route open maintains a through route in the northern areas of the city centre, this will be used as a rat run if it it is not closed. As a closure to non-authorised vehicles is shown in one direction here, it would make sense to provide the same closure in the opposite direction.

It is not clear how wide the proposed cycle facilities are along the Eastern section of Claremont Road, as this forms part of a planned strategic route and is expected to carry a significant level of cyclists, the cycleway should be planned for 2m minimum clear usable width, we however would ask the council to aim for 2.5m in each direction.

On the Eastern section of Claremont road, the Eastbound cycleway ends for a coach layover. This is not a safe place to be ending a cycleway, the cycleway needs to be continuous here.

At the junction with Queen Victoria Road, the cycle provision quickly ends, and advance stop zones are shown as the way of providing for cyclists across the junction. Advance stop zones are not a safe way of providing for cyclists through junctions, as they force cyclists in to conflict with other road users. If the junction is signalised, then cyclists should have separate light phasing to allow for safe movement through the junction. Other signals are shown on the drawing where advance stop zones are provided, these should be redesigned so that all cycling movements can be completed safely without conflict with motor vehicles.

On the Western End of the drawing it is not clear how the route continues, the northern side of Claremont road, the cycleway appears to start from nothing. It should be made clearer how the section of route is expected to work.

Currently a large number of cyclists ride between the Robinson Library and Kings Road, it is not clear how this route will be used in these drawings. This is a key route as the route connects Jesmond, the University and the area around Leazes Park and St James’ Park.

An existing pedestrian crossing is missing on the drawings that is close to Kings Road, this is a well used crossing, and with no restriction on westbound traffic currently shown, it will remain difficult to cross here. this crossing could be improved to include cycle movements.

Queen Victoria Road

Along this scheme there seems to be no separation at all for cyclists. As it is intended to run buses along this road, separation will be required for cyclists in order to create infrastructure that is safe to use.

Removing the through route for private motor traffic will help improve the feel of the area.

Advance stop zones are shown at a number of traffic signals, these should be avoided as they force cyclists in to conflict with other road users. These should be redesigned so that all cycling movements can be completed safely without conflict with motor vehicles.

The areas further south are also important to how Queen Victoria Road will function for cyclists. There is a need to join up Leazes Crescent to St Thomas Crescent for cycling.

It is not clear how it is intended for St Thomas Street to be used by motor traffic. This needs to clarified by the council. Private motor traffic should be prevented from using this road as a through route to prevent it being used as a rat run.

Great North Road

Where the route crosses Claremont Road, the cycleway is shown to end well short of the junction on the southern end. The route needs to be continuous so that it can be easily followed, and it can be used in a predictable manner. It seems as though the route is squeezed on to a shared pavement at this point. There is plenty of space available here, it just requires a more balanced use of what is available.

There is also an isolated cycle way shown on the East of Barras Bridge (beside the green space). The purpose of this section should be made clearer including how it connects to the wider cycle network.

It is not clear how this route will link up with the areas further north such as Jesmond and Gosforth. Without knowing how this new route will function we are cautious about accepting it as a poor continuation of the route will cause the route to be unused and would be a waste of council funds. Please provide a clear plan of how this route will continue.