Crushed cycle contraflow for Newcastle city centre

One year on from the original request, and Newcastle now does have its first cycle contraflow. But when it was first built it was left in a rather precarious position for weeks. How come?

Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling.org, says “Newcastle city centre is absolutely littered with one-way streets. Yes, it’s good to restrict access for private cars, but not so good for supporting cycling. For a few years, and then again a year ago (1), we made a strong plea to the council to rectify that. Now Newcastle has its first real cycle contraflow. You’d think: marvellous! Inexpensive and simple infrastructure!

For photos see reference (2).

“So it was a shame to see it designed so badly. Our members alerted us (2). And it was left like that for weeks. This isn’t good. This sort of thing is a right turn-off. You may even call it a joke only that it’s rather serious. People will walk past and immediately think: What a waste of paint and money. Just imagine what anyone would think seeing the wheels of a bus driven straight through it! When, really, in a city that says it’s got cycling ambition, people should walk past and be able to say: This is wonderful, this makes sense, can’t wait – I want to use this too!

“I am currently in my hometown Braunschweig (Brunswick) where they have done a lot for cycling. Over decades, and as a constant effort, and cycling levels are at 20% or thereabouts, when Newcastle is 2%. Not all is Dutch-level infrastructure in Braunschweig, but it’s ok. You can acually see granny cycling with her grandson, with the pet dog and loaded with shopping. Something you could not imagine in Newcastle with its lack of cycle infrastructure. In Braunschweig, as for one thing you do have protected cycleways, as for another the city’s engineers have opened up a lot of one-way streets for cycling (3).

“Clearly we have some way to go in Newcastle. In the meantime we urge the council to build adequate things adequately, including during construction. We have seen some “inventive” construction health and safety recently, and that includes for compromising walking too. No diversion route was specified. Or you were asked to walk or cycle a tremendously long diversion which is not just inconvenient: they also had an increased number of dangers on them. With an increased council order book, this sort of oversight must surely be addressed with haste.

“We do welcome the expansion of 20mph that’s planned (4), and in a consultation in 2013 we supported the bus lane harmonisation too (5). A clearer system makes sense, should make for better compliance.

The devil is often in the detail, of course. If Newcastle City Council could talk to us more, and also listen – that would be wonderful. We have ideas and knowledge, but there seemingly is a trust or an institutional issue. So employing an urban expert would help too.”

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Map and reference list

  1. Contraflows like Brighton have done, please http://newcycling.org/cyclists-call-contraflows-one-way-streets/
  2. Clayton Street contraflow http://newcycling.org/contraflow-design-controversy/
  3. Braunschweig YouReport http://newcycling.org/katja-reports-harz-und-heide/
  4. Support for 20mph http://newcycling.org/city-centre-20mph-expansion-tro/
  5. Support for bus lanes http://newcycling.org/traffic-management-proposals-conversiondesignation-no-car-lanes-bus-lanes/