Haddricks Mill – what cycle provision is needed?

We started talking about Haddricks Mill last month because we think this is a big and complex location in our city’s road network; and it warrants a proper debate and assessment. This process should be led by Newcastle council and their Councillors, combining their vision, policy and leadership with local knowledge and experience. Every debate starts with facts and figures, and setting out your position and views. Here is ours – on the needs of cycle infrastructure for priority, safety and comfort.

In this article we will look at the six roads that the junction connects and look at what is needed for cycling on them. The council have published the following drawing showing the proposal for the junction, below. The drawing is an early attempt by the council to articulate and address Haddricks Mill problems – it is a proposal drawing to seek funding from the Department of Transport, the granting body for bigger road schemes. We think, and we have expressed this before on many occasions, that the problem definition could be better developed as the design seems to tackle motorised traffic flow only and literally squeezes out walking and cycling. This could mean that the whole plan might started on a skewed basis.

Haddricks_NAC-P2_p72

We have six roads leading into Haddricks Mill. These are, in order of traffic (based on the PCU values from the council drawing):

  1. Benton Park Road
  2. Haddricks Mill Road
  3. Station Road
  4. Killingworth Road
  5. Freeman Road
  6. Hunter’s Road

What’s needed?

Whether cycle-specific space is needed on any of those roads, largely depends on three factors:

  1. vehicle mix,
  2. traffic speed and
  3. traffic volumes.

The Haddricks Mill location is a complex junction with heavy vehicles and bus routes, sited in Newcastle’s main network of roads with a 30mph speed limit (in its otherwise 20mph areas where people live). To make cycling safe (and to give it priority over driving and so that cyclists would not be stuck in motor traffic and breathe their fumes), separate and protected space really must be provided for cycling on the five main roads, but not Hunter’s Road.

What would the Dutch do?

How would the Dutch provide for cycling on roads with this level of traffic? Their design manual, the CROW, contains Table 14 which defines the type of cycle infrastructure required in built-up areas. For the speed of motor traffic on this road the options of ‘cycle lane, track or parallel road’ are given based on the type of cycle route that would run along the road. The CROW manual also contains a chart (Figure 19 to be precise) that shows that once the volume of traffic exceeds 500 Passenger Car Units per hour, that cycle and motor vehicles needs to be separated.

Due to the level of traffic on this road it is clear that according to the CROW manual cycle and motor traffic need to be separated from each other.

On a slight side note, to use the Dutch matrix most successfully, a sensible road classification system must be present in the urban transport network. Unfortunately Newcastle planning has been a bit lax with its classification of roads over the decades. As a result, we have many streets that are sadly through routes, like residential rat-runs and areas that should be treated as a destination but instead are prolific through-roads – or as US Americans call them stroads – neither roads nor streets, but a mix-up. We will keep mentioning the importance of road classification to the council, that any good transport system starts with a strongly defined network. Road classification is part of Sustainable Safety, a campaign policy.

Other option?

We have heard suggestions that cycling facilities could be redirected onto nearby roads, rather than ensuring that Haddricks Mill is made safe for cycling. So we have looked into this, again, and still disagree completely with this idea.

Firstly, there are no other crossings over the Ouseburn that are close enough to be useful to people who currently want to get across this junction. Despite the inadequate design of this junction many people are forced to find a way through the junction by cycle: many people choose to cycle on the pedestrian footpaths for their own safety not only to get around the junction but also to avoid the motor traffic on the roads that this junction connects. Expecting these people to detour elsewhere is not going to be successful as there are no other routes they can reasonably take without dramatically increasing the journey distance. Cycling is distance senstitive and requires direct and safe routes. Expecting people to cycle detours will do nothing for encouraging more people to choose to cycle in the surrounding areas.

Secondly, every road that leads to Haddricks Mill Junction has residential properties along the road and most roads also have businesses on them, including some of largest employment sites in the North East and schools too. By not providing adequate cycle infrastructure, the council is failing to support people who live, work, shop and play on or near these roads. The council currently fails these people from choosing cycling as a mode of transport, while actively encouraging car use by prioritising motor traffic through design.

In conclusion

If the council are serious, as they say they are, about going on a transport transition by supporting people of all ages and abilities to choose cycling as an everyday mode of transport, what’s needed? All roads which provide any ‘access’ function (ie a through-road, and not a residential-only street) must be made suitable for cycling by providing cycle infrastructure to the correct level of separation and protection based on the volume and speed of motor traffic, not forgetting the vehicle mix on that road.

Currently the roads that lead to Haddricks Mill are so heavily trafficked that fully separated cycle infrastructure is required on every single road leading up to Haddricks Mill – except for the relatively quiet residential street Hunter’s Road which solely services a self-contained small neighbourhood. The high levels of traffic on the other five roads suggest they are being used as through-roads and council should assess them with a view to adjust their classification.

In the next article, we will consider the purpose of these roads and suggest potential changes based on the principles of Sustainable Safety.