Jeannie’s question

Jeannie: I have got a question. So I want to ride my bike but it’s kind of difficult. There is a lot of roundabouts. I cannot really go on to the pavement as I get shouted at. So I can’t really do anything; and I am kind of stuck. Where can I ride my bike to school?

Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council replies:

Good morning everybody. First of all, can I say a huge thank you for coming along today. I think it’s been absolutely magnificent to have such a brilliant turnout of people showing that cycling isn’t just for the lycra-clad fitties, although there are some them amongst us, but for ordinary people from all walks of life, everything but fitness – absolutely, cycling is everybody.

And that is why we are tackling the deep-seated culture in this city that is designed around cars. Because we just had a great example of that coming back from the Tyne Bridge, haven’t we, of how dominant [motor] traffic is within our city centre. And when you look at every other major European city we have more space for pedestrians and cyclists and free-flowing space in the city centres than we do here in Newcastle.

So what we are doing is starting to challenge the orthodoxy that the car is king. Now, that’s not easy. That’s not easy because as this unpicks not just the cultural assumptions but also much of the physical space that we see round about the city.

Because when the city was redesigned in the 1960s it was absolutely with the idea that the future was about cars. And so what we have got is a legacy that we have to start to address. But what we are seeing now is investment in cycling infrastructure – certainly in the major junctions, certainly developing major strategic routes and over time, starting to connect up the different bits of cycling infrastructure that we have already got. So it makes a coherent whole.

Because one of the things that puts me off cycling more is that I find it really difficult. I live in the east end of the city and work in the west end, I hit a barrier when I get to the city centre. It’s really difficult because suddenly you find yourself in conflict with all sorts of traffic, all sorts of lanes which disappear and then reappear again and so on.

Our challenge and our task is to gradually redesign our city. And to do that we have got the principles that we adopted at Council which will help us to do that.

And I am really proud that Newcastle is the local authority with the highest number of Councillors signed up in the county. That, I think, is a really great symbol of the importance that we all attach to that. It’s a real demonstration of political will. And it’s cross-party. It includes people from both the main political parties in Newcastle. And I know we have got people from all the parties here today. I think that is a considerable strength for us as we seek to change our city.

So, in direct answer to your question, it’s about making sure that over time as we get the money – of course we are in times of austerity where money is tight – but as we get the money to redo our roads and pavements and redesign our physical space, we make sure that cycling is absolutely integral to the vision we want to see for this city.

You see for some of that stuff to happen it will take several years for it to be completed. This is not something we can simply wave a magic wand over night and fix forty of fifty years of dominance of cars.
But we have started that task.
We have the political will to deliver on that task.
And you are showing that this is an important task in the city.
Because you are showing your strength and support for cycling.
So, for that, thank you very much indeed.
[Applause]

END

You can watch it:

  • Jeannie asking her question by going to 00:51:00
  • and what happened after Cllr Nick Forbes reply scroll to 00:56:00

The full Civic Cycle Ride in support of Space for Cycling ride, held on 27 September 2014, and speeches has been captured here

Thanks @TeessideCyclist for taping!

List of all speeches

  • Katja Leyendecker (welcome) at 00:00:32
  • Christian Wolmar (patron speech) at 00:03:00
  • Peter Macdonald (ride instructions) at 00:07:00
  • Jeannie and Cllr Forbes at 00:51:00
  • Cllr Talbot, Katja, Christian and Peter at 00:56:00