John Dobson Street – formal order

We again congratulate the council planning to reallocate space to walking and cycling along the length of John Dobson Street. Reducing its strangling motorway appearance and improving its sense of place will be an asset to the public environment and to people using it.

As a constituted community group with 1,600 local members we respond on their behalf to the newly reiterated plan for John Dobson Street. See bottom of page for the plan we are commenting on. Please note, that comments and questions have remained from the earlier plan.

Creating and designing context

For the city centre economy to successfully thrive and to provide the unique urban shopping, leisure and work experience that city centre users (residents and visitors) seek, council requires to free up road space and make it available as truly public space. This could be done by creating public places as well as providing space to move around the city centre by foot and cycle. For that to happen, a city centre ‘place and movement’ plan including a car parking strategy is needed. We urge council, again, to put these important policy documents in place asap so that the city centre can regenerate successfully and smoothly.

It is vital to make John Dobson Street work as a whole as well as for it to be adequately positioned within its surrounding context of movement and place within the city centre.

Our greatest worry for the John Dobson Street plan relates to designing its junctions for convenience and continuity. Walking and cycling movement along – and across John Dobson Street too – must be made safe, easy, clear and seamless. Starting and stopping uses much energy when cycling. Designing a good cycling route means minimising the number of stops a cyclist has to make. There are several crossings on John Dobson Street. We ask council to investigate (or talk to us about) using

  • innovative light phasings (all-way cycle scramble, combined walk-cycle phase etc)
  • green wave (junction signals connecting to each other at a comfortable cycling speed, say perhaps at 10-12mph)
  • remove the need for signalled junctions altogether by reducing motor traffic into the city centre

Ultimately, the vision should be to design the entire Inner Ring Road in a cycle-friendly way like this, and confine private motor traffic to an outer ring road.

You may know that there is a route that is called NCN725 or ‘Great North Cycleway’ that runs through Newcastle and that it includes John Dobson Street. It is rather baffling to us, as with that designation comes responsibility too. The route should be designed to a quality that allows a ‘standard design cyclist’ (typically described as a sensible 12-year old) to safely cycle there unattended. Whilst the planned improvements to John Dobson Street appear to meet this quality, we would ask that the council puts robust plans in place to address this embarrassing oversight on the remaining route (northwards and southwards), or remove the designation.

The above outlines perhaps the more general concerns we have for the city centre and John Dobson Street’s position within it. As in our reply to an earlier consultation, there are still two junctions which concern us in more detail:

Northumberland Road junction

We asked previously: On the junction with Northumberland Road, on the West side the movements expected for cyclists seems rather convoluted at the moment, we ask if the arrangement here is looked in to in further detail and possibly simplified further. The proposed design was perhaps created mainly for the previous roundabout. This design also creates a potential issue where the westbound cyclist meets the give-way markings. We are happy to discuss any potential solutions to this design here. We have not received a reply.

We are concerned about the short eastbound cycle track on Northumberland Road, which seems to be a relic of the previous ‘cycle roundabout’ design. The toucan crossing also deviates from the best practice used elsewhere on the designs, which is to separate pedestrian and cycle flows. We do not support walk-cycle space in areas of movement, like junctions, as these generate unnecessary conflict. Clear space designation is key.

It is unclear how cyclists would cross John Dobson Street on Northumberland Road.

St Mary’s Place junction

We asked previously: The design at St Mary’s Place no longer looks as good as it did in the previous design. Can you confirm if the design has changed here. If so could you please explain the changes and decisions behind them? We have not received a reply.

We are concerned about the arrangement of the cycle track where it crosses and then runs along St Marys Place. The design shown will mean sharp 90 degree turns for cyclists, and will present a conflict with pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road. We also do not fully understand how this relates to wider plans for Barras Bridge, or indeed the Inner Ring Road (please see comment above requesting to set up a clear city centre policies asap).

We ask that this area is revisited to design out conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, and that it links logically with any future improvements.

To reiterate, we do not support walk-cycle space in areas of movement, like junctions, as these generate unnecessary conflict. Clear space designation is key.

Conclusion

Thanks for reducing private car access in and around the city centre. This, together with the road space reallocation, is a very welcome development. Notwithstanding the numerous details that still require consideration, we believe this will be a great scheme that will immensely improve the public realm and feel of Newcastle city centre. We look forward to more of this kind, and want to see a swift implementation of this scheme.

We would like to be kept informed on progress of this exciting project. Please talk to us about the details.

 

Council plans we are responding to