Thank you Lord Mayor
I stood here in the same spot almost three years ago in 2010 – I hope some of you might remember that occasion.
I was recently reminded of just how much cycling is an important local issue when I read in the Chronicle the good news that Gateshead Council is investing £1.5m to make it easier for people to visit their new Trinity Square by bike. This route is crucial as it represents the connection between Gateshead and Newcastle.
When I stood here three years ago I presented a petition to Council asking for your political commitment to make Newcastle more welcoming and safe for people. For people who are choosing to use a bicycle and also to make cycling available to the rest of us. We asked that in particular a North-South route should be provided – without delay – and whilst some progress has been made on this we still have quite a way to go to provide a street design in which everyone will find it easy to cycle.
But it’s not just about the bike.
The petition was also a plea to create a better city for our people and was received by the Cabinet Member at the time, for action by the Officers of the Council. This petition also led to the formation of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign which has been such a powerful voice for making everyday cycling a reality in our city.
We lobbied the Council for a Cycle Strategy [pdf] and got one which is good.
We then lobbied for Strategic Cycle Routes and got those.
We also lobbied for a Council delivery programme and got that too.
Last, but by no means least, we lobbied for actual changes to our roads. And it is this that hasn’t yet translated into reality.
Perhaps the Cabinet Member this evening might comment on whether we have made real progress towards creating a more open and welcoming city for people on bikes and progress towards embracing cycling in general?
There still appears to be some reluctance over providing space for cycling as shown by the continued uncertainty over the recent Welbeck Road proposals and the wish to provide safe cycling space there for school children. As yet I await news of a decision on this.
A recent, but not uncommon, statement by a Council Officer that stated that it was and I quote ‘ … oversimplistic … to relate modal choices to the availability and quality of infrastructure… ‘ did suggest a lack of awareness of the importance of bike-specific infrastructure to particularly get women and children cycling and we will continue to highlight this issue as a critical friend of the Council.
Embracing cycling is of course about more than transport. It is about public health and tackling obesity. And allowing cycling to thrive, let’s the local economy thrive too. All this is researched and evidenced.
So what can you do to help?
Firstly I would like to see you at the Sky Ride on 27 July to clearly demonstrate your commitment to cycling. The roads will be cleared for the day for us to cycle in safety and comfort which should be our aim for every day. Can I have a show of hands for those who will be taking part?
Secondly the Dutch Embassy invites you to the ‘Love Cycling-Go Dutch’ conference in Newcastle on 5 November following their conference series held last year in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh to dispel a few myths and inform about how the Dutch got their cities fit for cycling and how they continue to do so.
The evidence of the health, social and economic benefits of cycling is overwhelming and Newcastle should be at the forefront of this golden opportunity. It is too good to miss.
Finally I would make a suggestion for two easy things to do: allowing contra-flow cycling in one way streets and a clearer 20mph designation especially in the city centre. Not to forget to create the much-awaited and much-needed dedicated cycle spaces on Welbeck Road, Great North Road and John Dobson Street, then all of the Strategic Cycle Routes… to lastly with that infrastructure in place get the 20% on bikes promised by 2020.
This is right and good for Newcastle and this is good and right for its regional and national status. Providing for cycling provides for our community in such exceptionally challenging times.
Cllr Ged Bell replies
Thank you Lord Mayor.
There is a couple of things I’d like to put on record tonight. One, as we discussed before about how to bottle something and sell it, is enthusiasm. And Ms Leyendecker I have got to admit has a sort of enthusiasm for cycling that if we could bottle that we could certainly sell that for a fortune. And perhaps invest it in cycling in the city. So I do congratulate Ms Leyendecker for what you bring to Council tonight and the work that you personally take on.
Second thing I’d like to put on record is a statement on behalf of what we have done so far. But I wouldn’t read all the statement as it is actually pages of work that has been undertaken and I think you’ve acknowledged that there has been a lot of work done to try to assist cycling.
The Council whole-heartedly support the work of the cycle forum and the cycling campaign. We have worked together to produce the 10-year strategy for cycling and we have already made significant inroads in delivering better infrastructure for cyclists and increasing cycle use. We are currently working up detailed plans for the Strategic Cycle Routes and are currently consulting on a key route through Gosforth High Street. This will be delivered over the next 12 months. It is unfortunate that the government has delayed the announcement on the Cycle City Ambition programme, as we submitted a strong bid and are very keen to continue investing to make a step change for cyclists. We have delivered the Great North Cycle route through the city centre and we will continue to make the city centre safer place for cyclists of all ages.
Through our Transport 2030 vision we will look for opportunities to make the best use of road space for all users and ensure we prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over other road users, particularly on the city centre.
We are currently working through some large capital schemes which will make a real difference in reducing congestion and making roads safer for cyclists. Our Red Route strategy will allow us to deliver safer more direct cycle routes as we’ll roll out those improvement over the next few years. We have delivered and are committed to make all residential neighbourhoods safer through our 20mph plans. We are fully supportive of Skyride and pleased to see the the next Go Dutch seminar will be held here in Newcastle in November. I look forward to attending with colleagues to see how we can learn from best practice from elsewhere from across Europe and put this into practice.
Katja, you did mention the Skyride. I am very pleased say that it’s another example of how the Labour group actually see the importance of cycling and Cllrs Talbot is now our cycling champion and chair of the group. And she is also a trained cyclist for the Skyride, so she will be leading groups around the city and please to support her in that. I am hoping that I will have time if I am off work to actually join the ride and get out myself.
There is just a couple of personal issues – not to much personal– but issues that are very relevant. You mentioned the 20mph zones. You have mentioned targets of 20%. We will work as stated very very hard to deliver that ambitious target that we’ve set which is way above what other local authorities are trying to do.
Katja, I am not insulted like other people are what you are trying to do here I like to thank you for attending tonight, thank you for everything that you have brought to Council and we will look forward to continue to work with you. Thank you very much.
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