More cycling means more must be done

Census data show that Newcastle cycle commuter numbers have increased by 81%. What does that mean for Newcastle? And what must now follow?

Katja Leyendecker, chairwoman, says “It’s great to see cycling nearly double in Newcastle; and I am sure it’d make a great news headline too. Nationally we are doing well; in other council areas cycling has declined. Truth is however that this doubling is from a very small base, cycling is 3% of modal share, and has taken place over a ten year period. Speaking in totals, we now have 3,200 Novocastrians commuting by bike. Are you one of them? Each one of you is amazing. But of course many stop cycling (see example below), and many more never get the chance to start as the cycling conditions are downright atrocious. Yet the latent demand is immense. And all that happens with a policy backdrop of modal shift promise, which means getting people out of their cars by providing real alternatives.

“But the really important thing is this. We must look elsewhere and learn the lessons. London made the mistake of letting cycling numbers increase without providing adequate bike infrastructure to support that increase. So the increase in cycling also resulted in a disproportionately large increase in cycling deaths and serious injuries. Newcastle is at that cusp where it could turn bad too.

“Our politicians have to take a clear lead to avoid this for Newcastle. They have to set aside space for cycling or they would not just have egg on their faces, but blood on their hands. Yet so far they have been just looking on, whilst the Cycle City Ambition money, time and volunteer enthusiasm are wasted on numerous design iterations, ill thought-out consultations, Kafkaesque processes and unproductive meetings, with no ground-breaking construction in sight. The Ambition programme is badly running behind schedule.

“An example is Gosforth High Street. Despite an unfinished public debate largely centred on misconceptions about the red route, council will now deliberate in secrecy and then announce its edict. Who knows, it might be the right one. We call for a round table debate to be held with interest groups in the Gosforth area. And all of us may catch a chance of airing and sharing our concerns, and above all reach broad consensus. But will they listen?”

Stopped cycling http://newcycling.org/news/20140313/message-fellow-cyclist
Census data http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census-analysis/cycling-to-work/2011-census-analysis—cycling-to-work.html

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