NECA response – transport manifesto

Dear NECA board
Dear Cllr Forbes (NECA transport lead)

This is a response from newcycling.org. We are a constituted organisation entirely run by volunteers. We formed in 2010 to address social and spatial inequalities in the transport system and lobby for world-class cycling infrastructure for Newcastle and surrounding local transport authorities. We have 1,600 members and respond on behalf of our membership.

Key points

  • Mapping a first class cycle network and putting it in policy and implementation plans, agree design standards
  • More and clearer focus on sustainable transport (including an integrated transport system and approach, through regional spatial management, road classification, land-use planning)
  • Improved local green transparent budgets, programme/project management and clarity/transparacy of structure and spending)
  • Clear unambiguous local plans important for fair budget allocation within NECA and LEP but also to press for national steer and leadership, for better transport budget deals and design standards

The document does not embrace the idea of transport transition or the absolute necessity for shifting car journeys to sustainable transport modes by providing real alternatives: good infrastructure for walking, cycling and public transport. The manifesto naively contains many conflicting statements: it is simply humanly impossible to enhance the environment, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions by building more roads. We must learn to seen and tackle the root causes. We must reduce motor traffic. Good alternatives are badly needed.

The Northeast must focus on mode shift exactly for reasons of fairness, viability and competitiveness – or in the current ambiguous government speak “jobs and economic growth”.

Current road schemes too easily underestimate and externalise costs (environmental and health impacts). A future policy must include clear requirements to assess health and environmental gains in all capital schemes related to transport, mobility and road safety to acknowledge and address long-term and real threats of climate change, excessive carbon emissions and unsustainable development.

Furthermore, with absent national leadership coupled with a pending devolution, local intelligence and skill of decision-makers become much more vital. If need be, and we think this to be the case, the Combined Authority must be prepared to lobby and educate government about our requirements and necessities over these national shortfalls in steer and leadership.

The benefits of quality cycling infrastructure and people-centred urban designs are well understood and evidenced. The potential for mode shift away from the private car is high certainly in the urbanised parts of the Northeast due to the compact urban shape and the short distances it brings. Please do urgently get in touch if you have doubts over cycling’s most positive role in

  • the local economy
  • health and wellbeing
  • serving society’s coffers as well as the individual pockets
  • reduction of carbon emissions and climate change impacts
  • creation of a good healthy environment, liveable cities and towns (reduced air and noise pollution)
  • social inclusion
  • offering opportunities and choice
  • neighbourhood cohesion
  • improvement residential areas

We’d urge you to re-read or acquaint yourself with previous responses we made as these do not seem to have been addressed or understood yet. Please note that some responses are dating back six years.

We recently wrote a series of letters to Pat Ritchie, chief executive of Newcastle City Council, which you may find of interest. The letters explain why a step change is needed in the approach to transport, spatial planning and economic development and what must be urgently done now. The letters were originally put together for Newcastle council but can be scaled across to other local authorities too as they contain common errors that authorities make.

  1. letter Working together for a successful outcome requires accountability
  2. letter What is the price we pay for our transport system?
  3. letter Governing the transport transition
  4. letter WANTED – Leadership for Transport Transition

You may also like to familiarise yourself with statements from the Newcastle chiefs that you can be used as a think pieces to position action on transport

A couple of years ago after Dutch delegates visited Newcastle for the Love Cycling Go Dutch conference (speeches and talks archived here http://newcycling.org/lcgd-presentations/). We had a serious look at the Dutch approach to road safety, and have been so impressed by its completeness that we adopted it as a campaign policy. We ask the authorities to adopt Sustainable Safety too, more here http://newcycling.org/sustainablesafety

Newcastle started by proposing the construction of Strategic Cycle Routes (see their local plan and Cycling Strategy). Through the LTP process these routes must extended into the surrounding authorities. A cycle network must be drawn up and included in future policy. It must also be thought about how policy is to be implemented. This may provide good opportunities for all authorities and policy-partnering organisations to work together. The past has shown that implementation is often lacking. Whilst aspirational policy is wonderful, a clear and honest implementation plan is imperative. As mentioned above, it must acknowledge current systemic and historical tensions and imbalances in transport development, planning and engineering and address these by proposing ways of their removal and alternatives.

In short, the manifesto as it stands does not present an acceptable way forward. It supports the status quo which has now become seriously untenable due to global threats on the environment that seeks local solutions for social and spatial equalities. Future policy must be made to become truly compatible with future needs, climate change demands, reductions of toxic emissions, local and national policies.

Please acknowledge receipt of this communication and do contact us if anything should be in the least unclear. Thank you.

Kind regards
Katja Leyendecker
On behalf of Management Committee of newcycling.org

The consultation document (NECA manifesto) can be accessed here (pdf, external link)