Is Newcastle Fit for Cycling?

After years of talk, frustrated cyclists want to know how serious Newcastle really is about creating safe conditions for everyone to cycle. There are good signs but bad ones too. What is Newcastle City Council doing to become a City Fit for Cycling?

Nationally there are many positive signs. Department for Transport offering good chunks of cash to local authorities if they promise to take road space away from car use to create cycle routes; practical empirical research is taking place at the Transport Research Laboratory to determine gaps in the cycle infrastructure design and approval; and a national newspaper – having funded a parliamentary inquiry called ‘Get Britain Cycling’ (reports were out last week, and were acknowledged by the Prime Minister) – continues their quest to make ‘Cities Fit For Cycling’ with an e-petition already signed by over 50,000 people just days after its inception.

In the Northeast, Newcastle – the regional capital – is undoubtedly leading the way in making the right noises for bikes, but people are yet to see any cycle paths, or roads repurposed and closed down or speeding reduced, rat runs eliminated and unfettered car use arrested. Having said that, neighbouring councils North Tyneside and Gateshead are way behind in taking cycling seriously as a mode of transport and will miss out on the benefits of public health, thriving local economies and a more equal society. Yet with Newcastle’s wordy promise of better focus and organisation comes responsibility to deliver. To date cyclists have seen nothing but mixed messages from their council. Fortunately in the minority, but there are a handful of anti-cycling Councillors obstructing safe cycling schemes, irresponsibly trying to hold up funding and budget allocations for better streets and road safety for everyone.

Katja Leyendecker, chair “It’s important that we keep the ‘Fit for People’ agenda politically alive. Newcastle council is very frustrating. Nothing is clear, and even the simplest of actions like installing cycle contraflows on one-way streets don’t happen. We want schemes like Tankerville Terrace and Acorn Road to go ahead and the communities to benefit from safety and space clarity. But Newcastle council does not listen or care in many ways. Councillors are not speaking in one voice despite the unanimously acclaimed theoretical Cycle Plan, and more recently the more practically-oriented Cycle City Ambition pledge.

“Councillors disparity is holding back Newcastle to design for people and make our roads and streets safe for parents to let their children cycle to school and take up cycling themselves. A cyclist was tragically killed at a pinchpoint on Heaton Road and months later, council still hasn’t proposed any changes or discussed anything with the cycling forum. Pinchpoints are so dangerous. We call for renewed political leadership and vision, and invite once again our city chiefs to a cycle city tour. For the future’s sake of Newcastle, they have to get serious about making Newcastle a place for people, not cars. We wait to hear from them.”

Katja Leyendecker 07828 60 4349
E Mail newcastle.cycling.campaign@gmail.com

Tankerville Terrace – streetscape impression – Tankerville Terrace has schools on them, yet the road space turn dangerous every morning and afternoon by the aggressive and competitive school run, and in between and later in the day with speeding rat-running drivers.
Download http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/8583021843/sizes/o/in/set-72157633046643049/

Acorn Road – streetscape impression – Acorn Road is a distinct shopping centre, and its environment is unpleasantly dominated by cars. Research, local and national, has shown that car use is much over-rated to the vitality and success of the shops, so that it would benefit from a decelerated street environment that puts people first.
Download http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/8664401227/sizes/l/in/set-72157633046643049/