highlighting the problems of perpetual growth in a finite world
making us aware of the progress that’s been made and assuring us of continued commitment
outlining a largely supportive position, as well as explaining some limitations and reservations
Like previous years, we have again written to political parties to inquire about their commitment and plans for sustainable transport, active travel and cycling infrastructure. Ahead of the local election and seamlessly building on Newcastle’s Cycle Manifesto and the highly supported Space for Cycling initiative, we specifically asked the political parties for their feedback on these points
1.Mode share and targets
We will increase Newcastle’s cycle share from the current 2% of all travel to 15% by 2025 and to collate the data to measure progress towards that target
2.Mapping a network
We will prepare a map of Newcastle’s cycle network covering the Newcastle City Council area showing current provision and required improvements using the five Dutch criteria of cohesion, directness, safety, comfort and attractiveness
We will identify where this network falls short of best practice in engineering design and city transport planning (UK and abroad)
We will prioritise Strategic Cycle Routes (cycle corridors) for early investment and construction, building the backbone of the cycle network
5.Costing and policy
We will produce estimated costings for both the Strategic Cycle Routes and the general cycle network. Both the existing and proposed network should be included in all future planning documents
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Newcastle has reasonably good transport policies, but to be implemented they must be made relevant too. We think the below five points would be the next logical step in that direction, because it would make active travel, sustainable transport and cycling much more tangible for Newcastle. We made a start at the cycle network.and have included this into our campaign priorities.
Responses (in order of receipt)
Thank you for your letter about cycling and transport in general. I imagine that most, if not all, replies, will say that there are in favour of promoting cycling and, overall, “good” transport policies. We Greens think that what counts is, first of all, a sound long-term vision by which to judge whether we are going in the right direction in the short term and, second, related actions in the here and now.
We stand for a sustainable transport strategy, in the context of a comprehensive programme of the long-term common good. On those grounds we would argue that Newcastle city council under both Labour and Liberal Democrats has not got what you call “reasonably good” transport policies.
Its core guiding framework at present is the Core Strategy. It is a plan for physical growth and yet more growth. That will necessarily put increasingly unsustainable pressure on the existing transport infrastructure, not least the road network. Most of that growth is targeted on the urban fringe, with big housing developments planned for the north-western and northern edges of the city. That will mean more and longer car journeys since these are areas with poor public transport. Indeed the Core Strategy and related developments very much focus on new roads (eg A69-A696, the Airport ring road past planned ‘Solus’ development, and A1 widening). The concept of transport ‘gateways’ creates the risk of certain areas becoming congested and polluted corridors, not the attractive neighbourhood’s they should be. The city council is also committed to a major expansion in air flights at Newcastle airport. It is but another example of how the city’s leaders are trying to transport us into the future with their eyes firmly glued to the rearview mirror.
We feel that the emphasis ought to be on a radical shift from the private road vehicles to better bus services (including ‘red routes’), safer and more attractive cycling networks, much more pedestrianisation and better crossing facilities for walkers, ‘living streets’, shared car schemes, encouragement of electric vehicles and a revival of unused/underused railway lines, especially Newcastle-Ashington. We disagree with those parties that promise to maximise every transport option. In a finite world, from a finite planet right down to the limited space on each and every street, the expansion of one element must means the contraction of something else. Competing claims must be judged against the criteria of long-term sustainability and the common good. We must also pay due respect to the needs of non-human nature. We thus oppose the proposed road developments not just because they will ‘induce’ new traffic whilst adding to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but also because they will sever wildlife corridors.
We advocate a holistic approach. We would endorse the motion on your website. But we would also want a comprehensive plan that also addresses the needs of non-cycling groups such as public transport users and pedestrians as well as pays attention to the special needs of groups such as older citizens in the city (eg http://www.sustaineurope.com/going-green.html). But the fundamental issue remains that of growth. On-going growth can but overwhelm the best of schemes, be it traffic calming, better vehicle engines or more cycling. We have to think in term son ‘better’, not ‘more’, what one study calls a ‘Post-Growth Project’. Not only does ‘small’ tend to be more beautiful but often so too does ‘slow’, To that extent, we would echo Ivan Illich’s prescient observations in ‘Energy and Equity’ that slower speed speeds will by themselves will favour some transport modes over others (https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/energy-and-equity-ivan-illich/)
We would also note that implementation of the better policies that, to be fair, the council has pursued in some cases, has been somewhat piecemeal. It has fuelled a backlash in many quarters, with claims that the council is ‘biased’ in favour of particular lobbies. Part of the problem is the way councils now have to bid for pots of gold and spend what monies might come their way as fast as they can. Perhaps an example might illustrate the point. Currently a new road junction is being created at the intersection of the Great North Road, Church Road and Salters Road. But little was done at the same time to anticipate and try to prevent the number of new ‘rat runs’ that have developed on neighbouring streets. In this case, what we need is a sustainable transport plan for Gosforth, not single schemes.
We would note in conclusion that many of things we advocate have been successfully implemented in cities not so different to Newcastle. Paris, for example, is currently giving a good lead to several respects (road removal, better cycling and pedestrian provision at major roundabouts, action on diesel engines). The Netherlands has been praised for its cycling initiatives but we would also commend thinking there on what actually constitutes ‘sustainable safety’. They are also several general studies that confirm the practicality of what we want such as ‘The Happy City’ (Charles Montgomery), ‘The Walkable City’ (Jeff Speck) and ‘Car Sick’ (Lynn Sloman). We must act quickly and radically.
In terms of action, the Green Party has played what we like to think is a significant role in local transport matters. Our manifestos give them prominent coverage. Our formal submissions during the Core Strategy consultations pursued the same themes while, at the subsequent planning inquiry, our official ‘representers spoke several times on the need for a radical change of direction in land use planning and related transport policies. Individual have played an active in specific campaigns including SPACE for Gosforth. We hope to publish soon a Green Transport Manifesto for Newcastle as part of a series of papers development a Green City Programme.
Newcastle Green Party
As you’ve noted, the local Labour Party provided a statement in 2015 [link provided above]. We stand by the content of that statement and continue to work towards delivering our ambitious plans for cycling.
Generally speaking, we support your motion. However we do wonder whether, as you suggest, it would actually make our policies more relevant to a wider audience. The motion proposed would seem to re-endorse several things that we have already publically endorsed, committed to and are currently delivering, so this may not promote the level of civic or public interest you are seeking to achieve.
In terms of the specifics of the things you request in the motion, many are already underway:
- We have set out our ambitions for numbers of people cycling. We also recognise that the current means of monitoring makes it difficult to ensure this can be adequately captured and would welcome further engagement from your membership about ways to improve monitoring, including them providing us with information.
- We already publish a map of the cycle network and are doing work through our planning process to identify the gaps in that network and establish where we think improvements are needed and where the gaps in the network are. The use of the criteria you have identified could form an important part of this.
- As part of our work we continue to identify where the network needs to be improved based on best practice from this country and more widely.
- We have, and will continue to prioritise investment in the main cycling routes that provide the backbone of our emerging network.
- We’re developing estimated costs, and to reiterate, are intending to include the network in the future planning documents.
We consider that a civic debate is required and have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes with businesses and employers to prepare the ground for this. Further, through schemes such as our Streets for People programme, we are trying to better involve local residents and businesses about the changes that are required to help bring environmental, safety and health benefits for everyone. We have recently established an Active Travel Board that brings together transport and public health functions of the Council and will help to co-ordinate alignment of policies, and importantly, their implementation over the coming years.
As ever we welcome the efforts of New Cycling to help promote cycling and act as a critical friend to our plans, here’s to a successful couple of years in 2016 and 2017.
Newcastle Labour Party
We are supportive of increasing participation in cycling and walking in the city and recognise its benefits in terms of environmental sustainability as well as health and wellbeing. We are pleased that significant additional investment was made in cycling funding by Lib Dem transport ministers in the previous Coalition, and that Newcastle has benefited from this through the Cycle City Ambition Fund – though we have concerns that delivery of improvements to infrastructure has been slow at times.
We are supportive of Space for Cycling’s six priorities
- Protected space on main roads (caveat: we are aware that some recent schemes have received criticism for increasing risk in particular locations – we wish to see safety enhanced for all road users)
- Removing through motor traffic in residential areas (caveat: where this is supported by residents)
- Lower speed limits
- Cycle-friendly town centres
- Safe routes to school
- Routes through green spaces
We are similarly supportive of initiatives such as Smarter Choices and The Big Pedal which encourage more walking and cycling (and scooting) to work and to school, and encourage creation of safer routes to schools. Making cycling, scooting, and walking easy and attractive choices at an early age is important as a determinant of transport choices of adults.
We are broadly in support of your motion’s five points. In terms of the proposed target of an increase in cycle share from 2% to 15% by 2025, we feel this is a challenging target but hope to see progress towards this goal (we signed up last year to a 10% target by 2025). We want to see significant and ongoing improvement in cycle journeys towards the average in European cities, as part of a wider sustainable transport strategy including public transport, walking, and car sharing, and want to see cycling continue to be made a priority of built environment and transport planning. We note that this is not yet always the case, with major development sites being approved with token or badly designed infrastructure, and we will continue to support efforts to ensure the city’s urbanism features walkable and cycle-able neighbourhoods.
We are conscious that steps need to be taken to make cycling more convenient for more people: in addition to provision of suitable parking facilities and accommodation for changing at workplaces etc., it is not easy for some people – particularly people in rented accommodation – to find anywhere to keep a bike at home.
We are supportive of the need to increase provision of a network of dedicated protected cycle routes which as far as possible reduce or remove the potential for conflict with vehicle traffic and pedestrians. We think that more should be done to improve route signage. We also think that more should be done to maintain local neighbourhood roads and pavements to reduce potholes and other hazards.
We are mindful of particular difficulties for cyclists in the city centre, particularly in terms of sharing road space with buses and pavement space with pedestrians. However, we also acknowledge that there continues to be a requirement for vehicles in the city centre, and there is likely to continue to be a need for a city centre through-route for vehicles. We appreciate that cyclist / pedestrian conflict remains a particular concern for pedestrians and we are supportive of efforts to encourage responsible and considerate cycling in this respect, as well as separation of pedestrians and cyclists in scheme designs where feasible.
We consider that it is desirable to ensure open and constructive consultation and dialogue on transport infrastructure planning and investment, whether in terms of major road junction schemes or in terms of local “living streets” type neighbourhood improvements. This means taking into account the views of stakeholders including residents and businesses, who may not always be supportive of particular proposals. Changes must be fair to all residents and transport infrastructure users, ensure safety of all road users and pedestrians, and should not displace or lead to extra vehicular traffic movement on residential streets.
We are conscious that cycling has an increasingly important role to play in transport policy and decision-making, along with walking and public transport. However, we also recognise that the city’s transport network will continue to make use of less sustainable transport provision, and transport planning and infrastructure decisions will need to reflect this. We feel there it is important to ensure rigorous cost-benefit analysis of transport investment proposals and support the need for better project management to ensure delivery of projects on time, on budget, and achieving clear and measurable benefit.
To conclude, we are supportive of increasing cycle share and cycling provision, and are happy to engage in further dialogue about how this can best be secured.