Newcastle adopts bike policy – 10-year cycle plan

On 1 February 2012 Newcastle City Council adopted the 10-year Cycle Plan for Newcastle. Read the transcript below. You can watch the video here by going to 29:30 (warning – slow loading)

Lord Mayor (Cllr Geoff O’Brien):

We move on to agenda item No.8 which is Delivering Cycling Improvements. I’d like Cllr Todd to introduce the report, to move the report which will be seconded by Cllr Murison. Am I correct? Yes. Cllr Todd you have the floor.

Deputy Cabinet for Transport and Environment (Cllr Nigel Todd):

Thank you Lord Mayor. It gives me enormous pleasure to recommend Delivering Cycling Improvements in Newcastle and its associated Action Plan to the city council for endorsement, following the approval given to the plan and policy by the cabinet member.

I guess in a way we ‘ve started off already with a pretty non contentious item across the council chamber … manifesto […] with the combined forces.. it will take us into similar arenas in that the cycling policy has been a product of I think concerted effort from councillors of both sides of the chamber. In particular tribute to Cllr Wendy Taylor and Cllr Stephen Psallidas for the work that they’ve done with the cycling forum in raising the issues.

And indeed also I’d like to pay particular tribute to the Newcastle cycling forum itself who’s made a tremendous job I think of focussing our minds on the possibilities of cycling and what we can do to improve cycling as a way of improving health, reducing traffic congestion, and the many other benefits that cycling can bring.

The cycling community is a complex one. And is not altogether organised like any other community. But the organised parts of it, the Bicycle User Groups, particularly the Newcastle Cycling Campaign, some of whose members are sat at the back of the room tonight, Recyke y’Bike, Sustrans, many others, including a number of cycling businesses in the city, have contributed in bringing this cycling policy together.

The policy was consulted on earlier this year. Again, it didn’t prove particularly contentious, not in terms of responses that came back. Although not just beyond the cycling policy are some really quite challenging issues for the city I think. In term of how we plan highways, how we are plan improvements to facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, how we strike balance between different forms of transport amd different modes of road usage between pedestrians, public transport, private cars, road haulage, and cycling.

The policy really now takes us into an arena where we have to get to grips with all those practical issues. The cycling forum is especially keen to attaching to the broad contours of the policy, a series of actions, which are detailed in appendices to the report. They gave us some specific things to aim at. They are not set in stone, and the cycling forum will review them as time goes on and update the actions accordingly in the light of experience and new opportunities. I thought it was rightly to put some nuts and bolts on the policy so we know the problems we seek to tackle.

We have in the city council a very supportive and enthusiastic group of staff who are working through the cycling policy in terms of their jobs being dedicated to that within transport and highways. But also more broadly across the city council staff in terms of enthusiam for cycling right across the whole piece.

There is one minor amendment that we need to make to appendix 1 of the policy: the summary action plan which is on page 19. Something clearly went a bit wrong when transposing the some of the wording of the second bullet point under objective A. It’s an apparently minor but significant change. I am grateful for Cllr Kane and Cllr Cott for drawing our attention to it. Second bullet point should read “Encouraging and support employers, including the city council, and schools to promote cycling seeking an increase to 10% of people cycling to work and 15% of cycling to school by 2016”. This gives us something tangible to aim at. How do we know we get those increases? We have forms of monitoring cycle usage which are being improved and extended all the time. So we’ll have a baseline to work at. Not that it is always that precise but it gives us something tangibly in terms of the data.

I think really with that, Lord Mayor, I commend the cycling policy to the city council. Again, thank all the groups. Particularly the Newcastle Cycling Campaign I should just specifically mention because their enthusiasm in focussing our minds as councillors on what to do about cycles. Escpecially as they added in to the plan a very imaginative proposal for strategic cycle routes which are concepts on the map at the moment, but some work is already going on with some of them [routes]. These cycle routes will challenge us considerably in how we manage the future of traffic within the city centre. So again, this is the opening to something much bigger. Thank you.

Cabinet member for Quality of Life (Cllr Henri Murison):

Lord Mayor, I’ll be very brief as I think my colleague Cllr Todd has very eloquently espoused what is very much a common theme across the chamber. In very simple terms cycling has a huge number of potential benefits to the city particularly in line with the administration’s […] priorities particularly about fairness. It is actually about giving people access to transport that is often very reduced and sometimes free cost that is about opening our city for allowing access to health benefits, but also financial benefits as well, by way to travel by such means of environmentally and economically sound mode of transport.

I do think particularly some of the work that is happening at Tyne & Wear level is worth reflecting on, Lord Mayor. Particularly obviously work that is done with our delivering partners Sustrans and our colleagues of the Integrated Transport Authority to better allow and enable, make able, young people to cycle to school. But also I do think, if successful, our more substantive bid to government for funding particularly around how we would improve infrastructure for cycling in Newcastle could bring some very significant benefits.

But we should be clear that we need a cycling infrastructure […] slightly further than the borders of this great city. Obviously as part of that there’ll obviously need to be improvement to infrastructure in Sunderland. So obviously those members who may occasionally visit Sunderland as I do at times will be able to cycle not just in Newcastle but also have the same benefits when they got to Sunderland.

And I think actually people in the Northeast will notice some very significant differences particularly in the city in the coming years, what it’s like to be a cyclist. And rightly my colleagues across the chamber highlight this around our targets in this area. They are very very demanding what they are seeking to achieve and the only way we are going to do that is by making substantial changes to how we present our road and wider infrastructure to allow cyclist to do so safely, to travel safely. But also to encourage new people to take up cycling. Not necessarily become cycling afficionados and cycle everywhere but make some of those particularly smaller trips by bike. Which is the only way that we are going to reduce congestion on our roads and meet our obligations around seeking to reduce CO2 emissions but also to improve peoples health in the city.

And for that reason, Lord Mayor, I’d like to thank all those who have been involved including Cllr Todd who’s provided support to the administration. Members of all sides righlty would support this. It’s think it’s a very positive step forward and I am very glad that from grassroots up – from cyclists in the city – and not imposed on them. And that is exactly the right way to make policy It’s certainly a way of doing things […] that maybe has not been the norm in the past.

Thank you, Lord Mayor.