Fenham Hall Drive – driving you mad

Newcastle does not appear to have the same openness and clarity of mind that Birmingham has recently demonstrated. At the city’s peril, Newcastle risks to hold back progress for safer cycling and walking. Our city has of course its 10-year cycle strategy. But just how the ambitious target of 20% of all short journeys to be done by bike by 2022 (a tenfold increase on current levels) is to materialise, is a question to be asked especially in the light of council’s approach to Fenham Hall Drive.

For more on Fenham Hall Drive click here

Birmingham has recently looked at its council introspectively in relation to improving cycling, and started to identify their institutional barriers to cycling. The report states “The [Council Scrutiny] Committee received a strong message from witnesses that those in charge of our highways do not like to ‘give up’ road space to cycle lanes”. So much so that Sustrans states “Road space re-allocation is always a challenge as capacity for traffic is consistently the highest priority for engineers. Design of on-highway cycle route can be compromised by the need to keep the traffic moving at all cost. Reallocating road space needs a robust stance to be taken by the highway authority and can work as high quality infrastructure that is visible, attractive and safe and will increase cycle journeys”.

The scrutiny report goes on that “Evidence received from City Council Highway Engineers in relation to these recommendations, reminded the Committee of the Council’s statutory duty to ‘keep the traffic moving’ and balance all traffic needs within finite space. The Committee observed that there seemed to be a perceived underlying assumption on the part of officers that to give cyclists more space would only increase congestion.” So the Birmingham committee continues “we have attempted to … identify some of the logjams and opportunities. After all, the main complaint about strategies around cycling and walking has not been their quality but the lack of implementation and funding” and that “In practice, many dealings with the Council left people feeling that ‘cycling is the lowest priority’ in transport and ‘a problem for someone else, not me’.” Source

The same sentiment was echoed by the Parliamentary Inquiry ‘Get Britain Cycling’ evidence session, where “Mark Wilson from the Highways Agency admitted that engineers need more cycle-specific training. The subject of how roads should be redesigned for cyclists sparked much debate. Charity Living Streets said: ‘simply painting white lines on the road is not generally helpful. It can sometimes put cyclists and pedestrian in conflict.’ Urban Movement’s John Dales said: ‘communities must start designing roads for people who aren’t already cycling’.” Source

All this sounds very familiar to our long-standing concerns about improving cycling in our city. Here’s a recent submission along those lines: Fenham Hall Drive, letter and the full submission is attached below. Concerns still centre around inclusive engagement and consultation including full option identification, technical design expertise by the highways engineer.

Subject: Fwd: Regulatory and Appeals Sub Committee Hearing re Fenham Hall Drive – Proposed Cycle Lane
To: traffic.notices@newcastle.gov.uk
Cc: Cllrs Stockdale, Pearson, Risk, Ali, McCarty, Todd, + Sustrans, CTC

Please find attached our point-by-point response to the officers report, explaining why we continue to object notwithstanding our disappointment with council’s lack of technical considerations and approach to engagement and consultation also expressed on previous occasions.

If it could be read out at the hearing in full that’d be much appreciated. We tried to condense our concerns in the introduction with more details provided after. It should of course be read in conjunction with previous communications, which we have duly listed in the appendix.

Katja Leyendecker & Scott Dawson