Campaign Meeting – let’s talk about space for cycling!!

Our September meeting saw Katja Leyendecker and Scott Dawson (who are they?) talk about the Strategic Cycle Routes (SCR), “how to move the shakers” (presentation slides below) and what it means on the ground by showing examples of road space re-allocation.

The SCR concept is not new. It was Bill Dodds, then on the Newcycling management committee, who put the idea on the agenda two years ago: a network of seven radial routes connecting different parts of Newcastle to the city centre. These would be direct, convenient and safe cycle routes serving a range of destinations on their way: shops, employment sites, schools, health and leisure facilities, and cultural venues.

The alignment of the SCR were scoped out and the outer part of the Walker SCR got designed. As we know, unfortunately, it completely stalled as its implementation got blocked by local councillors. So where to go next? The good news is that nearly £6m from Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition Fund should enable some of the routes to be designed and built (have a look at slide 5 in the presentation below). This will require political support; and let’s not forget that it is a massive challenge for a council which has yet to demonstrate its ability to deliver quality cycling infrastructure and road space repurposing.

So. Decisions about road space will have to be made. Katja and Scott presented some examples to illustrate how our streets could look with dedicated cycle infrastructure:

Slide 6: John Dobson Street has plenty of space for a 2-way cycle lane

Slide 7: or reclaiming Great North Road from the tight grip of 1960s planning principles

Slide 8: and would it not be nice to have some cycle space on Tankerville Terrace so that the kids can safely ride to school?

It’s not just about the bike though. Road space re-allocation is about people, pedestrians as well as cyclists.

Slide 9: So yes, why not create a better environment for people on Acorn Road in Jesmond – currently a hot spot for air pollution.

Slide 10: Why not reclaim the street space occupied by car parking on Grey Street and give it back to people on foot – it’s good for the shops, restaurants and bars, research tells us time and time again!

Of course Katja’s images are illustrative. They are meant to make us think and inspire. Everybody recognised how powerful visual representations can be; throughput the meeting there was a very interactive discussion amongst members, main suggestion was to add a ‘human dimension’ to the sketches by adding happy smiley people; another suggestion was to show streetscape from the past, present and future.

There’s definitely a project in its making here – we will think how to develop and produce materials for our decision-makers to visualise people-friendly streetscape and quality cycling infrastructure. And you can do your bit to help, watch this space for our fundraiser in October!

Finally, we wanted to show what other cities have done to give space back to walking and cycling, and Katja showed an example in Dublin. We were lucky that George, who provided the pictures and story, as part of our YouReport series, was at the meeting so he could describe to us first hand how a cycleway got installed fairly recently on one of the main arterial roads in Dublin reducing space for motorised traffic and providing a cycle track. There are many more inspiring examples, all showing that it can be done! But we ran out of time (pub was calling!) and also had to postpone the bollard game – oh well there’s always the December meeting!!

See you there!