Getting to the core of 1Core (cont)

If you were put out by the 300+ page document, but were prepared to read something, here it was: Cycling pp138-141, click here.

Read more about the 1Core here



The core policy, above, reads okay at first sight and is no doubt well-intentioned. To avoid later queries and possible heartache, we’d really like to ask what “wherever [sic.] appropriate” and “promoting cycle improvements” means. And we note that Newcastle, after some to-ing and fro-ing, now once again agrees with us that the city centre North-South route (aka ‘Great’ North Cycleway or Atkin’s red route) is not complete. Also good to see is that the connection has been made between vast swathes of the city centre being up for re-development and a space re-think. Space transformation from car to people has to take place in these re-development areas (as many European cities have successfully done, and New York is catching up fast) and stipulated by 1Core’s parent document, 1Plan, ratified in 2010, the economic and spatial plan. What transport links will Science Central improve for walking and cycling? It would be good to use the excellent and award-winning work that the universities, Newcastle and Northumbria, have carried out in the last years to the public realm on their campuses; and radiate this out into the city centre – connecting Northumberland Road to Northumberland Street being the obvious choice. Plans at Central Station tipping the balance towards a kinder, calmer, a more people-friendly environment are welcome too.

In the following we will largely discuss examples for Newcastle’s urban core – but these comments can be read in a generic way for the suburbs and surrounding areas. The Strategic Cycle Routes will function as the connectors. Any new design principles have to confront and address the conflict between cycling and driving / parking, particularly the “space conflict” – where a re-dress is now needed to progress sustainable travel principles and policies.

Car parking

It is therefore not so good that Newcastle council already boasts about the many car parking spaces Stephenson Quarters (Forth Yards) will offer. Or maybe this is part of the circumferential car parks in the 1Plan, Page 78 “… ring of car parks, this will reduce the amount of traffic and enable progressive removal of parked cars from Grey Street and elsewhere”? If so car parking should be removed in the city centre now to offset the new provision. Another strange thing is the free car parking subsidy, it’s contrary to your own policy laid down in the 1Plan, a liveable city, by damaging the local city centre economy. Please lift it now, you may find this info sheet [pdf] of use. On-street parking, bar Blue Badge provision, should be removed to provide people and retail space. That’s how Copenhagen did it, gradually for a couple of decades, year on year removing a little percentage of car parking. Newcastle must develop a similar approach to car parking and sustainable mobility. Much more car parking restraint and restrictions are needed for the core to be successful economic, vibrant and people-friendly regional centre. A policy is badly needed to avoid time-wasting case-by-case decisions. And time is of the essence. Road changes re urgently needed to avoid the London scenario.

Plans and strategies

Gateshead, your attempt at self-promotion is ill placed being a national laughing stock for your silly skinny lanes. In dis-belief, we will simply gloss over your firm stance that “many cycle routes [have been] developed and improved over the last years” (very little is to good standard, or continuous). This leaves us to congratulate Newcastle on their relative honesty and decency to state that “there continues to be schemes to enhance cycling infrastructure”. We understand that to be the Strategic Cycle Routes in particular, as embedded in the Cycle Plan. Gateshead, furthermore, your cycling strategy is out of date and the latest draft we saw did not look so canny. Have a look at Newcastle’s Cycle Plan and other literature listed under Newcastle documents for some inspiration.

Road space reallocation – space for cycling

Missing altogether from the 1Core document is however the political hot-hot potato of taking away road space to give it to cycling (which the success of the Cycle City Ambition Fund programme depends on as well as Newcastle City Council’s reputation) leaving reducing traffic and speed as the ‘panacea’ instead. Yes, clearly, we would welcome a widening of 20mph in the urban core. But creation of cycle-specific space from road space is in the toolbox too. Major roads are the most direct routes. So to create safe cycle routes along fast busy roads by providing dedicated space for cycling is badly needed for choice of a viable alternative, safety, convenience and directness.

Bus route rationalisation in city centre

It’s unclear whether Blackett Street / New Bridge corridor is still shown as a bus route when these routes must be rationalised (maybe the Quality Contracts will help, we wish it to succeed). As well as Blackett Street , Pilgrim Street requires a people focus, yet it remains connected to Swan House roundabout, we want to see this disconnected for car use (image below) just as EPS documents suggest (images below).

Strategic Cycle Routes

It’s good to see the Strategic Cycle Routes are mentioned. However it remains conceptual as a clearer map is missing. Junction improvements and cycle contraflows get a place in the document, which is welcome too. Please allow a bike trial on Northumberland Street to take place.

Targets and limits

There is a lack of discussing the right modal mix for Newcastle and setting modal share targets. On targets and limits, please retain your air quality monitoring – and draw conclusion and actions from that too. The questions on how the self-imposed 34% reduction in carbon emission is going to be achieved is still outstanding. Loads of new development is proposed (yes, it’s a plan for growth, old mantras die hard) and we ought to point out that at land-use and planning stage the LPA must get serious about reducing “car need” by providing alternatives and giving road space to cycling. Haddricks Mill will become even more gridlocked with proposed North Tyneside and Northumberland’s developments. Newcastle should be well up for re-shaping Haddrick Mill – 40% of households do not have access to a car and cycling is on the rise. Where is the accompanying infrastructure to support that city travel profile? But there are tensions in Newcastle’s transport: much of it is generated in the surroundings. Newcastle, please be strong and demand a sustainable transport policy from your neighbouring councils.
And almost most certainly ‘Policy UC6 Cycling ‘ will be in competition with other 1Core policies.

In the end it remains a battle for the right balance.

To be clear. This is what we want to see happen:

1) better classification of roads, so the purpose is clear to the user, (“maintaining traffic flow” or for local, residential or urban short journeys)
2) a re-balancing of road space, as a minimum: dedicated cycle infrastructure on roads faster than 30mph and safe junctions
3) filtered permeability in neighbourhoods and city quarters – using cycle contraflows and closing ‘rat-runs’ (see Groningen video below)
4) integrated transport: bikes allowed on the metro opening up a wider travel distance

Our previous replies and communications remain as relevant as ever and while there is support for getting Newcastle cycling from Newcastle MPs, the prestigious Institution of Civil Engineers and many more organisations, what are we waiting for?

We’ll leave you with these street impressions:

JDS - two-way cycle track
Image 1 John Dobson Street

Pilgrim Street for people
Image 2 Blackett Street pedestrianisation (from EPS documents)

Pilgrim Street for people
Image 3 Pilgrim Street pedestrianisation (from EPS documents)

Swan House new arrangement
Image 4 Swan House re-modelling (from EPS documents)

Grey Street - grey or green space?
Image 5 Grey Street (so much space)

Science Central vision
Image 5 Science Central artists impression (from Science Central documents)

Newcastle’s twin city:

Groningen: The World’s Cycling City from Streetfilms on Vimeo.