Warning sent to Newcastle City Council

Newcycling has warned the council they would become negligent if no action is taken soon. At a Council Cabinet meeting with a focus on transport, held in public on 9 October, the group’s chairwoman went on record to hold Pat Ritchie, Newcastle’s chief executive, to account and ask her to get behind their own council transport policies to avoid the “London scenario”.

Like most local authorities London has been ‘encouraging’ people to cycle for decades. Cycling in London, for this reason and others, has doubled in the last ten years making it the envy of other transport authorities. However this increase comes at a price. Infrastructure was not adequately improved to cater for the increase in cycling, leading to a disproportionately large increase in cyclists’ KSI (killed and seriously injured) on London’s roads. Newcycling urges the council to take note immediately, to avoid this happening in Newcastle. The money (in form of the Cycle City Ambition Fund) is there – set aside to improve road infrastructure for cycling and walking. Holistic road improvements however have not materialised in Newcastle for many years and expertise may be wanting. It is doubtful under the current council system that these changes will be delivered in the tight time-scale and to the required quality.

Katja, chairwoman of the group, says “We have to get humanity back into our highways. Council has been warned. We had to make them aware of the death and damage that happens when you do not improve road layout for cycling alongside the ‘promote & encourage’ approach that councils have, so cruelly and singularly, followed for years. We know that Newcastle is at the cusp of seeing relevant increases in numbers of people cycling – due to health and economic consideration and general rising popularity of cycling. So it now is paramount to urgently make space for cycling. It would be negligent to sit back and watch on.

“I fear however Pat Ritchie does not ‘get’ it, and is simply paying lip service to cycling. Newcastle council recently re-did their departments and the transport function is now more dispersed than ever before. If you trace back responsibility it is Pat Ritchie who oversees city transport. She also put her signature on the Plan in 2010 so she must know of its people – not car – focus. That £160,000 worth of chief executive could of course attend the ‘Love Cycling Go Dutch’ conference to see for herself. Cllr Nick Forbes has confirmed his attendance, which is great. Experts will be talking about how it’s done. Delegates can learn, be inspired, and take part at the workshops and panel discussions. The offer is there. It’s for Pat Ritchie to pull her weight, to step up – follow the council leader’s choice – be there and be counted, informed and inspired.”

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Newcastle conference “Love Cycling Go Dutch”

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