Quick reflection on 2013

Another year’s just swooshed past. It was little more graceful than the years before, with similar campaigning aspects persisting to stick around, impossible for us to strike them off the list (yet).

In early 2013, here it suddenly was, the money. Previously oft-cited by council as the reason for inaction. And a two-year works programme too. To create the main ask for us, more space for cycling, Newcastle had been awarded £6m to do exactly that through the Cycle City Ambition Fund. Roadspace reallocation projects galore we have been promised.

There has been much talk, many meetings yet no actual construction or building works to be seen around. The time’s running out fast to get on with the first stretches of the Strategic Cycle Routes, to the North through Jesmond to Gosforth, and the West and the East end. I reckon at least two miles of dedicated cycle space should be created if, and it’s a big if, Newcastle manages to pull their procedures together.

The East end saw a peculiar wrangle over a cycle lane on Welbeck Road. This fight may not have been about cycling at all, but rather about political point scoring and posturing. Those local Councillors have me deeply worried for their commitment to the city and its people.

The West end, Fenham Hall Drive, remains exactly that – a “drive”, rather than a comfortable cycle route to school. As this was the second bungled scheme after Brighton Grove (north side), a review should be carried out so we can learn the lessons how we want to go about these proposal. The hint, as always, early involvement at ‘stage zero’ is key to gather community views, asks and needs.

The city centre is still sitting in the ‘undecided’ pile. Central Station plans being largely acceptable and even the consultation was done really rather well, however promised space for cycling on John Dobson Street has not materialised and plans are in some sort of limbo. I wish I could tell you more but the big black hole strikes again. The mysterious NCN725 through Newcastle city centre now exists by ‘sign only and not by design’. The 30mph inner-city streets like Pilgrim Street, Grey Street and Grainger Street amongst others are still haunting city cyclists and pedestrians alike.

The Gosforth route saw death-by-consultation and re-consultation and much confusion arising. Some of it is understandable as we trying to do new things and some people, retailers and taxi drivers are nervous about change. What the proposed finished product looks like is still not clear. When will High Street be a people place? Jesmond’s Acorn Road saw a similar debate take place.

The Dutch came to Newcastle in November tell us more about how to bring about mass cycling; their infrastructure is the main talking point, naturally. The conference was a superb chance for ‘people from different walks’ to get together, exchange views and make connections. Many of you helped to make it happen. The leader of the council Cllr Nick Forbes gave a strong conference speech, but his cabinet and chief – the executive decision-makers – did to attend.

The campaign was invited to give oral evidence at the House of Commons Transport Committee, in London. I gave my best. I hope to get Newcycling involved in more national campaigning, as the linking up with other groups is most important for exchange, strength and growing the voice. A new group made up of local campaigns, called Space for Cycling has formed under a London Cycling Campaign / CTC initiative, and I believe they may be able to provide the steer, leadership and glue that local groups crave.

All in all, mixed. All in all, as usual.

What Newcastle needs? To employ an urban expert to really get the delivery agent and local highway agency, the council, shipshape and Bristol fashion. Yes, Bristol is storming ahead. As are Manchester (plans for Oxford Road), and Brighton (Old Shoreham Road cycleway).

What else does Newcastle need? A local campaign group, growing, with ace members like you. Thanks for helping out at the Go Dutch conference, supplying us with youReport stories and photos, or donating money – you are fab. Keep it coming.

See you at the AGM in March 2014 – you are all invited.