LCGD – About a sustainable and fair economy by Cllr Nick Forbes

At the LCGD conference, Cllr Nick Forbes, the Leader of Newcastle City Council showed his support to cycling and talked about the ‘bigger picture’, and how cycling is an essential part of a fair and sustainable economy. While you can listen to his entire opening speech or read the transcript here, we have selected some highlights for you, and added our comments too:

“The challenge for us of course is as I say is that much of our physical infrastructure in Newcastle is designed around either an old fashioned model of how the economy worked or the post-industrial period where most post-war planning where most of our planning was affected by the predominance of motor vehicles and motor traffic.”

We couldn’t agree more – so let’s enter this transition phase and remodel our economy by building a city fit for the 21st century.

“So our challenge is to reshape Newcastle’s economy as well as the physical infrastructure of our city to make sure we have a sustainable economy. To make sure we have fair economy where everybody is seen to be able to benefit from it. And an economy, a political economy, which respects people and the environment.”

What would we like to see then?

First of all, those principles embedded in Council planning policies and practices; for example the Local Development Framework and the Council capital investment plan and more precisely a range of physical developments including transport schemes where space is given for cycling and people. Not just a bunch of projects improving motorised traffic flow.

Secondly, a city centre turned into a civilised space, with a clear plan for actions based on the One Plan vision to avoid the piece-meal approach and the much-needed space re-allocation being consistently and conveniently forgotten about. European cities, such as Hamburg are thinking big – let’s not lag behind…

Finally, sustainable transport infrastructure being recognised as a key “invest to save” mechanism, and prioritise such investment in line with the Council capital budgeting proposal. And this would also mean ensuring that other local and sub-regional funding frameworks are fit for the challenge. In particular, it will be important to ensure that the emerging Strategic Economic Plan from the Local Economic Partnership is investing significant resources in sustainable transport. And we have yet to be convinced that the LEP understands what a fair and sustainable economy is.

“Cycling isn’t just a physical activity. Cycling is integral to how we seek to transform the city for the future and that’s why it will be so interesting to hear from colleagues in the Netherlands about how they have done that. Because the sense that I have is that the Netherlands as a country has a greater sense of how the economy is fairer and how we can have greater respect for people and the environment.”

“So this conference and its workshop yesterday are first steps in forging that culture of practitioners right across Europe and the UK for designing streets for cycling.”

Nearly three months after the conference, we are left wondering just how the Council proposes to forge knowledge transfer and exchange of good practice. What is the next step? There will be plenty of opportunities to not only apply learning on the ground but also and more importantly, continue to seek advice and support from our Dutch neighbours to design those streets for cycling. Let’s not think we can do it on our own and let’s not stall after such an inspiring grand day.