Brandling Park plans including Village and school

The latest proposal is a relatively minor improvement on a currently entirely unacceptable situation for cycling, walking and a council that states it wants to design a city where people have clear alternatives to the car.  The proposal, in many ways, is a step backwards from the previous plans we have seen and commented on. Our earlier replies and communications concerning Brandling Park situated on the Gosforth SCR4 can be seen here.

As a constituted community group with 1,600 local members we respond on their behalf to the newly reiterated Brandling Park plans, which have now been widened by the council to include an extended area, Brandling Village and school. See bottom of page for council plan details. Many of our former comments still stand.

There are good elements in the new plan, such as the change of priority on Brandling Park / Abbotsford Road (where they cross Clayton Road) and the addition of the zebra crossings (some are elements retained from the previous plan). And we would like to congratulate the council that it took a wider-area view (although not very technically successful in its execution).

However, the plan is not good enough to be called a ‘safe route to school’ area scheme and neither is it of a quality we would expect to see on a route with a SCR designation (Brandling Park, Clayton Road, and please note that we previously suggested to extend the designation into Jesmond). If there is any doubt or clarification is needed, please do get in touch. For the good of our city, we are happy to elaborate on this.

In a bit more detail:

Facilitation of car movements

The reason for our concerns is that the whole area is still designed to facilitate the movement of cars at peak times. The area’s space provides for driving and car parking, when it should prioritise safe space for walking and cycling. No street in the current plan has been designed to sufficiently reduce motor traffic – danger and risks persist.

We understand that there is conflict in demands on road space, and this must be addressed. A steadfast decision is sought from the council. It is particularly at the times of heavy motor traffic (school run, rush hour) that the space will also need to facilitate safe cycling including children cycling to school and students cycling to university, amongst cycle commuters.

By allowing car drop-offs at the school gates the council is encouraging driving in the area at school-run times. This has a wider area impact on children travelling to other schools in the area as well. Please have a look at this video and account by one of our members who took the time to film her school commute from a school on Tankerville Terrace. It demonstrates vividly the conditions created by excessive driving and car access – so much so that cycling looks out of place.

Council must act to prioritise walking and cycling, over driving.

In addition, please read the latest research that shows wide concensus on what facilities are needed to make cycling with children a genuine and easy option – summarised and easily explained here.

Council must design roads so that people of all ages and abilities can cycle or walk safely.

Conflict designs

The carriageway pinchpoint on Brandling Park, north of Lambton Road, is worrying. As we continue to state to you, pinchpoints are dangerous. Newcastle was tragically reminded of that through a death of a local cyclist on Heaton Road.

The ‘contraflow and one-way’ system could potentially be dangerous too. It will put cyclists into very confrontational situations with drivers. We have recently explained again our position on contraflows using the Clayton Road as an example. And we explain specific and general design principles (engineering and planning) here.

Conflict situations must be removed through improving road designs and layouts.

Learning lessons

Perhaps the two questions the council should always be asking when endeavouring to improve streets in Jesmond, and elsewhere in Newcastle, are these:

  1. Would parents let their child cycle (to school) on this street?
  2. If not, what needs improving?

Answers to these questions might necessitate closing down access to vehicles, something the council appears to find hard to do. Our children and their future are worth these changes and we urge council to stand firm. After years of information sharing, for example notably the Go Dutch Conference, we feel we do not need to restate all the benefits that a cycle-enabled population gives to the city. If, however you would like to chat that through with us, please get in touch.

Design rules

  1. if traffic levels are kept, a protected cycleway is needed
  2. or reduce traffic sufficiently (close Lambton) to allow a mode-balance for a functional shared environment or Cycle Street

More here and also elsewhere, please speak to us.

Monitoring and light design

If the council goes ahead with the current plan, we need to express our concerns and ask council

  1. to carry out any physical changes in a light touch that can be altered inexpensively later
  2. to monitor the functioning of the streets (before/after) and see how the changes work out (with a view to improve if necessary)

It might be worth establishing clear measures of success. For example: following the changes, have levels of cycling to school and general cycling (and cycle-commuting numbers specifically) increased? This could be determined through installing temporary counters and roadside user-satisfaction surveys.

We implore council now, as we have done before, to design child-friendly neighbourhood streets and cycle corridors that can be used be people of all ages and abilities, and to work with us to achieve these eminent aims.


Council plans we are responding to (external links)