Newcastle Great North Road worries over missing safety audit and debate

A road safety audit (RSA) has still not been made publicly available (see 1), leaving a campaign group worried and uncertain about fair process. The group understands that the RSA’s objective “is to ensure that the road safety implications of all Highway Improvement Schemes are fully considered for all users of the motorway” and should attach “great importance to the improvement of road safety” (refer to 2) and Great North Road should not be an exception.

The relevant highway standard goes on to describe that “Road Safety Auditors must examine the overall layout of the Highway Improvement Scheme. All users of the highway shall be considered including motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians and facilities for those working on the highway … Particular attention should be given to vulnerable road users such as the very young, older users and the mobility and visually impaired” and “the potential for road safety problems is often greatest at junctions, tie-ins and immediately beyond tie-ins” (refer to 2).

Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling, says “Great North Road is the unavoidable route for many pupils and parents to a number of Gosforth schools. Given this coupled with the scale of the recent changes to the Regent Centre to Broadway section, I requested the RSA on behalf of our Committee, so we can understand the logic of the council’s design. This request is in the absence of more regular communication with them on road safety and other strategic matters. It is my understanding, as an engineer, that the RSA process exists to ensure fair and safe planning and designing for people who want to walk and cycle so that highway schemes are balanced and go beyond the traditional provision for motor traffic: ensuring sensible and comfortable space and infrastructure provision is made for walking and cycling that is usable by people of all ages and abilities.

“This has, of course, to be done by inclusion of safe walking and cycling in the design, not by exclusion – we keep stressing that. It’s what the Dutch do, and it is called Sustainable Safety. If something is compromising walking and cycling, it has to be redesigned. The RSA process comes in 4 or so stages as it’s also supposed to monitor after construction. But I won’t even go there. We only want to see the RSA for the construction drawings, the design which has now been built.

“In particular, to reiterate, we are especially concerned for cycling safety and driver behaviour at the fast slip road into Hollywood turning over the cycle lane and the new right turn into Knightsbridge turning over the cycle lane and the path of pedestrians, amongst other things (see 3). We feel we must see council’s reasoning for creating these dangers. The RSA process should have picked this up, I think. Where in the process did this go awry? I suppose, we ask for more transparency, really.

“Needless to say, we are here to help, and I am absolutely sure we all have similar aims at heart. But I also have to say that our comments are often not heard, certainly not straight away. At this stage,¬†albeit late, all we want is the road safety audit and the officer’s response, if there is one. Maybe we should revisit the way road safety is done in the UK.”

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  3. Recent and August 2014