Cycle City Ambition Programme 2 – summary and questions

One year on, we have a look at the Cycle City Ambition Fund 2 (CCAF2), its general content and feasibility. The CCAF2 documentation was put together by the City Council a year ago. It was approved by the Department for Transport (DfT) shortly thereafter. Newcastle Council did not contact us to collaborate or allow us to help shape the input and direction of the bid. Despite newcycling being a strong transport and cycling stakeholder we were given no involvement whatsoever in the content, quality or its ambition.

Based on our experience of the last two years of CCAF1 delivery and many years’ worth of experience with council engagement, we must ask some serious questions. Quite fundamentally we are left wondering what lessons Newcastle City Council has learned to assess and dutifully adjust the speed and quality of their delivery. We raised various concerns about CCAF1 delivery here and more generally here. This, to date, has not been addressed. An important aspect that requires immediate attention is the network management and mobility plan for the city centre and neighbourhood areas. Without clarity of the bigger picture of network and road classification (first principles of Sustainable Safety), local improvements for non-motorised sustainable active travel will continue to be problematic.

On assessing the CCAF2 content we notice that the City Council bids for £11 million grant from the Department for Transport (DfT) and council pledges match-funding. The bid’s timeframe started in April 2015 and will end in March 2018. Its operational area is Newcastle but it wilily uses a wider boundary for bid purposes to access more DfT money. Casting a wider net of course makes a lot of sense as transport coming into Newcastle is generated to a great extent outside Newcastle. The population covered by the bid is 480,391. However no details are provided to its origin; we can hence only be guessing that it includes the whole of Newcastle and adding parts of Gateshead and North Tyneside. With CCAF2 grant alone, this means an investment of £7.37 per head per annum. Topped with the match-funding, the investment goes up to £10 per head per annum to kick start a modal share increase for cycling. The Dutch invest an annual average of £26 (37 EURO) per person on hard-measure cycle infrastructure alone (even excluding cycle parking), as reported by Pucher & Buehler (eds) (2012). City Cycling. MIT press. p.133.

The proposal does not include a planned schedule of design, consultation and works, as included in CCAF1 (in the form of a Gantt chart). That’s disappointing. CCAF1 provided a clear baseline upon which CCAF2 should have easily built by simply re-assessing and updating the CCAF1 programme. Continuity has now been lost. This loss holds grave implications for the Council. Their ability to communicate the overall plans with logic and clarity is greatly hampered. This is a real shame.

Match-funding of £4.4 million will be provided by local authorities: Newcastle (£2.8m), Gateshead and North Tyneside (combined £1.6m). It is worth noting that the proposed £2.8 million match-funding from Newcastle relates to the Northern Access Corridor. “the corridor will provide improvements to cycling at two junctions that deal with significant numbers of cyclists and vehicular traffic both are on the strategic route network.” We remain worried about the true purpose of the Northern Access Corridor.

We are informed that the Local Transport Plan 4 (LTP4) is being developed throughout 2015-16.

Our remaining questions:

  1. Where is the proposed programme of works? What is the sequencing of the individual schemes outlined in the bid (listed below)?
  2. A city-centre ring road for cycling is emerging, how is this concept being communicated? What is the wider movement and mobility plan for the city centre?
  3. When will the new plans be presented for discussion for the Blue House and Haddrick Mill junctions?
  4. What is the aim and purpose of the Northern Access Corridor?
  5. Are the emerging proposal for Claremont Road/Queen Victoria Road clearly linked with the as yet allusive Network Management Plan (or at the least linked to the city-centre movement plan)?

Salient details of the Cycle City Ambition Fund 2 proposal will fund three key elements:

The full CCAF2 proposal can be accessed here (link to external website)

1. Potential Community Cycling areas (£2.6m)

Three areas “making areas more cycling friendly: closing rat runs, tackling bad car parking, cycling priority at junctions, cycle parking”

  • Heaton and Ouseburn
  • Jesmond
  • Arthur’s Hill (West end)

Our comment: we would like these areas to develop a movement plan to tackle rat-running to civilise neighbourood streets and enable cycling to school.

2. Strategic Cycle Routes (£4m)

  • SCR4 – Great North Cycleway – from Swan House roundabout to Gateshead town centre (this mainly includes section in Gateshead before Tyne bridge). Match-funding: Blue House roundabout will “provide segregated safe space for cyclists”
  • SCR5 – Longbenton to Sandyford and Coast Road – little further detail is given in the bid
  • SCR 3 – Town Moor to Barras Bridge link – two roundabouts with collision reports (Claremont Road overbridge/roundabout and Claremont Road/Queen Victoria Road roundabout to be turned into T-junction)
  • SCR6 – Heaton Road to Benfield Road – little further detail is given in the bid

Our comment: this is really lacking vital detail. The clarity that the CCAF1 programme provided has now been completely lost. We worry about the quality of infrastructure design and the sound application of cycle infrastructure design principles (Sustainable Safety, protected space principles and advice to engineers), including safety (route continuity) being retained during construction activities.

3. City Centre (£4m)

  • Central Station to Mosley Street/Collingwood Street to Swan House roundabout
  • West Road to Elswick Road- Rye Hill roundabout + Rye Hill to Westmorland Road and to St James Boulevard
  • Claremont Road to Gallowgate via Percy Street (+St Mary’s junction)
  • City Centre permeability: contra-flow cycling and cycle access improvements

Our comment: without a movement and mobility plan council will find it difficult to communicate its vision for a civilised people-friendly economic / retail centre. A car parking strategy is a vital part of this as it would start to put concrete numbers to space requirements, current and future.