Newcastle City Council have rolled out their first emergency Covid-19 related scheme on Queen Victoria Road, outside the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI). We would like to congratulate the council on this for two key reasons:
- The speed at which the scheme has been rolled out.
- The removal of car parking to create space for cycling.
The cycle route runs directly in front of the RVI, providing a link between Exhibition Park to the north and Leazes Park to the south. It provides a much needed link for key workers at the hospital.
The measures are not just limited to a cycleway and the removal of car parking, additional signalised pedestrian crossings have been added at intervals. This increases options for getting to and from the city centre, the universities and public transport for those that need to use it. A suggested one way system has been marked out for pedestrians.
There are elements of the scheme that could be improved or changed, especially if the council look to make this a permanent fixture or if have the time to revisit any elements of the scheme. We raise these here not to criticise the scheme, but to highlight the opportunities that exist to build on what has been provided and in the hope that future schemes could also benefit from similar considerations.
Two Way Cycleway
The majority of the cycleway is two way on the hospital side of the road. This introduces two problems that are common with two way cycleways:
The first is the need – when travelling south – to cross the road to join and leave the cycleway at both ends of the scheme. Both of these movements are assisted with crossings, which does make the movement easier.
The most obvious problem with this setup is at the northern end near Lover’s Lane where the existing toucan crossing is used to enter and leave the two way cycleway. This creates a large number of cyclist and pedestrian movements that are in potential conflict with each other. In the gallery below one of images shows the number of markings used to show the various movements expected here.
Here the cycleway and footway mix, the number of markings show how this could be become congested at peak times. Heading south, the marking shows how cyclists should cross to the other side of the road On the footway, the marking directs cyclists to cross to the opposite side of the road. The cycleway joins the footway northbound and leaves southbound. At an area already cluttered with other street furniture.
The second is the relatively busy car park entrances to the hospital which require drivers to cross the cycleway. Drivers may not be expecting two way cycling when crossing the cycleway. The council have used multiple cycle markings at these point to make it more obvious that people may be cycling here but there is a danger that these may not be understood by drivers.
Cycle markings to provide more clarity over the car park entrance A driver exiting the car park over the two way cycleway Cycle marking over a car park entrance
Ideally, cycleways should be one way. As we are dealing with a temporary and quickly implemented scheme here, there will be legitimate reasons that a two way cycleway is needed. Trying to provide one way cycleways at either side of the road could have extended the time and cost to implement the scheme.
A two way cycleway would have been better placed on the university side of the road, there is a side road and a couple of small car parks, these are not as busy as the car park entrance. Once again we understand this could have slowed down implementation as most of the cycleway replaced existing car parking.
Both Ends of the Route
Both ends of Queen Victoria Road have roundabouts and these can be problematic for cyclists.
The roundabout at the northern end is huge and offers plenty of space to implement temporary measures that would significantly improve the connectivity of the route. A safe crossing for cyclists here would link the route straight into Exhibition Park which leads on to Jesmond, Gosforth and Kenton via the Town Moor, plus other relatively quiet streets in the area which offer further connectivity to other areas.
The roundabout at the southern end is smaller, but temporary measures could also be introduced here to make the junction easier to navigate.
Position of Pedestrian Crossings
From our visit to the street we are not sure if the pedestrian crossings match desire lines (especially with the suggested one way system in place). The use of the pedestrian one way system and crossings should be reviewed and changes made if there are problems. The use of temporary materials for this scheme should make this relatively quick to change if needed.
Pedestrian One Way System
Pedestrian one way markings with blue arrow. Pedestrian one way markings with red arrow.
Ideally there should be enough space for pedestrians to walk in both directions on footways. Measures that would enable this would have required further restrictions on motor vehicles that would have slowed down the implementation. Our further measures at the end of this article suggest some ways in which more space could be made available for walking and cycling.
As a quickly developed and implemented scheme Newcastle has shown it is willing to make significant steps to create space for walking and cycling in relation to the Covid-19 emergency.
While we can point to parts of the scheme that could be improved, this should not detract from the importance of making substantial positive changes in such a short time frame.
The use of temporary measures is sensible and allows the council to experiment and make alterations based on experience and feedback.
These are a few measures that we feel could be beneficial if introduced as part of future changes to this scheme and could be considered for other future schemes:
Use modal filters to remove through motor traffic. Observations suggest that Queen Victoria Road is also used heavily by through traffic, introducing modal filters would remove this traffic that is just travelling through the area. A letter sent out to councils from the Department for Transport has strongly suggested measures like this are introduced (Forbes article on the letter sent to councils). This would improve the local air quality and make the area much more pleasant to travel through. It would also open up the connectivity of this scheme by providing a quieter network of roads nearby.
Implement sections of one way movement for motor traffic. This would make more space available to provide more flexibility with how space is provided to pedestrians and cyclists. One way sections or systems if implemented well can also reduce or remove through traffic.
Use temporary traffic signals to limit motor traffic to one direction at a time through certain sections. This also creates more space that can be used for pedestrians and cyclists, while maintaining two way motor access where it is required, but at a reduced capacity.