In a previous post we outlined recently confirmed funding and government guidance for local authorities to enable the creation of safe walking and cycling space in response to COVID-19. Newcastle council has now published the first of its plans for #SpaceForDistancing in neighbourhood shopping streets. Four of its five shopping streets proposals have been announced, leaving Shields Road in Byker still to come. You can see the plans and provide feedback by following the links below:
If you go shopping at any of these streets, we recommend you visit the relevant webpage linked above, and give your feedback. You can provide feedback again once the measures are in place.
With all the schemes we have seen so far the main focus seems to be providing space for walking, queuing to enter shops and waiting for buses.
At this stage there is very little in the schemes for cycling that will make the areas easier and more pleasant to cycle to or through.
In the letter to councils the government stated:
To receive any money under this or future tranches, you will need to show us that you have a swift and meaningful plan to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians, including strategic corridors.
The quickest and cheapest way to achieve this will normally be point closures. These can be of certain main roads or of parallel side streets, if sufficiently direct to provide alternatives to the main road. Point closures can also be used to create low-traffic filtered neighbourhoods.
For all the schemes there is very limited provision of cycle space while through motor traffic is maintained. This leads us to feel that at this stage, on these schemes, the council is not meeting the full desired outcome of the government funding.
We think that the council should monitor and review these schemes, as intended, and improve upon them to ensure that both walking and cycling provision is improved at each of the shopping streets.
We suggest that on each shopping street the council should identify a suitable place to implement modal filters. Due to bus routes on all of these roads, this may need to be in the form of bus gates.
In addition, some of the displaced motor traffic may start running through nearby residential streets. The council should follow up any filtering on shopping streets with the creation of low traffic neighbourhoods in the surrounding area to ensure that any remaining through motor traffic is moved onto nearby A roads which are not residential or shopping streets.
Scheme Specific Feedback
The only mention of cycling in the consultation is a short stretch to the east of the area, leaving cyclists having to mix with motor traffic through the main shopping area.
A bus gate could be added to reduce through motor traffic on this street. We would recommend the section west of Beech Street to the car park entrance (see map below). This would maintain access to all properties for deliveries and access to the car park for drivers. This would need to coincide with further low traffic neighbourhood measures in the surrounding area to prevent some drivers diverting to adjacent residential streets.
There are sections of the street where car parking has been retained but no cycling provision planned. Given that there is other car parking available nearby we suggest the council replaces this with protected space for cycling.
The council have not yet released any plans for the second stage which should include cycling provision. We want to see these plans before providing cycling specific feedback on this scheme.
Gosforth High Street
The information provided explains there will be an improved link at the northern end of scheme by Regent Centre. An improvement here is greatly appreciated as it will provide improved cycle provision through an area that is currently horrible to cycle through and will create a link between the protected cycleways north of Regent Centre and the residential area by Christon Road.
In the information it states:
At the Christon Road, Regent Centre and Great North Road junction, those people on bikes aiming to head through the High Street on their way elsewhere should follow the safe cycling route via the Town Moor from Moor Road North
It is important that the council understand there is no ‘safe’ cycle route along Moor Road. Back when work was carried out to make cycling along Moor Road safer, some improvements were made but not enough to make it safe. Drivers still use this street and the surrounding streets as a rat run, and drivers travelling well above the legal speed limit put the lives of residents and cyclists expected to use this route at risk.
Furthermore, by expecting cyclists to use an alternative route that is longer than the direct route along the high street, the council are putting cyclists needs behind maintaining the status quo of providing through motor traffic along the high street.
There is also no indication of how cyclists are supposed to access the shopping area from this parallel route. The most commonly used route by locals is through Gosforth Central Park, but paved space here is limited and there is conflict between those wishing to travel through the park and those spending time within the park, which has been under greater use due to Covid-19 restrictions.
As covered in our general points, we would like to see the council to review this plan once temporary measures are in place and ensure that space is created for cycling along the High Street.
Our key recommendation here would be to create a bus gate between St Nicholas’ Avenue going North to the service area between Sainsbury’s and the Brandling Arms, with motor traffic prohibited from entering the high street from Ivy Road and West Avenue (along with other side streets along the High Street). This would maintain delivery access to all properties and access to all car parks.
Some measures have been mentioned that may make cycling to Chillingham Road easier from some surrounding streets, but there is nothing currently planned to enable cycling along the street. The plans state that Heaton Road would be the local key cycle route. Currently safe cycling provision on Heaton road is limited to a short section, unless this is extended to Shields Road to the south and to the Freeman Hospital to the north, identifying this as a key cycle route is not going to provide safe space for cycling through Heaton.
For Chillingham Road and Shields Road, a number of bus gates and a further modal filters would remove the through traffic from shopping streets and create low traffic neighbourhoods in the areas between. Most of these would be on bridges over the train line. A further bus gate West of the City Stadium on Stoddart Street would complete this.
We are awaiting the details of this scheme.
While we await the details, we feel it is worth pointing out that Shields Road has a bypass that makes avoiding the retail area easy. Our comments on Chillingham Road demonstrate how a set of bus gates and additional filters could remove through traffic from the shopping street.