Grey Street – #SpaceForDistancing

Newcastle City Council has now put in place the temporary measures on Grey Street. The changes are a huge improvement, befitting of its reputation as one of Britain’s finest streets. We congratulate the Council on the work they are doing to improve the city centre by including vital provision for cycling. We would like to see how this scheme is intended to fit into a wider network plan and hope that the Council will soon outline how it will connect this scheme to the John Dobson Street cycleway, the Tyne Bridge, the Central Station and links out to the east and west of the city.

Space for walking, cycling and businesses has been opened up through the removal of many parking spaces and the uphill lane for motor vehicles.

Grey Street

Before Covid-19, the space available for pedestrians was tight and the changes give more space for pedestrians, which is very welcome.

The changes have led to the creation of a protected uphill cycleway which is also very welcome.

Grey Street uphill cycleway

There is also more space available for outdoor seating seating for pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants. Not only is this great for businesses, it helps create a more active and social street space, even with people distancing.

The addition of trees along the street helps create a more pleasant environment and they compliment the fantastic architecture of the street.

There are some problems with scheme as it currently exists, luckily most of these can be easily addressed because temporary materials have been used.

Entering the street when cycling uphill is difficult. The measures put in place to make it obvious that the street is closed to motor traffic going uphill make it difficult to cycle through. Moving around some of the features to create a clear 1.5m gap would allow people cycling to more easily enter the uphill cycle lane. Since our visit on the 4th August, some of these measures may have been improved.

Leaving the street when cycling uphill, it would be helpful to be able to continue on to the area around Monument where there is cycle parking. The no entry signs mean this is technically illegal at the moment. A cycling exemption should be added to make this movement legal.

Grey street looking toward monument
The Northern end of Grey Street – The no entry applies to cyclists preventing direct access to the cycle parking.

It is not clear that some of the newly marked space is for pedestrians. This is something we have noticed with other schemes currently being implemented across Newcastle. Both cycling and pedestrian areas that have been created on the former carriageway are being protected with wands, but it is not always immediately clear which of these groups it is intended for. We recommend that the council introduce a surface treatment (such as colour or a different surface) to make pedestrian and cycling spaces clearer.

Grey Street - Little difference e between pedestrian and cycle space.
There is no obvious difference between the uphill cycleway and the space for pedestrians. One driver (of the red van) also feels this area looks like a parking space.

At High Bridge the double yellow lines cut across the uphill cycleway, this visually separates the cycleway into two sections and could give drivers the impression that they have priority when turning. Street markings like double yellow should not cut across cycleways. At this location the double yellow lines should have been continued to run parallel with the cycleway.

One of the images in this tweet shows how the double yellow lines separate the cycleway.

It is fantastic to see the council putting in place measures that improve walking and cycling on Grey Street. The temporary nature will allow further modifications to improve how the street works for pedestrians and cyclists.

When permanent changes are, hopefully, made to Grey Street, serious consideration should given to measures that would further improve the street as a social, pedestrian and cycle space. These could include removing all on street parking and restricting access to approved vehicles and deliveries between specified times (like Northumberland Street).