City Centre Improvements – Our Response

Newcastle City Council have been running a consultation on numerous changes to the city centre, including the removal of buses and other through traffic from Blackett Street.

Details of plans can be viewed online at the consultation closes soon on Friday 15th October. If you want to provide your views please do so.

We have written to the council praising their ambition, while also raising concerns and questions that exist at this stage of the schemes development. Here is our response:

Regarding GH/P44/1237 Blackett Street Area and Associated Consultation Documents

We congratulate the Council on pushing ahead with further plans to reduce motor traffic in the city centre. We believe that this will have an enormously beneficial effect on the city, reducing air pollution and making this a more attractive shopping and leisure destination.

This transformative plan, if it retains cycling permeability as we support below, will also contribute to the Council’s target of increasing active travel by 70% by 2030 as set out in the Net Zero Newcastle 2030 Action Plan. Building cycling into the city’s transport network is paramount to reducing the transport’s carbon emissions.

There are elements of the proposal that we do however ask are revisited so we can offer full support for the scheme and questions around elements that are unclear from the various documents and communications that have been made available. Ensuring cycle access and connectivity through out the city centre is more vital than ever if public transport is to be moved to the periphery of the area. Newcastle has made great strides in improving the cycle network in the city and what happens in the city centre is crucial to the success of this network. In particular, routes towards the station and west of the city are weak or none existent and we hope that this can begin to be rectified through these plans.

  1. The plans do not fully represent the intentions of the LCWIP. In the area covered by the proposals cycling is shown to not be possible on the northern stretches of Grey Street and Grainger Street, both of which are identified as cycle network routes in the LCWIP. On Saville Row cycling is show to be banned leaving it unclear how people are to reach the cycle parking. Given secure bike storage is a problem in the city centre it is important that cycle parking is not moved to locations which are less overlooked or which have lower footfall. The proposals should be updated to ensure that cycling is not banned at any times on these sections. Ensuring cycling remains possible here also ensures that key destinations like the Grainger Market remain accessible by cycle and the direct and obvious route between the train station, the Monument area and the North of the city remains viable.
  2. Interaction of the bus loop and the cycle network. There are streets identified as the bus loop that are also streets identified as the cycle network on the LCWIP, Grainger street is the most prominent example though others exist. With the area likely featuring some redesign, what will be done to ensure that cycling is made safe on these routes while providing for the bus loop? If these sections are not dealt with considerately they risk isolating any cycle provision planned here from the rest of the cycling network and lead to the failure of the LCWIP to create a cohesive and safe network for cycling.
  3. Enabling cycling on Northumberland Street as a destination. Due to the use of Northumberland Street as a retail destination and the parallel route available on John Dobson Street, we do not expect to see Northumberland Street designed as a through route for cycling, but we do expect the council to take this opportunity to allow cycling on Northumberland Street. Firstly it will allow deliveries and pickups to be made by cycles to the shops along the street, secondly it will allow people who use cycles as mobility aids to get right to their intended location without having to ‘get off and push’ something they may not be able to do. Not making the area fully accessible by cycle risks disabling people from cycling for day to day activities and risks being in breach of the 2010 Equality Act.
  4. The one way measures on the TRO do not have an exemption for cycles. Some designs may negate the need for a cycling exemption, but with no design finalised, it would be beneficial to exempt cycling from all one way measures in case the TRO inadvertently restricts the final design or makes intended use legally impossible.
  5. The newsletter states that “Servicing and delivery by cargo bike would not be impacted by the above restrictions”, this suggests all the measures proposed will not apply to cargo cycles. However in the TRO there are sections that do not have exemptions to cycles, meaning cycling will be banned. We are not aware of any distinction between a standard cycle and a cargo cycle. Therefore to enable servicing and delivery by cargo cycle exemptions should be provided for all cycles. If the council instead plans on using permits, this risks benefiting particular providers over others, and leaving some providers unable to operate in the city centre if they cannot get a permit. We also feel that privileging commercial delivery firms over other cyclists is unhelpful given that there is a need to maintain access for people using cycles as a mobility aid or to carry heavy shopping.
  6. There are numerous sections shown on the drawing where cycling is shown as being allowed, yet the TRO does not provide the exemption required to allow cycling. These sections need cycle exemptions to match the intentions of the drawing, if the lack of exemption is for specific design decisions, they should still be added in case the final design changes or the TRO prohibits improvements to design. Sections shown to allow cycling on the drawing but not exempted on the TRO Include:
    • Blackett Street between Northumberland Court and Pilgrim Street
    • Northumberland Court
    • Brunswick Place
    • Eldon Square
    • Eldon Lane
    • Blackett Place
  1. Not necessarily part of the TRO but a consideration at this point, routes identified as part of the cycle network on the LCWIP in a city centre location should be expected to become reasonably busy, in an area also busy with pedestrians. Any planned cycle provision on the planned cycle network through this area (the key parts being Blackett Street, Pilgrim Street, Grey Street and Grainger Street) require separated cycle infrastructure and must not use shared space. This will ensure clear disambiguation of where cycles are expected to be ridden, and better legibility for those walking, this is especially important for those who may have sight impairments, where a poor design could remove their ability to safely navigate the area.
  2. There are numerous points where bollards or similar are proposed. Where these are on the cycle network as identified in the LCWIP, there must be at least 1.5m usable width between the bollards. This must take into account any additional width required based on the heights of the bollard. The parameters for this are specified in LTN 1/20. For example. if the bollards used are over 600mm, 500mm additional width is needed for each bollard, meaning a total distance between bollards of 2.5m would be needed (note this is between the bollards, not from the bollard centres). Therefore careful choice of bollards will be needed if the council wishes to keep the distance as small as possible, and having clearly separated cycleways will limit the number of places this level of gap needs to be included, allowing for less spacing away from the cycleway.
  3. We have seen over the past few years the desire to run events on Blackett Street. If future events remove the connectivity of the cycle network along Blackett street, we would like assurance that measures will be introduced to ensure a safe east-west route in this area of the city. We feel it is better that the council have a plan for this now that can be quickly implemented when needed in future rather than be unprepared when events happen. It would be useful as part of any future discussions to include the plans for how cycle connectivity will be maintained for these possible future events. Designing separated space for cycling on Blackett Street would help with ensuring this connectivity is maintained and would assist with event planning through giving clarity on the use of different parts of the street.

While the proposals are largely positive the issues and questions we have raised do need some further consideration and discussion. We hope you take the opportunity to review this and discuss this with us further.