Consultation response: Concerns about new Grey Street plan only showing one-way cycling

Newcastle City Council are consulting on a permanent scheme for Grey Street, but unlike the current temporary scheme, there is no protected northbound cycleway in their plan and northbound cycling will not be permitted. By not providing two way cycling on the street, we feel this proposal is significantly flawed and undermines all the other very positive changes such as widened pavements and reduced traffic. We have asked for clarification on this plan and have been promised a meeting with officers to discuss the changes. We hope that city leaders will ensure that the scheme outlined in the funding bid, with a northbound protected cycleway, will be delivered.

You can respond to the consultation by emailing [email protected] to request that two-way cycling is retained in the permenant scheme for Grey Street. Please consider copying in [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected].

Proposed permanent scheme for Grey Street with no northbound cycling

If this plan is accurate, it is very surprising that there has been such a change given the ambition Newcastle City Council has shown over the last 18 months to create a cleaner, greener city. The current temporary scheme where parking and a lane of traffic was removed while space for both walking and cycling was increased has been hugely beneficial for both visitors to and businesses on this historic street and also for those using this as a route to walk, cycle or scoot into and out of the city centre. While the Council has stated its long-term desire to fully pedestrianise the street, there is no definite plan for this and removing cycling at this stage when there is no certaintly with regards to this scheme or the timescale for this seems very shortsighted, particularly when the current layout has proved so successful.

In the Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) Tranche 2 Bid Submission by Transport North East, the proposed permanent Grey Street scheme is described as a “national flagship scheme for the Emergency Active Travel Fund”. We hope that Newcastle City Council has not lost its ambition to create a successsful 21st century city which includes cycling along with other forms of micromobility.

“This scheme and its proposals have drawn international interest including being profiled in an article in Forbes Magazine. Investment from the Emergency Active Travel Fund will enable this reallocation of road space on one of the UK’s most beautiful streets to act as a flagship for the fund.”

Emergency Active Travel Fund Tranche 2, Transport North East Bid Submission

Unlike the current proposal, the EATF bid states that it will provide more space to those on foot and on bikes, and those on bikes will be provided with a protected uphill cycleway:

“Although the final design of the scheme is to be finalised, it is anticipated that it will be similar to visualisation made available to DfT. This includes a two metre wide northbound (uphill) cycle lane, a three metre wide parallel parking space, a single vehicle lane measuring 3.65 metres, a 4.85 metre footway on the western side of the street, which leaves 5.45 metres available for pavement space and uses such as pocket parks.”

Emergency Active Travel Fund Tranche 2, Transport North East Bid Submission
Original proposal for Grey Street permanent scheme.
Image: Ryder Architecture/Newcastle City Council, 2020

Grey Street is a key route for cycling, especially getting to and from the Quayside. The council have also identified this as a key cycle route within their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). This area of the city centre already has a number of one-way streets that do not allow two-way cycling, creating an impermeable barrier to those cycling from the south and west of the city into the city centre. In order to enable more people to cycle, the Council should increase two way cycling, not reduce routes for cycling as proposed here.

Not providing for two way cycling also goes against the guidance set out in the government’s LTN 1/20. We have asked why the provision of two way cycling is not feasible. Given that motor traffic space has been reduced to one narrow lane from two lanes plus parking, we feel certain that there is enough space for a cycleway in addition to the much-needed extra pavement space.

Cycle Infrastructure Design, LTN 1/20, Department for Transport, 2020

A key goal of the Active Travel Fund is to increase walking and cycling. The removal of a cycling route as proposed here, reduces cycling options, creates potential conflicts between walking, cycling and scooting and therefore is likely to fail to achieve this goal. Banning northbound cycling on Grey Street is likely to put many people off cycling altogether if they are not able to avoid passing through this area. This is because the alternative is a very dangerous detour on roads which carry two lanes of traffic and are very far from safe for cycling. It is likely to put those who do continue to cycle in greater danger, particularly delivery cyclists who need to access this street and who depend on cycling for a living. It could also endanger pedestrians, given than some people scooting and cycling will use the widened pavements rather than risk their lives on more dangerous roads.

Improving air quality and meeting carbon reduction targets through increasing active travel is also a key part of Newcastle’s Net Zero 2030 Action Plan, which features the Grey Street proposal with two-way cycling as an example of how Newcastle will meet its targets. We are now three years into this ten year plan and while there are some extremely promising plans, very little has changed on the ground in terms of active travel. The removal a route for active travel, when we should be consolidating recent gains and adding further links to the network, would not bode well for a net zero future.

We are also concerned that the delivery of a substandard scheme for cycling could jeopardise future funding applications based on our understanding of how the proposed govenment body which will scrutinise these schemes, Active Travel England, is intended to operate. A letter from the Minister for Transport to local authorities recently stated that “The department will continue to assess authorities’ performance in delivering schemes and, following the precedent we have already set, those which have prematurely removed or weakened such schemes should expect to receive a reduced level of funding.”

We urge city leaders, in particular Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of the Council, Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Development, Neighbourhoods and Transport, and Councillor Clare Penny-Evans, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Public Safety, to ask their officers to revisit this design and ensure that it remains true to the original bid. The transformation from motor city to active, healthy and net zero city will not happen through removing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle necessary to create a viable cycling network.