At our AGM, Sally set out the context for our City4kids campaign.
Back in 2015, as part of the Cycling City Ambition Fund (CCAF) bid, Newcastle City Council illustrated the impact of infrastructure improvements by using cartoons showing people’s new motivations and potential change.
The CCAF cartoon character is called Susie from Jesmond. She is a young mum who drives her kids to school but doesn’t particularly enjoy the experience. Through community events words spread, and she learns that changes are going to happen in her neighbourhood: protected bike lanes will be installed, and the local high street (Acorn Road) is going to be redesigned to reduce traffic. Even the city centre will be tackled meaning it’s going to become possible for her to cycle to work. All this by 2018!
So how are things for Susie in 2018?
Well things have started to change for the better, but it’s still not great out there. Streets don’t change overnight. Susie has changed a few things about the way she travels but routes are not joined up enough for her to make cycling part of her everyday life. She still doesn’t cycle to school or to work.
Following the description of Susie’s fictional journey in time and space, Sally showed pictures of the reality. How it is like to cycle to school with children: squeezed against the railings because of the car-dominated road environment. There are still too many cars parking on Acorn Road, jamming in cycles, cyclists at risk of being ‘doored’, and too much traffic to make it a truly pleasant area for pedestrians and cyclists. The 2-way cycletrack on John Dobson Street is great and enables families to cycle that short part of the journey to town safely but it’s still far too easier to drive and park to make cycling the most convenient option. There’s no cycling infrastructure on Percy Street, it’s a terrifying experience to ride with children there.
Above all, Suzie doesn’t understand why things haven’t got much better; nobody told her what’s going on. What are the plans? The Council hasn’t kept her informed. People out there expects things to happen.
After that reality check, Katja took over to introduce our City4kids manifesto.
We felt it was important to record people’s stories and tell the Council about the findings and outcome. We want discussions about public space to happen and Councillors to be part of the debate. Our main question is how we can see our streets and roads differently – not as a space for cars, driving and parking but as a space for people. The streetscape has to change and the Campaign has, over the years, used many different angles, to kickstart a full debate about our city and its space. We are still awaiting the council to take on the positive and progressive narratives that we have suggested.
Engaging with members and talking to people, including those who don’t cycle, has led us to the City4Kids campaign and today we proudly launch a manifesto outlining what needs doing now.
Councillors in particular need to engage and act.
Debating and discussing city space and its design should happen within the council without delay. We want to bring this to the fore, get people together and put some scrutiny into council practices. Newcastle council’s CCAF bid had a detailed programme covering 10 years, a comprehensive schedule of schemes as well as an established governance (the Campaign was not part of it, unfortunately). This programme and its management board does not seem to function anymore.
Manchester are leading the way, with the support of Chris Boardman; they have now an impressive new strategy and ambitious plans of cycling infrastructure. Newcastle will be left behind if they don’t step up. We also want to see experts to continue to guide and advice our decision-makers and officers. Child-friendly designs are not embedded in current practices. And we shouldn’t forget that planners and engineers have had to design roads for cars for decades. Finally, civic society has to be recognised as an essential part of the process of change – it is there to support it.
Learning from 8 years of observing and communicating with the council, the city4kids manifesto has 4 asks:
1) form a city4kids design & implementation group, to ensure rigour in process, through Health / Equality Impact Assessments, a scrutiny/select committee and reviewing the highway appraisal procedure
2) appoint an urban design expert to instruct and oversee implementation, and guide and advise the council on matters of community and collaboration
3) seek support from, and work actively with, civic society groups
4) make sure council engineers and planners deliver child-friendly designs
The city4kids manifesto sets an agenda for the future – a brighter future for our children.