Yesterday, Newcastle City Council published two options for the future of Gosforth High Street. The third option would be to simply carry on and change nothing – but given the poor state of the high street’s public realm, its car dominance and people unfriendliness, it’s not a real option. Back to Option 1. It presents the usual ‘traditional’ road scheme with a token effort lobbed in for cycling: advisory cycle lanes ending at every bus stop (and there are many), thereby putting public transport and cycling in conflict – when both of these modes should be celebrated and catered for in our road designs and function independently from each other. In addition we know from research that this kind of provision will not get new people cycling, see Presto fact sheet. This option would also allow car parking in the cycle lane outside peak hours resulting in a temporary bike lane – this makes no sense. Getting people on bikes requires something more substantial.
This gets us to look at Option 2. Here is an attempt at innovation and creativity! This time, designers have followed the correct thought-process of carefully considering speed, volume and vehicle mix to define the solution: the hostile road environment currently difficult to navigate on a bicycle means that road space must be allocated away from cars and dedicated to cycling. Option 2 details a two-way cycleway on the West side of the High Street, running from Moor Crescent to St Nicholas junction. We have been assured it is three metres wide – again, designers are following the guidelines. It’s a shame that it’s only a few hundred metres long, 700 metres to be precise.
For all options car parking on the high street has been legalised, in some form or the other. We are opposed to that – it is space that should be given to retail, walking, cycling and public transport to reap the best benefits of vitality and human-scale street design, attracting customers to linger, stay and enjoy the shops, experience and space.
So, what is it going to be?
Choosing between the two (or three) options, Option 2 clearly stands out for its imagination and simplicity. Only thing we’d ask is to extend it along the rest of the High Street to Regent Centre / Hollywood Avenue. We propose that some details still may need some thinking, like how best to mark the cycleway across side streets, how to get on and off it travelling southwards (traffic light phasing) as well as intermediate exit and entry points. The protection methods should be discussed too. We’d like to see physical separation to the traffic and parked cars. However, these questions aren’t show stoppers, mere points for more detailed consideration later on.
Please see the document attached (at the end of the article) for an impression of space allocation that Option 2 offers. Let’s also remind ourselves that Gosforth High Street is on one of the seven Strategic Cycle Routes that the Cycle City Ambition programme wants to create by summer 2015. Option 2 is ambitious enough to get our thumbs up.
Read what others have said so far.
Impressions (adapted from Newcastle City Council)
Source of information for the plans Newcastle City Council
Inset photo : credit NACTO (a two-way track in Indianapolis)