Messing-around in the City Centre

The Safe Cycling petition has its three year anniversary on 2 June 2013. Whilst we now have warm words, a super Cycle Plan and a Cycle City Ambition bid document good enough to be adopted as Newcastle’s works programme – we aren’t impressed with physical progress; and roadspace has yet to be fairly apportioned to cycling. You may have been one of the over 800 petition signatories who told us in 2010, that the 24hr bike ban on Northumberland Street doesn’t make sense to you. Discontent with Northumberland Street was mentioned most often, but closely followed by these locations: Central Station, John Dobson Street and Newgate Street / New Eldon Square (southern end of Percy Street).

On the subject of Northumberland Street we’ve been in touch with Newcastle City Council and explained (as others have tried in the past) that for cycling to thrive, Newcastle does require a safe and direct North-South route. For starters (and in the absence of such a safe route) outside shopping hours access down Northumberland Street should be granted at least in the meantime. Here’s what we got back from them.

NorthumberlandSt - council response

To paraphrase slightly – we’ve learnt that bicycles are more dangerous than motorised vehicles.

Hour-restricted access is operated for vehicles, and of course can be equally used for bicycles. We do not think that would be confusing. Let’s also look elsewhere. After intense and extensive studies, our fellow Northeast town Darlington finally allowed all-day cycling in its no-car city centre. The studies and trials demonstrated that pedestrians and cyclist get on well, and no serious collision has been recorded to date. And indeed such inclusive philosophy to space is commonplace in European cities and towns with their widespread traffic-calming, car-parking reduction and people-friendly centres and tons of public realm.

As for a cycleable North-South route, Percy Street seems to be out of bounds for people walking and cycling. We tried to obtain a consultants report which never materialised and its space recently suffered a highway-fication with all the hallmarks of a city in bed with the car. That leaves John Dobson Street where we advise serious roadspace remodelling to give cycling a fair chance. Will Newcastle City Council be brave enough this time?

JDS - two-way cycle track

You may have heard that the space outside Central Station is getting a massive makeover. The plans aren’t ideal as cycle continuity and pedestrian comfort are both lost in front of the station. We are in the process of putting together a response to Newcastle City Council.