What has happened
Not so far from Newcastle, North Tyneside Council is also making use of the government funding to put in place temporary measures across the borough to create space for distancing and increase active travel. These are progressive and more ambitious than anything that Newcastle has proposed yet and could prove to be transformative for the coast both in terms quality of life for its residents and as an attractive destination for visitors.
Here we look at what their plans are and how they are getting on with it.
Phase 1 plans were publicly announced on 11 June 2020 here and included:
- Coastal strip cycle lane
- Fish Quay pedestrian zone
- Park View, Whitley Bay, pedestrian zone
- High Street West, Wallsend, pedestrian zone
- Tynemouth Front Street footpath widening
- Whitley Road, 1-way system (please note that this was dropped out and removed from the website)
Cllr Carl Johnson, cabinet member for Environment and Transport, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly presented a number of new challenges for all of us and it is vital that we, as a local authority, respond quickly and appropriately.
“We have seen a huge increase in cycling and walking across the borough since lockdown began, which is really positive to see.
“The measures we are looking to introduce to create more safe space for people to cycle and walk, while enabling businesses to safely reopen, have been driven by what residents and businesses have told us they want to see happen.
“We understand there is a balance to be struck in terms of reallocating space and the impact that has on businesses and being able to ensure social distancing so that people can move around safely. The safety of our residents and visitors has to be our number one priority and we need to do this now to support the recovery of the borough.
“This also gives us a great opportunity to enable residents to move around the borough using sustainable forms of travel safely.”
Two weeks later, North Tyneside Council published an update, announcing that the schemes would be put in place the following week which did happen on 1 July.
A great start
There are two critical aspects to be applauded. Firstly the nature of the changes and the extensive road space re-allocation applied. High Street schemes all had point closures, with pedestrian and cycle only zones introduced. In addition, the two-way motorised carriageway along the seafront was made one-way and a separated two-way cycleway was created from the Spanish City in Whitley Bay to Tynemouth. Nearly 3 miles of wonderful wide cycleway is keeping both pedestrians and cyclists safe.
Secondly, the schemes were put in place quickly, under Experimental Traffic Orders, to monitor how they work in practice, enable adjustments to be made over time and for feedback to also be provided.
The schemes are perfectly aligned with the brief from the government’s emergency active travel fund and the guidance issued which clearly laid out the rational for the fast pace of delivery, the range of road space reallocation measures and the additional flexibility related to consultation. The guidance states:
“Authorities should monitor and evaluate any temporary measures they install, with a view to making them permanent, and embedding a long-term shift to active travel as we move from restart to recovery.”
Will it last?
Despite such a great start, North Tyneside Council made the decision within a week to remove the Wallsend scheme and significantly alter the Park View scheme which was, from Monday 13 July, only be made car free on Saturdays. The Fish Quays scheme was, however, further extended.
These changes raise fundamental questions, especially about the implication of the short timescale of the live trials and how committed local authorities are to unlock active travel and reduce traffic. What will happen within the next few weeks and months with the temporary schemes? How ambitious Phase 2 plans will be?
Looking ahead, there is a risk that, if phase 1 measures are very short-term or seasonal, existing funding secured and future monies will be jeopardised. Time remains an important factor – at least 6 months are needed for monitoring and for people to adapt their travel patterns. In relation to the coastal cycleway, christened #sunrisecycleway by the locals, there are principles such as the width and level/visibility of protection which need to be retained and there are other aspects such as the recent loss of priority at junctions and removal of the connection to the park (Whitley Bay) that need to be revisited when made more permanent as planned.
What can you do?
Please get involved and join Living Streets North Tyneside here. You can also email email@example.com. No final decisions have been made yet and your voice might make all the difference.
There are many things local residents can do to support the measures:
– Sign the petition in support of the coastal cycleway https://www.change.org/p/north-tyneside-council-promote-the-use-of-safe-cycling-in-north-tyneside
– write to firstname.lastname@example.org and your local councillors
– complete the short SUSTRANS online survey: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/space-to-move
Leaflet added on 18 July 2020 – Funded and produced by residents of Whitley Bay and North Tyneside