In January we wrote to the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Members for Transport & Air Quality and Climage Change & Communities. We commended them on their work to develop better walking and cycling infrastructure in the city in response to the pandemic and called for a new collaborative approach to working with walking and cycling advocacy groups. You can read the full letter here:
Dear Cllr Forbes, Cllr Ainsley and Cllr Penny-Evans
A belated Happy New Year from the Newcastle Cycling Campaign committee!
2020 was a very challenging year and we want to thank you for your efforts to keep people safe in the city over this period. In relation to the city’s transport network, we were very impressed with the swift action you took in the summer to implement Emergency Active Travel measures funded by the Government. The fact that the majority of these schemes remain in place here, and in some places have been modified after feedback, is very much to your credit. Some authorities with less well developed active travel policies have removed active travel schemes under pressure from vocal minorities and it is gratifying to see Newcastle, along with some authorities in London and other major cities holding their ground.
We have seen a surge in campaign membership this year, with over 100 people joining up during the summer alone. The main reason people cited for joining was to support our call for more and better cycling infrastructure in the city. Many have told us stories about enjoying the reduction in traffic in the first lockdown and their excitement on seeing the Council implement traffic filters and protected space for cycling on some streets.
We know that the majority of people support changes which enable them to walk and cycle and enjoy living in places with less traffic and cleaner air. These changes, in turn, will have a positive impact on our ability to recover economically from this crisis. We are delighted to hear that you have secured funding to make permanent changes to both Grey Street and Queen Victoria Road. Grey Street is treasured as the region’s most beautiful street and removing motor traffic and parking has transformed this part of the city for the better, allowing local people to enjoy it to the full and sending a message to the rest of the world that Newcastle is somewhere to visit and do business. We have already heard from new members, who are key workers and who have started to cycle to work for the first time, about the importance of this link in enabling them to swap their car or bus journey for the bike. We have also heard from many members who cycle to work at the RVI who would love to see the current temporary cycleway upgraded along with junction improvements.
You have also set out bold and ambitious plans to reduce transport emissions in your Net Zero Newcastle: 2030 Action Plan. We believe that creating a 15 minute city for all residents in Newcastle is challenging but achievable. Newcastle is a small city which already has many of the necessary amenities, but there are gaps in provision of local services in some areas and these are exacerbated by a road network and plentiful parking which makes driving the easy option. We know that low traffic neighbourhoods are one of the keys to unlocking the potential of the 15 minute city and have the advantage of being cheap and fast to implement. We think that Newcastle, out of all of the Core Cities, has the potential to lead the way in implementing widespread low traffic neighbourhoods and developing better and more inclusive consultation processes to allow more people, including children, to contribute.
There are currently no mechanisms for walking and cycling stakeholder groups such as ours to contribute to discussions about transport plans and we would like to ask for your support in rectifying this. Business representatives, public transport operators, the universities and the NHS Trust all have the opportunity to comment on developing plans, and prior to Covid, it was also possible for active travel groups such as the Newcastle Cycling Campaign, Cycling UK, British Cycling, Living Streets, the SPACE groups and others to discuss plans before they reach an advanced stage, via the Cycling Stakeholders Forum and the Technical Advisory Group for cycling infrastructure. As stakeholders with sizeable combined memberships across the city, we have valuable knowledge which could contribute positively to the development of plans. We look forward to hearing your views on this.
Finally, we want to reiterate that we are here to support you in implementing plans for walking and cycling and hope to see more transformative changes in 2021!
Sally Watson, Claire Prospert and Scott Dawson
On behalf of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign committee
Image: Ryder Architecture