Our assessment of plans for SCR1 Newburn

Newcastle City Council have issued plans and started public engagement on parts of the Strategic Cycle Route (SCR) to Newburn, also called SCR1. In preparation of the upcoming SCR1 cycle safari and for our CCAF progress assessment, we had a really good look at the plans. This article will ‘walk’ you through the main aspects of the council plans for SCR1. We start in the East (city centre) and continue westwards on Elswick Road, then on to Adelaide Terrace and finishing at Benwell Lane, where the current proposals end.

What you can do:

• Post your thoughts and comments on Cyclescape, registration is free and easy
• Join our infra safari on 12 July, everyone welcome
• Read more about Newcastle’s general SCR plans

General aspects

We want to make sure general aspects are covered and would like to ask council for confirmation that the cycle lanes are a minimum of 1.5 metres wide. We’d also like to see continuous colouring (surfacing, not paint) for the planned cycle lanes not just at locations crossing side streets. This would send a clear message that Newcastle has a consistent approach to cycle safety and route continuity. We welcome the zebra crossings (and there are plenty of them) but note that the road markings are untidy and cycle continuity and route clarity is lost (NB we agree that cycle priority should be lost of course). At some crossings the cycle lane continues right up to the crossing and at others the cycle lanes end well in advance of the crossing, we feel that at all crossings, the cycle lanes should continue up to the crossing. Continuity also suffers at junctions from not being marked clearly and we ask council to use ‘elephant footprints’ to guide the way across junctions. The speed limit should be a consistent 20 mph along the entire stretch, and the road should be designed in such a way that a driver adheres simply by nature (not virtue) of the road layout.

Two years on from the inception, the SCR route alignment has not been endorsed by council / cabinet yet. We’ve asked Cllr Marion Talbot, the Councillors Cycle Champion, to seek approval for all seven SCR routes and clarify the process.

Elswick Road

Link to council plans (external link)
Download the technical drawings [pdf] we are commenting on.

• the proposed layout of the Westgate junction is well intentioned but may require some more thought
• the advisory section with removed centreline from Westgate junction to Elswick Row / Rye Hill roundabout is of questionable quality, we would need to know traffic data (speed and volume) to see whether this is really a good design decision
• the proposed layout on the roundabout at Elswick Row / Rye Hill loses cycle space continuity (see council’s street impression below) and design decisions must be further debated
• we note that some cycle lanes merge into bus stops, creating conflict and loss in cycle continuity
• big changes are proposed at the junction with Grainger Park Road, including turning pockets, it is unclear what problem has been solved by doing so
• cycle lane should be located on the inside of car parking at the cemetery (to create car-parking protected cycle space)

The real shame of course is that council wasted tens of thousands of pounds of public money in 2012 to “improve” a section of Elswick Road which now will be substantially re-done. This was despite our comments and the alarms that we raised at the time. We warned council of safety and loss of cycle continuity concerns and this was also echoed in an independent road safety audit. Councillors and council directors were unsympathetic at the time or simply did not understand the concerns. With hindsight, we hope they now understand our comments better and will meet us with better knowledge and understanding next time.

Adelaide Terrace (shopping street)

With no plans yet shared for Adelaide Terrace, this section nonetheless makes up part of the route. We are keen to share our thoughts. Having only limited background data for this section, we would suggest to either restrict vehicle through-traffic (allowing bikes and buses to continue) and make Adelaide Terrace into a ‘place’, or provide dedicated safe continuous space for cycling if the shopping street were to remain a ‘movement’ location. Traffic data for this location could help shape our ideas for what we would like to see here.

Benwell Lane

Link to council plans (external link)
Download the technical drawings [pdf] we are commenting on.

• include elephant footprints across junction with Atkinson Road
• for cycle lane eastwards, transition onto Adelaide Terrace is not clear
• good necking-down on various side roads
• western extent, northside (eastwards travel): cycle lane should be located on the inside of car parking (to create car-parking protected cycle space)

Summary

The overall intention of the designs is good. It provides reasonable cycle continuity and adequate protection as could be expected of a Strategic Cycle Route (although cycle continuity is possibly lost on the corridor on Adelaide Terrace). This is provided cycle lane width is 1.5 metre minimum, and that better marking on junctions and near zebras crossings is used. We ask that on Adelaide Terrace, council aim to remove through-traffic or provide traffic data to prove that through movement can be safely provided without harming or suppressing the shopping ‘place’ aspect, or walking and cycling. The biggest mistake by far is the proposed layout of the roundabout on Rye Hill. It is completely lacking any provision for cycling – this is not worthy of a cycle corridor on a Strategic Cycle Route. This might mean that signalisation is the better option and we ask council to go back to the decision making framework and review the logic for the layout. As always, signal phasing can solve (as well as cause) many problems and we would like to be involved in the technical discussions.

Fig.1 Rye Hill Roundabout – there is a total lack of safe space for cycling. If one thing, than it is this location’s design that must change.
Image links back to source at www.newcastle.gov.uk

Rye Hill roundabout with no space for cycling

Until council’s copyright concerns have been further explained to us, we will link to council’s drawing showing the Rye Hill roundabout layout. If council could please think about how we should be engaging with our members if we can not show drawings, plans and layouts, that’d be much appreciated too.