Reader’s letters – Walker Strategic Cycle Route

Date: 10 February 2013
To: ncjmedia

Response to Cllrs Wood and Stokel-Walker, Walker ward
Response to http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/evening-chronicle-news/2013/02/04/campaigners-angry-at-loss-of-funds-for-cycle-scheme-72703-32741738/

The over-reaction by Walker Councillors could have very distressing repercussions for Newcastle and its reputation. We have to learn quickly and move on to a brighter and more enlightened future. It is a big shame that these Councillors failed to understand the concept of the Strategic Cycle Routes and what is proposed for Welbeck Road.

What the Councillors also failed to see is that all our road space is very contested and that some prioritisation decisions have to be made. Walker Road is even more heavily fought-over space than Welbeck Road and making cycling safe there would have required even more difficult decisions to be made. Walker Road wasn’t chosen as the desired route for many other reasons too.

It’s all the more sad to see that it is Councillors themselves ruining a precious opportunity for Newcastle whose development and modernisation they are supposed to support. Sustrans – charity for sustainable travel – approved the plan and offered £175,000. Simply judging by the Councillors technical comments, they are not well-placed to speak on sustainable transport matters and cycling in particular. Contrary to their claims, Welbeck Road actually is a comparatively quiet stretch with generally low vehicle usage. There hardly is one major road in our City that isn’t a major bus route.

It’s not at all just about the bike. The major worry here is that Newcastle on the whole may be slow to embrace the concept of a liveable city where ultimately streets are for people. Cities like Brighton and Bristol are swiftly and nimbly charging ahead: with planning car-free Sundays supported by retailers and shop owners, and discussing road space reorganisation away from the private car and delineating off space for cycling.

The two Councillors consistently failed to get in touch with us. In the past three years, the Newcastle Cycling Campaign took every chance to make contact and involve decision-makers. And whilst many of their colleagues have been active and engaged, deadly silence was the reply from the Eastend. Since February 2012, there was even more opportunity to engage and talk, especially with a particular focus on the Strategic Cycling Routes and Walker. Still in December, they again failed to contact us to discuss the situation, resulting in their incorrect and misleading claims. If they had spoken to us, they would have found out that funding was offered by an external source, and not at all taken from ward budgets, and that Walker Road does not fit at all the agreed route criteria.

Enabling cycling is a sheer necessity for a modern liveable city. In today’s world of space and resource constraints, we cannot miss this opportunity to unlock pedal power. A cycling city reduces air and noise pollution, creates community cohesion and social interaction, revitalises high streets, makes for an active and healthy population. The list goes on. Cycleways that are safe to use by everyone are an investment with the greatest returns.

Maybe so much so that even the Walker Councillors would be inspired by the prospects of a better environment for people. After three years, the offer still stands for a cycle chat and a bicycle ride. It’s never too late to get pedalling.

KATJA LEYENDECKER
Chair, Newcastle Cycling Campaign
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I support @thetimes Cities fit for cycling campaign http://thetim.es/cyclesafety #cyclesafe
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https://newcycling.org – Newcastle Cycling Campaign
http://katsdekker.blogspot.com – my blog
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