The council are currently seeking views on changes to the main retail area of the city centre, covering Blackett Street, Northumberland Street and the surrounding streets. The information on the scheme is available here: https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/our-city/transport-improvements/city-centre-improvements/transforming-our-city . If you also wish to provide personal feedback to the council, time is limited as the survey is only available until Friday 31st January.
We are delighted to see that the Council is finally looking at making more improvements to the city centre. What has been shared for engagement has many positives, but for cycling there seem to be a number of oversights which are of concern. We hope our feedback here will lead to improvements to the scheme and to more joined up and increased provision for cycling.
The biggest positive is the improvement for walking and for people wanting to spend time in the retail core. The removal of through motor traffic will be a huge improvement. The recent street closure trials have shown how pleasant and easy to navigate the area can be when people are not having to worry about avoiding buses and other motor vehicles.
Given that traffic orders will be needed to bring about these changes, the Council should now look at allowing cycling on all currently pedestrianised areas within the city centre. They should also ensure that all restrictions in place to control motor traffic in the area have cycling exemptions added (for example all the one way and no entry restrictions). Removing restrictions for cycling will help ensure that the area remains accessible for those who use cycles as mobility aids (see https://wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk for information on how cycles are used as mobility aids and how these users should be catered for), and would enable deliveries by cycle to take place helping to shift deliveries in the area to zero emission vehicles (especially if the time restrictions do not apply to deliveries by cycles). It would also ensure that access to cycle parking is maintained and hopefully increased. If there are any restrictions that cannot have a cycling exemption added, we ask that the Council discuss these with us so that a we can work with the Council to identify if there is an alternative route that would be reasonable and suitable. In particular, we would like to see two-way cycling at the north end of Grey Street and Grainger Street, Nelson Street and Clayton Street and on the streets adjacent to Northumberland Street. We would also like, as a minimum, to see off-peak cycling on Northumberland Street itself, though ideally full-time cycling should be enabled here. Please look at the changes Leicester to see how creating a city centre that is more permeable to cycling has been perceived to be successful (https://www.cyclinguk.org/cycle/lessons-leicester).
There has been no visible consideration of how the excellent two-way protected cycleway on John Dobson Street will continue on to Pilgrim Street and the Tyne Bridge. As this is a key North-South cycling route, there needs to be clear continuity on this route, ideally using provision that follows a consistent design. There is no indication of this on the plans provided. We feel that this issue is symptomatic of the Council having no clear plan for cycling movement across the city centre.
Due to the removal of proposed cycling provision on Percy Street, and there being no plans to include protected infrastructure on Newgate Street, Grainger Street or Market Street, the most viable cycling route (and the only safe route) through the centre is going to be Blackett Street. The recent trails have included adding stalls, rides and other temporary structures to the street. If this is to be the East-West cycle provision and pedestrian space, the Council needs to ensure that the route remains viable at all times in the future, ensuring that any temporary structures put up do not impede cycle and pedestrian movements.
- The changes are largely an improvement for the city centre, especially for people walking and spending time in the area.
- Exemptions should be provided on all restrictions in the area. If there are any streets where this isn’t possible, restrictions should be discussed with us to find alternative solutions.
- The North-South cycle route between the Tyne Bridge and John Dobson Street should be obvious and continue the same or similar design as John Dobson Street to ensure the route is clear and easy to follow.
- The Council should provide a clear movement plan for cycling in and around the city centre to show both how important Blackett Street will be within the cycling network and how it connects to other routes in the wider city area.
- The Council should ensure that the cycle network does not become obstructed by temporary structures for events unless a clear and safe protected alternative is provided.