Road user debate – fair and civil spaces for all

The below was sent to Newcastle council decision makers and cycle organisations:

  • Cllr Nigel Todd
  • Cllr Stephen Psalidas
  • Cllr Wendy Taylor
  • Harvey Emms
  • Michelle Mordue
  • Liz Langfield
  • Anne, Clark
  • James Adamson (sustrans)
  • Heather Evans (ctc)

ROAD USERS DEBATE – FAIR AND CIVIL SPACES FOR ALL

Leading on from the discussion at the last Cycle Forum meeting, and also taking into account the good groundwork that the Access & Mobility event has done we would like to suggest an approach for the Road Users Debate:

Step 1 – Identify all interest groups (public space & roads, access & mobility, Equal Opportunity groups
Step 2 – Initiate / facilitate discussion amongst the groups
Step 3 – Draw up a Fair Space Agreement between groups
Step 4 – Involve public: communicate findings/agreement to public and open up the debate for wider discussion
Step 5 – Based on public response, review and finalise agreement and related promotional material

A sound communication plan is essential for this to be successful. This kind of initiative would take two years or so and requires tremendous commitment by officers and councillors alike. Clear outcome vision is important, but we would hope that this initiative would foster respect and tolerance amongst “traffic participants” and “road users”, and really bottom out the differences which would enable the groups to see their commonalities.

We believe that the process used to produce this agreement is the absolute key to the success of the initiative, rather than the end result itself or its related promotion. It’s only through discussion, debate and interaction that we can achieve a better understanding between all road users. We also believe that this would be a unique and ground-breaking initiative in the UK, as it would involve all road users as opposed to a specific segment (e.g. bikepolite from Edinburgh targeted at cyclists). This could be a first!

The excellent legwork of the Access & Mobility event could be used as a starting point, so that this existing platform could radiate out this related debate.

Our point of view:

  • Cyclists are massively misunderstood by most, as we are a rare species, and we feel we have not been given a level playing field, but we can contribute significantly to this debate, as we are squeezed “between” pedestrians and drivers.
  • Public space allocation is about fairness: recent research has shown the real cost of car parking to society and the (local) economy, the contribution of bicycles to harmonise and civilise places and revitalise retail, how car-dependence breeds unfair societies.
  • 1PLAN (1CORE and AAP) has a vision to make Newcastle European, vibrant and less car-dependent. This vision still requires careful communication to the public and a Road Users Debate could help communicate the 1PLAN vision.
  • The Department for Transport is pushing decision-making down to local level. Recent relaxation of regulations by the DfT regards 20mph [http://bit.ly/kvGZT6] and possible relaxation of bylaws on cycling on pavement and in parks [http://bit.ly/mcPyFR] would put the council in a position to take quick actions on a range of road space / public space projects.

The Newcastle Cycling Campaign would love to be involved in this important dialogue. We have more ideas, and happy to discuss further.