Newcastle City Council have published their final plans for the Broadway to Brunton Cycle Lane and construction is due to start soon in a series of phases to minimise disruption.
As we said in our review of the initial consultation, residents’ feedback showed that there was broad support, with most people agreeing with the aims of the scheme but with a number of detail points that needed addressing. In this blog we take a look at the consultation process and the changes made by the Council as a result of that feedback.
The new cycle route should be suitable for residents of all ages and abilities and, apart from two short sections, the use of shared space where people walking and cycling are expected to use the same space has been avoided. The new crossings will make it easier for local residents to cross the Great North Road, especially at the Three Mile Inn where currently there is only a footbridge that is not useable for people with mobility issues.
As well as increasing the choice for how people can travel, wider benefits for the community include better health for those who walk or cycle, better air quality for everybody and fewer cars on the road for those who travel by car or bus. The new cycle lanes will also help people access local shops and potentially allow families to cycle to schools, including Broadway East following its proposed relocation to The Great Park. Current middle and high schools for children in this area are all south of Broadway and there are no alternative routes.
“Fly through” video of the original proposal produced by Newcastle City Council.
The initial consultation, based on the City Council Transport Development Process, was via the Commonplace website at the end of 2015 where comments can still be viewed. In addition the Council held three community drop-in meetings in Brunton Park where residents could submit comments on paper forms. According to the engagement report over 900 people visited the Commonplace website with 120 attending the drop-ins.
To publicise the consultation the Council sent letters to everyone living in Brunton Park, Melton Park and Melbury (the purple boundary on the map) as well as to statutory consultees including local councillors, MPs, emergency services, bus and taxi companies, disability groups, walking and cycling groups (though not SPACE for Gosforth), the Federation of Small Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce, the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association.
Local councillors in the Parklands ward shared news on the proposal via the Parklands Focus newsletters, reporting in issue 41 on a meeting supported by the Council transport department that was attended by 150 local residents. Further updates were provided in issues 42 and 43.
We also know that North Gosforth Parish Council discussed this matter regularly at their meetings and met council officers on a number of occasions to discuss the entrance to the service road and other concerns. Minutes of parish council meetings are posted on community noticeboards.
There was further opportunity to comment in August 2016 when the Council sought views on an amendment to the entrance to the GNR service road north of Polwarth Drive to respond to concerns raised by residents on that road.
A separate consultation was held for the toucan crossing by the Three Mile Inn in November 2016, which SPACE for Gosforth also wrote about here. This consultation, in part because of concerns about the adjacent footbridge, was also shared widely on social media and via two Chronicle articles: Fears over plan to ‘axe’ Gosforth footbridge crossing one of Newcastle’s busiest roads and Community is divided over plans for pedestrian crossing at key city route.
For both the cycle lane and toucan crossing a further and final stage of consultation was held on the legal traffic orders. At this stage letters were sent to those directly affected by the works (in the blue boundary on the map), residents with whom the Council had discussed plans, as well as to statutory consultees, with adverts placed on local lampposts and in the local press and on-line via the Let’s Talk Newcastle website.
Objections submitted at this stage were considered by the Traffic, Regulatory and Appeals Sub-Committee (RASC). The minutes for these meetings can be found here for the cycle lane and here for the toucan crossing. This completed the consultation process.
Two overall changes have been made. One is that the final plan does not include the original proposal to reduce the speed of this road to 30mph from 40mph, although a 30mph limit will be in force during road works. We believe the Council still intend to do this but via a separate proposal.
The second is that in a number of places the cycle lane has been re-aligned to be alongside the footpath although still in its own space. We understand this was partly to reduce costs but also helps to minimise tree loss across the scheme. It will also make it more comfortable for people cycling being further away from traffic.
The Three Mile Inn Toucan Crossing
The following plan was published as part of the consultation for the Three Mile Inn Toucan crossing to help people cross who are unable to use the bridge due to mobility issues and for those that wish to cross with a cycle. This also showed updated plans for the adjacent bus stops and a statement saying that the footbridge would be removed once the Toucan crossing is installed, though the consultation itself was only in relation to the crossing.
In this original plan, additional pavement space was included for people waiting for or alighting from buses. People walking or cycling past the bus stops would go behind this new pavement with continuous lanes unlike further south where the space behind these boarding areas is shared. Although relatively new for Newcastle this arrangement is thoroughly proven in other UK locations and in countries with more established cycling cultures.
The final plans however show that the footbridge will not be removed as part of this scheme, no doubt in part due to the Keep Our Three Mile Footbridge Petition. If the footbridge requires maintenance or removal in future this will have to be funded out of general council budgets.
While the south-bound bus stop design is unchanged, on the north-bound side the separate lanes have been merged to be shared as the support struts for the retained footbridge mean there is insufficient space for separate walking and cycling paths. This appears to be an inadvertent negative consequence of the petition, although if the bridge is removed in future it would be possible to reconfigure this area to have separated space as was originally planned.
McCracken Park to Polwarth Drive
This section is the most changed between the original and final plans. Comments on the original plan focused on car parking for residents living south of the roundabout, lack of (and provision of) two way cycling and access to the service road. The latter was a subject of a petition documented in the Chronicle Petition against ‘dangerous’ Great North Road cycle route to be heard by Newcastle City Council.
The Council, we know, had a number of discussions with residents of the GNR service road about access. Following an automated traffic count that showed very low volumes of traffic, the Council agreed to leave this open for access but with a raised hump to slow vehicle speeds off the roundabout to ensure safety of all who might be cycling.
The final plans also show:
- On-street parking provision south of the roundabout.
- The toucan crossing now has dedicated and separate walking and cycling paths rather than shared space and is moved slightly closer to the roundabout. This means the south-bound bus stop is slightly closer for people coming from or going to Brunton Park.
- An extension to the 2-way cycle lane to McCracken Park so people leaving McCracken Park can travel directly to Brunton Park and not have to go via the Three Mile Inn crossing.
- The geometry of the roundabout has also been changed to reduce the speeds of vehicles entering Polwarth Drive from the south.
Newlands Avenue to Norwood Avenue
The GNR crossing between Newlands and Norwood Avenue is the other part of the scheme that uses shared space. This has been retained to avoid tree loss at this location that would have been required with a wider separate paths. The wiggle is for a similar purpose to route the path around an existing mature tree.
In addition, there is a new section of 2-way cycle track to allow people from Newlands Avenue to travel north directly rather than have to go south first via the crossing south of Polwarth Drive, which would have been a considerable diversion.
At Brunton Lane the shared space on the crossing has again been replaced by separate cycle and walking paths. In addition footpaths into Glamis Avenue that were shown as being removed in the original plans have been retained. The only other difference is a minor change to the west side of the crossing so people cycling are directed straight onto the service road.
Requests for change not incorporated into the final plans
Not all feedback led to changes. In considering feedback, council officers have to take account of safety and comfort of road users (especially vulnerable road users), council policy, scheme objectives and budgets. Even if a proposed change is extremely popular it still might not be accepted if, for example it might put some groups in danger or cost more than is available in the scheme budget.
The table below sets out the main requests that were not taken forward and the reasons for that decision. As a number relate to one-way vs two-way cycling, it is worth noting that in cities and countries where cycling is more established, a road this wide would almost certainly have two-way cycle tracks on both sides of the road so that people cycling always have a direct route without having to cross the road (and potentially require traffic to stop) multiple times.
|Request||Reasons changes were not made|
|Retain the slip road to Greystoke Park||
|Make the cycle path on the east side of the GNR two way.||
|Retain one-way only cycling on the service road.||
Street Trees and Bus Shelters
While the formal consultation finished in March 2017 with the RASC meeting for the Three Mile Inn toucan crossing, late changes have been sought in the last few days before work is due to commence by individuals running a local Facebook group in relation to two stone bus stop shelters marked for removal and, according to their site, 13 trees of which about half would be scheduled for removal in any case due to being in a poor condition. [See Update 8/1/2017 below for Council figures relating to trees]
At this late stage we believe the Council has no duty or obligation to take these points into account. Almost certainly contracts will have been signed for contractors to undertake the work, and equipment and other resources scheduled to be ready for work to commence. Any delay at this stage could increase costs for the Council, which may need to be funded by local taxpayers.
Having said that, if it is possible for the Council to consider these points without delaying completion of the scheme or incurring additional costs for taxpayers then we have no reason to object to that. Street trees in particular are an important part of the character of Gosforth and can help mitigate a number of the public health issues suffered by residents as a result of an excess of traffic. If it is possible to retain healthy mature trees then we would support that.
It is worth noting that both issues were considered as part of the consultation. The two stone bus shelters were specifically marked for removal and trees were mentioned by quite a few residents in their feedback mostly (but not all) in favour of retaining trees where possible.
We hope therefore that the Council will be able to present a reasoned and balanced view as to why these aspects of the scheme are as proposed so that we can all be properly informed as to the pros and cons of retaining the existing street trees and bus shelters vs replacing the bus shelters and planting additional trees to replace those that would be removed.
Our main disappointment on this scheme is that it has taken so long from the original consultation to work commencing. With significant benefits promised, certainly compared to comparable more expensive traffic schemes, and with broad community support it should be expected that the work could have been complete far quicker. The city of Seville in Spain transformed its entire city in less time, with 50 miles of new protected all-ability cycle lanes and an eleven-fold increase in cycling.
That said, the incorporation of feedback into the scheme has clearly led to improvements compared to the original plans and we support the importance of the Council engaging with residents to seek input and support. There will always be calls for more communication and engagement, both of which we support, however we also recognise that there must be a point of diminishing return beyond which the cost of further consultation will outweigh any potential benefits.
Ultimately there is a need for leadership by councillors and council officers to learn these lessons to make sure future schemes are designed in a consistent manner both to meet best practice and to take into account known issues of community interest and concern.
Just as importantly we need leadership to create a sense of urgency to resolve issues with air quality, health and a lack of choice for how we travel that are currently designed into our environment.
Newcastle City Council have released a statement published in the Chronicle which clarifies the number of trees affected and, which relate to the cycle route and which are to be removed for unconnected reasons:
“We have designed dedicated cycle facilities on the Great North Road, between Broadway and Brunton Lane, in order to make the area – a well-used cycle route, including by people riding to schools – safer for those on bikes.
“As part of the development we have identified that three trees, of differing ages and quality, would need to be removed for the project. A further eight trees, while not required for the project, may also be removed for other reasons, one of these trees we consider to be dangerous due to its condition.
“Two stone bus shelters, which are unpopular with many passengers – though apparently popular with others in the community – would also need to be removed and would be replaced by shelters that include seats.
“One of the three trees that need to be removed is a very young tree that we would replant and we would then be planting two more trees for every one that is removed.
“A petition from people objecting to the loss of trees and bus shelters will be presented to a meeting of the city council on Wednesday [10 January 2018]. Work will not start until after councillors’ response to the petition has been taken into account.”