Newcastle City Council is seeking feedback on a new pedestrian and cycle crossing over the Great North Road by the Three Mile Inn. This post explains why SPACE for Gosforth supports the proposed Toucan crossing.
You can add your comments on the Let’s Talk Newcastle Website. Feedback must be provided by 9 November 2016.
The existing crossing by the Three Mile Inn is a pedestrian footbridge, accessed by a stepped ramp which can become icy in cold weather. While many people can use this footbridge, some will find this a challenge and some will not be able to use it at all. In particular the stepped staircase design means that it cannot be used by people with limited mobility or those needing to use a wheelchair. Department for Transport design guidelines relating to the use of steps and ramps by disabled people suggest that curved staircases should be avoided and that the maximum number of risers in a flight should be 12, with resting places between successive flights. The Three Mile bridge staircase is both curved and has far more than 12 steps without a break.
This is also important as without a usable crossing, the same groups who cannot use the footbridge will not be able to easily access bus services located on the opposite side of the Great North Road.
Making roads and crossings accessible for disabled people is also a matter of law.
“The Equality Act 2010 states that it is unlawful for a public authority to discriminate in the exercise of its public functions. This includes highways functions. Section 20 (4) requires that where a physical feature (which includes increases in traffic) puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to a person who is not disabled, an authority is required to take such steps as is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage.” Source: RNIB information on crossings.
Many people however are drawn to the footbridge by the perception of greater safety compared to other crossings over the Great North Road and a petition by the administrators of the Gosforth Traffic Facebook page to retain the footbridge, potentially in addition to the new crossing, has reached a large number of signatories in a short timescale.
Newcastle has examples of newer footbridges that satisfy accessibility requirements such as this one on Scotswood Road where users can choose between gently angled ramps or flights of steps to reach the crossing. From the picture you can see that such an arrangement would require considerably more space than is readily available at the Three Mile Inn, and even if space were available would most likely require the complete replacement of the existing bridge.
Gentle incline on ramps provides for accessibility – click for Google Streetview
Concerns about road safety, and whether drivers will stop at a red signal, are reflected in the comments on the petition. While traffic signals are an accepted means of controlling traffic and generally provide for safe crossings, it is also the case that this section of the Great North Road is currently laid out in the style of an urban motorway with motorway-style crash barriers on one side and pedestrian guardrails along the median. These, and the footbridge itself, all create the visual impression of a road that should be driven at speed even though it is the main (and only) walking and cycling route between schools south of the Three Mile crossing and Brunton Park, Melton Park and Great Park housing estates.
Though this may not be sufficient by itself, introducing a new crossing at this point will start to change the look and feel of the street to encourage slower and safer driving. This will address safety concerns by reducing the danger as well as making the street more accessible, with minimal impact on overall journey times for people travelling north to south.
Plans were also consulted on in July 2016 to reduce the speed limit on this section of road from 40mph to 30mph. As we have highlighted in a previous post a collision at 40mph means an 80% chance an adult would be killed or seriously injured whereas this reduces to a 40% chance at 30mph (and 17% at 20mph).
Likewise, we hope the pedestrian guardrails and motorway barriers can also be removed. Reviews of pedestrian guardrails have shown that they have little or no impact on overall safety but do have some significant disadvantages. In this location it is possible that people exiting the Three Mile Inn might try to cross the road only to find they are trapped against the railings with traffic approaching and no where to go. Guardrails are also a potential hazard for motorcyclists in the event of a collision.
It is also worth noting that with 650m between adjacent crossings, this is the longest stretch of the Great North Road without a level accessible crossing. The nearest crossing point is at the Broadway roundabout junction over 200m away.
The total distance to walk up to the crossing at Broadway and back down to the Three Mile Inn is approximately a quarter of a mile, though individual journeys such as from Greystoke Park to the Three Mile Inn could be longer.
At 3mph, a reasonable pace for a fit and healthy adult, it will take roughly 5 minutes to walk this route, not including the waiting time at the crossing itself.
For someone with limited mobility this could make the difference between whether they can complete their journey or not.
The next crossing point walking North is twice the distance away and as a result even more impractical.
The Let’s Talk Newcastle Website includes the plan for the new crossing (copied below), the Council’s statement of reasons and the formal notice. Although the plans include an intention to remove the footbridge once the Toucan (walking and cycling) crossing has been constructed, this is not part of the current formal process and itself may be subject to further review.
The plan for the Toucan Crossing which is shown in red also shows the proposed, but not yet implemented, off-road cycle lanes that was consulted on in July. These should also help make this section of road safer, especially for children cycling to school who will no longer have to choose between riding in the traffic or in conflict with pedestrians on the pavement.
SPACE for Gosforth does not comment as a group on the Council’s plans so if you want to support the implementation of the proposed Toucan crossing you need to provide feedback on the Let’s Talk Newcastle website. The closing date for feedback is 9 November 2016.