NECA Walking and Cycling Survey

We have submitted a response to the North East Combined Authority (NECA) Walking and Cycling Survey on behalf of SPACE for Gosforth (deadline 3 July 2017). The response is here in full below.

NECA leads on strategic transport for the five Tyne and Wear local authorities, Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council. The survey forms part of the stakeholder consultation to inform the NECA Cycling and Walking Strategy and Implementation Plan.

NECA says it wants walking and cycling to be the natural choice for everyday and leisure journeys which can suitably be made by walking and cycling. 

What is the NECA Walking and Cycling Strategy?

The 10-year NECA Cycling and Walking Strategy (2017 – 2027) is expected to be a subsidiary document to the NECA Strategic Transport Plan (expected 2018), ensuring walking and cycling form part of future investment in transport infrastructure and supporting interventions in the NECA area.

NECA states that “It will set out a system for determining the highest-performing and value for money cycling and walking schemes, to align with other transport and non-transport funding streams, and ensure cycling and walking plays a major part in the NECA Strategic Transport Plan.

These documents will expand on the A 20 year Transport Manifesto for the North East Combined Authority document that NECA published in December 2018.


Here’s the SPACE for Gosforth response:

Name

SPACE for Gosforth

What geographical area do you cover?

Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne and surrounding areas where the impact of road schemes may impact Gosforth and Newcastle.

Details of Role?

SPACE for Gosforth is a residents group with the aim of promoting healthy, liveable, accessible and safe neighbourhoods where walking and cycling are safe, practical and attractive travel options for residents of all ages and abilities. SPACE stands for Safe Pedestrian and Cycling Environment.

Our full aims are here: http://spaceforgosforth.com/about/

Please provide details of any walking issues you’d like us to consider as part of this Strategy:

Walking is a cheap, healthy and often sociable way of travelling shorter distances either within a local area or to access public transport for longer journeys. While, for most city areas there is an adequate network of footpaths, barriers remain that discourage walking even where it should be the most obvious and natural choice for a journey.

Key issues that discourage people from walking are:

  • Danger (real and perceived) from motor vehicles exacerbated both by the number and speed of vehicles.
  • High traffic levels near key local destinations, especially around schools.
  • Severance due to difficulties crossing busy roads, railways or rivers.
  • Streetscapes that are poorly designed for children, older people or people with disabilities.
  • Crossings that require pedestrians to take long indirect routes or cross busy roads in multiple stages with long waits between each stage.
  • Lack of pavements or pavements unusable due to parked vehicles or clutter.
  • Poorly designed shared space that requires pedestrians to share with bicycles and motor vehicles.
  • Traffic noise, poor lighting or fear of crime.
  • Poor air quality, predominately due to motor vehicles.
  • Lack of public transport options.
  • Poorly planned or isolated neighbourhoods lacking local shops or services within a reasonable walking distance.

Even local children do not feel safe walking around our streets: http://spaceforgosforth.com/we-feel-unsafe/

In the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey 44% of respondents said they could just as easily walk for journeys of less than two miles travelled by car.
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/british-social-attitudes-survey-2015

What sorts of measures would you like to see to improve the opportunities for walking?

Transport strategy needs to recognise walking as a serious and viable transport mode that is the primary means of travel for shorter local journeys. Road designs and transport plans need to recognise this to make walking routes direct, safe, quick and comfortable.

Planning strategy needs to recognise the impact of poorly designed developments on future travel patterns and to address these at source so that local shops and services can be accessed within a reasonable walking distance.

We would like to see NECA adopt design standards that encourage the use of roads for walking aligned with the Living Streets document “Creating Walking Cities – A Blueprint for Change” https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/2527/blueprint-for-change.pdf and address the issues we identified in the previous question

A clear distinction needs to be drawn within urban areas between roads for movement of people, goods and services and streets as places where people live, meet and socialise. Transport budgets should be allocated to improve both types of location in accordance with their primary purpose.

For local streets in particular, reducing traffic volumes and speeds will have the greatest impact (at least cost) to mitigate issues that discourage people from walking, including by ensuring that vehicle through traffic is routed via main roads.

We have completed a survey of local walking issues here: http://spaceforgosforth.com/nwm-may2017/

See also our review of Gosforth High Street as experienced by someone who is visually impaired: http://spaceforgosforth.com/high-street-walk/

Please provide details of any cycling issues you’d like us to consider as part of this Strategy:

Cycling is a cheap, healthy and quick way of travelling short-medium distances within cities including to access public transport for longer journeys. In most city areas cycling provision is limited and disjointed and significant barriers remain that discourage cycling even where it should be the most obvious and natural choice for a journey.

Key issues that discourage people from cycling are:

  • Danger (real and perceived) from motor vehicles exacerbated both by the number and speed of vehicles, and in particular by close passes.
  • High traffic levels near key local destinations, especially around schools.
  • Lack of safe traffic-free routes.
  • Severance due to difficulties crossing busy roads, railways or rivers.
  • Cycle lanes that are unusable due to parked vehicles or debris.
  • Lack of gritting during icy periods in winter.
  • Poorly designed shared space that requires cyclists to share with people walking and motor vehicles.
  • Poor air quality, predominately due to motor vehicles.
  • Public transport that does not integrate well with cycling.
  • Poorly planned or isolated neighbourhoods lacking local shops or services within cycling distance.

In the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey:

  • 64% of respondents agreed that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the road
  • For journeys of less than two miles travelled by car, 39% of respondents said they could just as easily cycle.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/british-social-attitudes-survey-2015

We have also summarised research by Dr Rachel Aldred showing how many of our local roads are not suitable for cycling by children. http://spaceforgosforth.com/children-want-to-cycle/ and how many supposedly quiet local roads have high volumes of speeding traffic http://spaceforgosforth.com/backstreet-traffic/.

The DfT have just produced similar research showing that on 20mph roads, more than 80% of cars and LGVs, and more than 70% of HGVs are driven at speeds in excess of the legal limits.       https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/vehicle-speed-compliance-statistics-for-great-britain-2016.

The implication of this is that even when cycling is someone’s best option for a journey there is a good chance they will not cycle because they feel the roads are too dangerous.

What sorts of measures would you like to see to improve the opportunities for cycling?

Transport strategy needs to recognise cycling as a serious and viable transport mode that is the primary means of travel for short-medium distance local journeys. Road designs and transport plans need to recognise this to make cycling routes direct, safe, quick and comfortable.

Planning strategy needs to recognise the impact of poorly designed developments on future travel patterns and to address these at source so that local shops and services can be accessed within a reasonable cycling distance and that there are safe routes to those shops and services.

We would like to see NECA adopt design standards that encourage the use of roads for cycling (including old, young and people with disabilities) and address the public perception where 64% believe the roads are too dangerous. The evidence from Newcastle’s twin town Groningen and from other cycle friendly cities is that the key way to achieve this is through a good-quality integrated network of cycle routes that are well maintained and are separate from traffic and separate from pedestrians, including through junctions. Seville have demonstrated that this can be achieved very quickly, with rapid increases in cycling mode share.

A clear distinction needs to be drawn within urban areas between roads for movement of people, goods and services and streets as places where people live, meet and socialise. Transport budgets should be allocated to improve both types of location in accordance with their primary purpose.

For local streets, reducing traffic volumes and speeds will have the greatest impact (at least cost) to mitigate issues that discourage people from cycling, including by ensuring that vehicle through traffic is routed via main roads. It is equally important to ensure main roads are safe for cycling to ensure routes are direct and quick and so people can access destinations and public transport hubs located on main roads.

Evidence from the USA also shows that the highest return on investment and highest increases in cycling occur where cities have both quiet and direct main road routes. (http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/side-street-bikeways-are-great-if-you-have-protected-bike-lanes-too.) Encouraging cycling on main routes also reduces individual’s exposure to air pollution compared to travelling by car (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/12/smoking-in-cars-banned-but-children-still-inhale-toxic-fumes-in-backseats)

Other initiatives that should be considered include:

  • Priority gritting of cycle routes in winter so people can cycle all year round.
  • Protection for people cycling during road or building works
  • Secure cycle parking at key destinations

Do you have any final comments or suggestions about walking or cycling in the NECA area?

We welcome NECA’s plan to create a Cycling and Walking strategy however rather than being a subsidiary document it should be front and centre of the overall NECA Strategic Transport Plan.

The strategy itself should set out a vision where people can choose how they travel based on their needs rather than because they are afraid of the alternatives, and should prioritise walking and cycling as the cheapest, healthiest and most efficient ways of travelling within urban areas.

Rather than spending vast sums on increasing road capacity for motor vehicles, which is proven not to reduce congestion (http://www.nber.org/papers/w15376) or emissions (http://cityobservatory.org/urban-myth-busting_idling_carbon/), it will be cheaper and more effective to focus on improving the alternatives so fewer people need to drive.

Likewise any benefits calculated based on journey time are flawed if they do not take account of time required to earn money to pay for the journey or the significantly different impacts on life expectancy of active travel (positive) vs car travel (negative).

The strategy needs to recognise that every journey driven that could have been undertaken by foot or by cycle:

  • Increases travelling cost for the person travelling, money that might otherwise have been spent in the local area.
  • Adds to the overall cost of road maintenance.
  • Worsens air quality and creates risks for other road users.
  • Increases carbon emissions.
  • Is a lost opportunity for fresh air and exercise.
  • Creates additional demand for parking which means less land available for housing and other more productive uses.

Likewise for every neighbourhood designed to prioritise traffic over place we find:

  • Children unable to play outside
  • Teenagers not able to travel independently
  • Older people stuck alone in their home
  • And a community weakened through lack of on-street social interaction.
  • Local shops and services diminished because of competition from out of town shopping centres.

Whether or not these are part of the thinking for the transport strategy, or part of its aims, these are the real life outcomes. Nor are these just words. Tens of thousands of people die early each year due to poor air quality near roads. Many more die due to other conditions and illnesses related to how we travel. For example “regular cycling cut the risk of death from any cause by 41%, the incidence of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%” (http://spaceforgosforth.com/cwis2017/)

By prioritising walking and cycling, the NECA Strategic Transport Plan can deal with air pollution, it can reduce social isolation, it can improve choice for how we travel and make neighbourhoods more accessible for those with reduced mobility. It can reduce road injuries and deaths and reduce the fear that people feel when travelling on foot or by cycle. It can enable children’s independence so they can travel to go to school or play outside with their friends. It can enable people to travel to work and make them feel better when they get there. And it can align individual and community-wide incentives to ensure the transport system as a whole is as efficient as possible.

We hope that NECA will seize this opportunity and put in place a robust and well-funded plan to address all these issues as a matter of urgency.

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