The Regent Centre is one of the main destinations in Gosforth along with Gosforth High Street. Built in the 1970s on the site of the former Coxlodge Colliery, Regent Centre was at one time one of the largest office complexes in Europe. Now it includes the Gosforth swimming pool, library and Civic Theatre, as well as being close to several schools and the Regent Centre Metro and bus interchange.
We have taken a look and have come up with a set of proposals to improve walking and cycling access so that office workers, children and families can get to work, school or other local facilities. If you can think of further improvements or other issues that might need resolving please do let us know though.
The map below shows the area we have looked at, including the route of improved walking and cycling facilities connecting St Charles Primary School on the left and Archbishop Runcie First School on the right.
This route connects into the current north-south cycle route that comes from Parklands down the Great North Road, turns into Christon Road and the goes south via Alwinton Terrace. The Great North Road cycle route also needs improving north of Christon Road where there are only narrow painted lanes, and south to connect into Gosforth High Street. Taken together this is the “Gosforth Plus” cluster of destinations we identified in our top level Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) assessment for Gosforth.
One of the strangest features of the Regent Centre is the enormous roundabout. Measuring on Google Earth, this is about 55m across, or about the same area as eleven tennis courts. The road width is about 9m, which is about enough space to park two buses and two cars all side by side. As it stands this is a massive wasted space and the very wide road encourages dangerous speeding traffic.
These super-size dimensions are an opportunity to create a new usable green space without impacting vehicle access, roughly as laid out below.
This new green space connects to the library and swimming pool, and could include benches or play equipment, or additional trees and planting. It’s in a great location that could be used for families to sit and relax after visiting the pool, for office workers to relax during their lunch breaks or for the gym to run outdoor exercise sessions.
It also means one less road crossing for people walking east to west and a much more direct route. Vehicle traffic would still have access as the current north and west sides of the roundabout would become a two way road. This could be implemented very quickly using a few planters to mark out the edge of the new road in advance of permanent landscaping.
Outside the Gosforth Civic Theatre and Eagle Star House there is a bit less space but still sufficient to have separate walking and cycling routes. We have spoken to the developers for Eagle Star House and the Civic Theatre who are both okay in principle with the proposal.
This is what the route could look like by Eagle Star House, with children able to travel by bike safely away from the traffic to St Charles School or to the swimming pool or library.
On Christon Road, on the east of the Great North Road, there is also space to widen the pavement to include a separate lane for cycling, mostly for the use of children on the way to Archbishop Runcie and Gosforth Central Middle schools to keep them safe from school traffic and vehicles accessing the industrial estate.
The current Great North Road crossing is entirely inadequate at busy times because the Council has designed the junction to have a two-stage pedestrian crossing to increase vehicle traffic, but which requires people crossing to cram into a narrow ‘sheep pen’ in the middle of the road.
In the picture below, people on the left have given up even trying to fit into the ‘sheep pen’ and are just using any bit of pavement available. The picture also shows that the crossing is already used by children on bikes.
If this were a single stage crossing, there would be plenty of space for both walking and cycling, and the crossing itself could be adapted by simply removing the railings giving more space for everyone to cross. This would also reduce the danger to children stuck at the edge of the crossing.
We mentioned above the need to improve connectivity north for cycling. There is plenty of space available here to create protected cycle lanes that would be suitable for all ages and abilities. The picture below shows unused space in the middle of the road and there are also railings on the right of the picture that could be removed. Arguably there is over-provision for vehicles at this location as all that should really be needed is one all-vehicle lane in each direction and an additional south-bound bus lane.
In this proposal we have included more green space and provided new safer walking and cycling routes to schools. These were the top two responses to the SPACE for Gosforth Your Streets – Your Views survey with close to 90% support from residents for both. The changes, if implemented, should also result in a safer crossing of the Great North Road and more places to sit, especially at the new roundabout garden green space.
It is just a proposal though and we are sure it can be improved further. If you have any suggestions please do let us know via the comments below.
This is a video we made in 2016 to show what cycling is like at the Regent Centre.