Safe Newcastle Bridges

Picture of people walking and cycling over Stoneyhurst Road bridge

Six months ago, Newcastle City Council changed the road layout on five bridges so that they could only be used by people walking, in wheelchairs, or on bikes/scooters. The Council’s aim in doing so was to achieve safer residential streets by reducing motor vehicles speeding and to remove ‘through traffic’ from residential areas.

To close these bridges to motor vehicles the Council used an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO), with the first six months of the order being a public consultation period. This allowed the Council to implement the changes quickly as required by Government to ensure (in the Government’s words) “transport networks support recovery from the COVID-19 emergency and provide a lasting legacy of greener, safer transport”.

According to Commonplace, there have been approximately 10,000 comments made on the Council’s consultation website, which is a sizeable response and shows much greater public engagement than previous more traditional ‘in advance’ consultations.

This blog sets out SPACE for Gosforth’s response to the bridges’ consultation focused mainly on policy, evidence and best practice. In summary, there is strong evidential support for the changes and, in our view, no local evidence to suggest that benefits won’t be achieved.

Those benefits include:

  • Generally creating more pleasant local places for people to live e.g. from less traffic noise
  • Improving road safety, including for children on the school run
  • Making it easier to walk and cycle, increasing people’s choices for how to travel
  • Improving health from more walking and cycling
  • Helping people on lower incomes because walking/cycling are cheaper than driving or the bus, including people travelling through the area & across Jesmond Dene to local employment sites.
  • Reducing emissions to address the Climate Emergency with minimal cost or impact on lifestyles compared to e.g. road pricing, carbon taxes or forcing people to buy expensive new electric vehicles.
  • Incredible value for money given how effective they are, how cheap they are to implement and the range of policy areas supported.

These support the Council’s longer term vision of a “safer, cleaner, greener Newcastle”.

Clearly many people still have concerns about the plans. We have looked at some of these in our previous blogs Enabling Safe Walking and Cycling via Local Bridges and Stoneyhurst Bridge – Review of Concerns.

There is good news that predictions of traffic chaos haven’t happened and traffic levels on surrounding roads remain lower than usual for the time of year, and there’s no reason to believe that traffic levels will increase substantially because they didn’t when Killingworth Road and Salters Bridge were both closed for road works.

Further information on the changes can be found on the Council’s Frequently Asked Questions web page.

SPACE for Gosforth response – Prohibition of driving of motor vehicles on local bridges


Dear sir/madam,

Re: Prohibition of driving of motor vehicles on local bridges

We are writing to SUPPORT the continued prohibition of driving of motor vehicles and associated changes made in the following orders, and to support these orders being made permanent.

Reference  Location
GH/P44/1253 Argyle Street – from 10 metres north of Stepney Lane to 10 metres south of Trafalgar Street
GH/P44/1257 Castles Farm Road – from Matthew Bank to 13 metres west of Castles Farm Mews
GH/P44/1258 Haldane Terrace – between Osborne Road and Eslington Terrace
GH/P44/1259 Hollywood Avenue/Salters Bridge, Gosforth – from 63 meters west of Salters Lane to Turnberry Way
GH/P44/1260 Stoneyhurst Road – between Rectory Drive and Alnmouth Drive.

We also wish to thank the Council for implementing the changes using an experimental order, to allow residents to experience the changes prior to them being implemented permanently. This has clearly led to much greater engagement and discussion of the pros and cons than would have been possible had the Council used a standard three-week online consultation. The consultation for the Broadway to Brunton Cycle lane, by comparison, only received 78 comments in total.

Our reasons for supporting the permanent prohibition of motor traffic on local bridges

1. Improved Safety

The Council has a legal obligation under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of pedestrian and cycling traffic.

These bridges and roads connecting to them frequently felt unsafe due to high volumes of traffic. Speeding counts, where we have them, also show that a majority of drivers using these routes do not drive within the 20mph speed limits set for these roads and nearby streets. As a result people choose either not to walk or cycle, or have to take long inconvenient detours to find an alternative way of reaching their destination. This is particularly true of Salters Bridge and Castle Farm Road, neither of which have adequate pavements.

The first of five principles in the world-leading Sustainable Safety approach is that roads should have a defined functionality e.g. for carrying traffic or alternatively for access to homes or destinations, and that street layouts should be designed accordingly. For minor residential streets this means restricting traffic only to vehicles being used to access those streets. It is also a pro-active approach, so changes should be made before crashes occur, rather than only reacting to past collisions and injuries.

https://sustainablesafety.nl

Council policy DM13 – Road Hierarchy confirms that all five bridges are on minor roads, and are for access only and not for the movement of vehicle traffic.

Council vehicle count and speed data confirms that there have been speeding issues on local streets connecting to these bridges as well as inappropriately high volumes of traffic.

For example, only 15% of drivers adhered to the speed limit on Ilford Road when measured in 2014.Traffic volume / speed graph for Ilford Road

It has also been established that injury rates per vehicle mile travelled are generally higher on minor roads. “For killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties the rate per billion motor vehicle miles is 17% higher on minor roads (47 against 40 KSIs per billion vehicle miles), while for slight injuries it is 66% higher (188 against 123 slight injuries per billion vehicle miles).”

https://www.icevirtuallibrary.com/doi/10.1680/jmuen.16.00068

Evidence from the London Borough of Waltham Forest where low traffic neighbourhoods were implemented in 2015-2016 likewise found that “walking, cycling, and driving all became approximately 3-4 times safer per trip. There was no evidence that injury numbers changed on boundary roads.”

https://findingspress.org/article/18330-the-impact-of-introducing-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-on-road-traffic-injuries

In winter, ensuring vehicle traffic uses main roads that are on the Council’s gritting network, rather than cutting through untreated minor roads, also supports improved road safety. We understand residents’ concerns about Dene Crescent near Stoneyhurst Road bridge even though it is part of the Council’s gritting network. Hopefully the experience of the recent cold snap has reassured people that the Council’s gritting approach is effective. Certainly reports we have seen, and from our own regular walks in the area, suggest that Dene Crescent has been usable safely by motor vehicles.

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore both consistent with best practice for road safety and with Council Policy that implements that best practice.

2. Better Health and Physical Activity

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance on Physical activity and the environment NG90 paragraph 1.2.5 states “Ensure pedestrians, cyclists and users of other modes of transport that involve physical activity are given the highest priority when developing or maintaining streets and roads. (This includes people with limited mobility.)” One way it recommends for achieving this is to “Restrict motor vehicle access (for example, by closing or narrowing roads to reduce capacity).”

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG90

The Council has confirmed there have been no issues with Emergency Services response times. This is consistent with what has been found elsewhere in the UK. A survey of Ambulance Trusts in areas where low-traffic neighbourhoods, popup cycle lanes, widened pavements and other walking and cycling schemes were introduced in response to the Covid-19 also found these have “have not hindered ambulance response times”.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/feb/13/covid-bike-and-walking-schemes-do-not-delay-ambulances-trusts-say

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore consistent with NICE Guidance NG90 to increase physical activity and improve health.

3. Improved local air quality

A review of air quality measures by Public Health England showed that “driving restrictions produced the largest scale and most consistent reductions in air pollution levels, with the most robust studies.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/improving-outdoor-air-quality-and-health-review-of-interventions

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore consistent with best practice guidance for improving air quality.

We also wish to note that opening additional routes, for example by ending the prohibition of vehicle traffic on these local bridges, is not recommended in any best practice guidance or evidence for what is effective to improve air quality. Based on measurements we have seen we don’t believe there is increased pollution on any local main roads as a result of these orders but even if there was, re-allowing vehicle traffic on these local bridges would not be an appropriate or effective response to that pollution.

4. Increasing Walking

Research on London “mini-Holland” schemes, which make extensive use of vehicle prohibitions, estimated an average increase in walking of 32 minutes per week compared to people living in comparable areas with no mini-Holland.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2018/jun/26/mini-holland-schemes-have-proved-their-worth-in-outer-london-boroughs

While it is not certain that the limited vehicle prohibitions at local bridges will have such a strong effect, they are certainly consistent with measures that have been shown to increase walking levels and are unlikely to have any negative effects.

5. Enabling more people to cycle

Pre-lockdown traffic levels and speeds on both Hollywood Avenue and Castle Farm Road were high enough, according to Government Local Traffic Note 1/20, to exclude most people who might otherwise be willing to cycle. Even if they were technically open for cycling, in practice they were not.

Pre-lockdown traffic levels and speeds on Ilford Road, and possibly also Stoneyhurst Road itself, were by the same measure sufficient to exclude some or most people who might otherwise be willing to cycle.

In practice, although these roads were technically ‘open’ for all traffic including people to cycle many would choose not to, or would be forced into long inconvenient diversions to find an alternative safer way of reaching their destination.

The National Travel Attitude Study Wave 3, 2020, reported that nationally “66% either agree strongly or agree somewhat with the notion that cycling on roads is too dangerous“, with the figure being 72% for 65-74 year olds and 75% for over 74 year olds. Reducing traffic levels on roads near the bridges is a cheap and easy way to make roads safer so more people, especially older people, feel comfortable to cycle.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-travel-attitudes-study-wave-3

The Tyneside Bike Life survey found that “25% of all Tyneside residents do not cycle but would like to start. Yet only 33% of residents feel that cycling safety is good.“ while 86% said that it was important to improve routes and facilities for safe cycling.

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/bike-life/bike-life-tyneside

In Local Traffic Note (LTN) 1/20 section 7.3.1 it says “Encouraging through traffic to use main roads can provide benefits for pedestrians and residents, particularly children and vulnerable adults, as well as enabling cycling. This can be achieved through implementing measures such as turning bans and one way streets, and by mode filtering”

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cycle-infrastructure-design-ltn-120

The Newcastle City Council motion on cycling from September 2019, supported by Councillors in Dene and South Gosforth and Parklands wards, stated:

  • Cycle and walking routes should be abundantly available especially within a 3-mile radius of the city centre or major transport interchanges.
  • Cycle routes should wherever possible not share space with any road that experiences more than light traffic so that people feel safe on their bikes.

https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s150085/Minutes%2004092019%20City%20Council.pdf

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore consistent both with Government guidance on how to remove barriers to cycling and with Council policy to enable cycling for local journeys and with the specific City Council motion on cycling.

To achieve high levels of cycling for local journeys the Council will need to continue to invest to create a good quality network of safe routes that can be used by all ages and abilities, not just by current cyclists who are willing to cycle on roads with heavy traffic. These orders are a step towards that aim.

6. Safer, healthier school travel

On 2 October 2020 the Council released a news story urging families to use alternatives to the car on the school run, saying that “Nationally, around half of all journeys to school for primary children are made by car, creating pollution and high traffic levels around schools. The council would like to see more people walking or cycling to school as part of their plans to reduce traffic in local neighbourhoods, making it clear that neighbourhood streets should prioritise people, not vehicles.”

https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/citylife-news/people-urged-ditch-car-walk-school-week-5-9-october

Asking people nicely hasn’t worked though. If the Council wants parents to walk or cycle with their children to school, the Council needs to provide safe routes to allow them to do so.

Research from Newcastle City Council over 10 years ago in 2009 showed just how many school pupils, especially those of Primary School age, wanted to cycle to school compared to those that actually did.

Table showing preference for cycling amongst school children with actual rates of cycling

See Big Pedal 2016 – Final results for Gosforth

According to the Department for Transport, school traffic makes up one in four vehicles on the road at peak times, adding significantly to pollution and congestion.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/clean-air-campaigners-call-for-school-run-ban-cut-pollution

We also know that walking or cycling to school helps children concentrate better while at school.

http://sciencenordic.com/children-who-walk-school-concentrate-better

Salters Bridge, Stoneyhurst Road Bridge and Castle Farm Road are all useful active travel routes connecting to South Gosforth First School, Gosforth East Middle School, Gosforth Academy and St Mary’s High School.

Commonplace comments for Stoneyhurst Road Bridge note that parents have started to “park and stride” rather than drive all the way to the school gate.

We have previously summarised research showing parents would not be happy cycling with children on busy residential streets, which would include the roads connecting to these bridges, but would be willing to cycle on streets with no through traffic.

See: Lots of children want to cycle to school, but hardly any do. How do we make space for child cycling in Gosforth?

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore consistent with Council policy and with research demonstrating that filtered streets are suitable for children to cycle and that children will benefit from an active travel journey to school.

By giving children greater choice in how to travel and enabling more independent travel his will also support Newcastle in its aim to become a UNICEF ‘Child Friendly City’.

7. Improving access to employment and the local economy

The Department of Transport report “The Value of Cycling” states that “Cycling facilities can overcome difficulties in accessing employment opportunities” as well as reducing staff turnover and absenteeism, and boosting productivity.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509587/value-of-cycling.pdf

Salters Bridge, Stoneyhurst Road Bridge and Castle Farm Road are all useful active travel routes to major employment centres including The Freeman Hospital, the Ministry, the Regent Centre and Gosforth High Street. The Council’s Medium-Term Plan for 2021-22 and 2022-23 includes investing in transport as a way of supporting increases in employment including:

  • developing local cycling and walking plans.
  • developing Newcastle Streets for People and 15-minute neighbourhoods.

https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Build%20Forward%20Better%20-%20our%20medium-term%20plan%20for%202021-22%20and%202022-23.pdf

It has also been estimated that cycling more often rather than driving is the equivalent of an 8% pay increase, money that could be spent in the local economy.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/cycling-cost-saving-is-equivalent-of-an-8-per-cent-pay-rise-1-4430374

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore consistent with Council Policy to support employment and the local economy.

8. Improving accessibility

Research by Sustrans found that ” An estimated 84% of disabled people living in the UK’s biggest cities never cycle for local journeys, yet one third (33%) say they would like to start cycling” and includes the recommendation “Reduce the volume and speed of vehicles on local streets, and create streets where people walking and cycling have priority, and cars are guests. ”

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/news/2019/june/one-third-of-disabled-people-in-uk-cities-would-like-to-start-cycling/

In the Tyneside Bike Life survey 2019, 68% of disabled people thought cycle safety needed to be improved and that only 8% of people who are disabled cycled once a week compared to 17% of people who are not disabled.

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/bike-life/bike-life-tyneside

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges can therefore support accessible and inclusive streets, along with further initiatives for example dropped kerbs, removing obstacles, widening pavements for wheelchair access, raising sections of roadway to make crossing easier, and ensuring on-street cycling facilities cater for the range of cycles used by disabled people.

Prior to these orders being put in place, the narrow pavement at Salters Bridge and complete lack of pavement on Castle Farm Road meant these routes were almost completely inaccessible for anyone with mobility issues unless using a vehicle, putting disabled people wanting to use these routes at a substantial disadvantage compared to people who are not disabled.

9. Reducing carbon emissions

Along with other local authorities in the NE of England, the Council has committed to make Newcastle upon Tyne carbon neutral by 2030. This was proposed in April 2019 by one of our local Dene and South Gosforth Councillors, the Council ward covering Stoneyhurst Road Bridge and Castle Farm Road, and was supported by Councillors in Dene and South Gosforth and Parklands wards.

https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s143777/April%20Council%20minutes.pdf

The Net Zero Newcastle – 2030 Action Plan says (p63) “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods implement the principle of ensuring vehicular traffic does not take precedence in residential areas. While people should be able to drive to residential neighbourhoods (if needed), they should not have the right to drive through. In line with the Carbon Management Hierarchy approach, through traffic should use the established road hierarchy”

https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/our-city/climate-change-newcastle/net-zero-newcastle-2030-action-plan

We know that when both Killingworth Road and Salters Bridge were closed to traffic due to recent road works there was an area-wide reduction in traffic levels and little or no increase on surrounding roads, strongly suggesting a reduction in the total number of vehicle miles driven.

The phenomenon of ‘Disappearing Traffic’ has been observed over and over around the world, including here in Newcastle when Killingworth Road was closed. It is well understood that reducing available capacity for vehicle travel reduces the number of vehicle journeys as people find other ways of doing what they need, which might include car sharing, using public transport, walking or cycling.

See: Roadworks, Air Quality and Disappearing Traffic

It has also been shown that vehicle miles driven are correlated to carbon emissions, but congestion levels are not. To reduce carbon emissions it therefore makes more sense to focus on reducing miles driven that aiming to reduce congestion.

Urban Myth Busting: Congestion, Idling, and Carbon Emissions

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore consistent with Council Policy both to become carbon neutral and to use Low Traffic Neighbourhood principles to achieve that, as well as being supported by strong scientific evidence. The use of Experimental Orders has also allowed action to be taken quickly, which is particularly important in light of the Council’s net zero targets and the Climate Emergency.

10. Enabling east-west walking and cycling across the Ouseburn and Metro

We have previously highlighted the lack of routes to cross the Ouseburn / Jesmond Dene if walking or cycling. We produced the map below prior to these orders being published.

These orders go a long way to addressing these concerns by providing traffic free routes across the Ouseburn at Salters Bridge and Castle Farm Road and reducing traffic on connecting streets. While gradient and lighting could potentially still be issues, a reduction in traffic reduces makes these routes far more usable and reduces the risks due to both.

Haddricks Mill – Alternative Routes before orders were implemented

Much the same is true of crossing the Metro line, where the main alternatives to Stoneyhurst Road are Station Road and Jesmond Dene Road, both main roads with heavy traffic that would put off most people from cycling. Consideration could also be given to prohibiting vehicle traffic on Moorfield Road bridge as part of a wider low traffic neighbourhood covering High West Jesmond and Ilford Road Metro.

11. Reducing Crime

Research looking at the London Borough of Waltham Forest showed that “The introduction of a low traffic neighbourhood was associated with a 10% decrease in total street crime (95% confidence interval 7% to 13%), and this effect increased with a longer duration since implementation (18% decrease after 3 years).”

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348468915_The_Impact_of_Introducing_a_Low_Traffic_Neighbourhood_on_Street_Crime_in_Waltham_Forest_London

Northumbria Police has said “We have often called for environmental changes to address speeding and the closure of Salters Bridge will have a significant impact on speeding. It’s a far more effective way of addressing speed than relying on a camera van to be deployed.”

This is likely to be true for other local bridges as well, including Ilford Road as a result of the order relating to Stoneyhurst Road bridge.

The approach to prohibit vehicle traffic at these local bridges is therefore consistent with objectives to reduce crime levels.

12. Impact on surrounding main roads

When the orders were first put in place some predicted ‘traffic chaos’ and ‘increased pollution’ as a result of these changes, but this has not happened and traffic is certainly no worse than it has been in previous years.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/stoneyhurst-bridge-closure-traffic-gosforth-18681528

Traffic and Accident Data Unit (TADU) monitoring of vehicle traffic on Station Road, Gosforth High Street and Sandy Lane all show vehicle volumes did not exceed those in previous years even when lockdown was mostly lifted in September and October 2020. Haddricks Mill Road was slightly higher but that was more likely as a result of previous years being low due to Killingworth Road works rather than any additional traffic.

Traffic counts on Station Road shown in the graph below, show that by the time the orders were implemented on 13 August traffic levels had already returned to close to normal, and that implementing the orders made no substantial difference to the trend, which levelled off a few weeks later and stayed broadly flat after that.

Average daily traffic count 2017 – 2020, measured on Station Road, Gosforth

When Salters Road and Killingworth Road were both closed together pre-pandemic, traffic levels on Church Road were not significantly different, and Great North Road traffic levels were unchanged.

In September, when traffic was at its highest, air pollution at nearby sensors on Gosforth High Street were lower than normal.

Map & table of air pollution figures showing lower pollution in September 2020 compared to September 2018 and 2019

 

Even if surrounding main roads were more congested and/or polluted than normal (which they weren’t) diverting traffic onto parallel minor roads would not be an appropriate response, and it is also very unlikely that it would be effective.

13. Value for Money

Interventions to support and enable more active travel are generally less costly than changes to roads to support or improve vehicle travel. Witness for example the hundreds of millions of pounds of public money being spent on the Western Bypass to add additional vehicle capacity, even though both local and national policy suggests that we should all drive fewer journeys in future.

The type of change proposed in these orders is almost certainly one of the cheapest, quickest and most effective way of enabling more people to walk and cycle more often and meet other policy objectives including addressing public health targets and the Climate Emergency.

They are also effective at improving road safety over a wide area, not just by the bridges.

  • Castle Farm Road Bridge has reduced traffic and improved road safety right along the full length of Castle Farm Road.
  • Salters Bridge has reduced traffic and improved road safety along the full length of Hollywood Avenue.
  • Stoneyhurst Road Bridge has reduced traffic and improved road safety on Stoneyhurst Road and on Ilford Road / Rectory Drive.

Using experimental orders also means benefits can be achieved even more quickly at very low cost using temporary materials. This is especially important for issues such as the Climate Emergency that require urgent action to meet Council, national and global targets.

14. Public acceptance

Changes to street layouts almost always prove to be controversial initially, and longer-term tend to become more supported as people start to feel the benefits and realise that predictions of traffic chaos are unfounded, or at the very least have been substantially overstated.

This substantially explains the results from the local Councillor baseline survey, which was started a full month prior to the closures on 15 July 2020.

https://www.facebook.com/dsgward/posts/4094735390567874

We also note that the Commonplace website allows comments from any geographical location, so some of the comments are likely to be from people outside of the local area who use these bridges as short cuts as part of a longer journey to avoid busy main road routes.

When we surveyed Gosforth residents in 2018 we found 88% of residents supported safe walking and cycling routes to school and 85% supported reducing through traffic on residential streets.

Results from the SPACE for Gosforth Your Streets - Your View survey

This is consistent with more recent YouGov polling, which found that where people had opinions on LTNs, positive views were more than three times more prevalent than negative ones.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2020/oct/22/despite-a-loud-opposing-minority-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-are-increasingly-popular

There are many existing examples of local roads where motor vehicles are prohibited to prevent those roads being used for through traffic. All of these would have caused some vehicle journeys to be longer, and will have prevented main road traffic from using these streets as a short cut rather than sticking to main roads. None of these are controversial and no one is suggesting these should be opened for vehicle traffic to reduce congestion or pollution on adjacent main roads.

Pictures of 9 local streets closed to through traffic

15. Enabling future changes to benefit active travel and health

Salters Bridge and Castle Farm Road Bridge orders are sufficient by themselves to improve safety adjacent minor roads including all of Hollywood Avenue.

In the area bounded by Gosforth High Street, Haddricks Mill Road and Church Road / Station Road, the prohibition of vehicle traffic on Stoneyhurst Road bridge improves safety but there are still nearby minor roads with high levels of vehicle traffic including Moor Road North and South (a signed cycle route) and The Grove.

In our blog “East Gosforth – Streets for People” we looked at one possible configuration of an area wide low traffic neighbourhood, which included a prohibition of vehicle traffic at Stoneyhurst Road bridge. This suggests that the Stoneyhurst Road Bridge order is consistent with and would enable a wider area low traffic neighbourhood in future and support the 15-minute neighbourhood concept.

East Gosforth – Streets for People

16. The Status Quo is not working

The status quo isn’t working. According to the Neighbourhoods and Public Health Report to Newcastle City Council on 3 February, 2020 Newcastle leads the “UK Healthy Cities Network”, but Newcastle is not currently a healthy city.

According to the 2019 report “for a typical Newcastle annual school reception intake of 3,500 children, 500 would be overweight, 460 obese and 120 severely obese.“ By Year 6 this increases to 540 overweight, 860 obese and 220 severely obese, together close to half of all children in Year 6.

https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s154182/Neighbourhoods%20Public%20Health%20Portfolio%20Report.pdf

According to Public Health England, less than half (45.7%) of children in Newcastle are considered to be physically active.

https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/physical-activity/data#page/1/gid/1938132899/pat/6/par/E12000001/ati/201/are/E08000021/iid/93014/age/298/sex/4/cid/4/page-options/ovw-do-1_cin-ci-4_map-ao-4_car-do-0

The British Heart Foundation Physical Activity Report 2017 found that 42% of adults in the North East were classed as being inactive, putting them at greater risk of heart and circulatory disease.

https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/statistics/physical-inactivity-report-2017

In 2015, the BBC reported “A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe, a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people suggests.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30812439

Currently relatively few people cycle (including children), and those that do are often forced into long inconvenient detours to avoid busy local streets.

The Tyneside Bike Life survey found that women, older and disabled people were then less likely to cycle in Tyneside but in all cases a majority wanted improvements in cycle safety. The report, to illustrate what could be possible, says “55% of all cycling trips in the Netherlands are made by women” where safe cycling facilities are widely available and “over 65 make 24% of their trips by cycle.”

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/bike-life/bike-life-tyneside

It is pretty clear that current cycling facilities in Newcastle, where most journeys involve having to use busy roads, mean women, older and disabled people are at a substantial disadvantage. These orders will help to address and remove that disadvantage.

As a result of high traffic levels people in Newcastle also suffer from congestion, pollution and every year people are killed and seriously injured on Newcastle’s roads through no fault of their own.

See: Traffic Crash Injury 2020 and Traffic Crash Injury 2019

Nationally, “motoring on minor roads doubled between 2009 and 2019.” This is not something we were ever consulted about, and if nothing is done will only get worse due to increasing availability of in-car Sat Nav systems.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/25/rat-running-residential-uk-streets-satnav-apps

Unless something is done now, these trends of increasing obesity, inactivity and ill health look set to continue while pollution and carbon emissions will not reduce. The Council has recognised that a “whole-systems approach to tackle rising obesity levels in the city” is needed.

https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/citylife-news/lifestyle/new-whole-systems-approach-tackling-obesity-newcastle

These orders support that whole-systems approach supporting a wide range of policy objectives covering health, economy, accessibility and the environment in a way that can be implemented quickly at a very low cost.

Summary and Next steps

In summary, we support the continued prohibition of driving of motor vehicles and associated changes made in the listed orders, and support these orders being made permanent.

Only a decision to make these orders permanent would align with Council policy. A decision to revoke these orders would make it harder for the Council to achieve its policy aims in future. This is also the perfect time to implement these changes while the roads are relatively quiet and people are willing to try out other ways of travelling around their local neighbourhoods.

“Doing nothing” or delaying action won’t encourage more people to walk or cycle, won’t improve health, won’t make it safer for children to travel to school and won’t reduce pollution or green house gas emissions.

We don’t believe there are any other alternative options currently available to the Council that would achieve the same level of benefits, for the same low cost across so many policy areas. Our assessment is that all of the substantive issues that have been raised, that we are aware of, can be adequately mitigated without re-opening these bridges to vehicle traffic.

The consultation has given residents the opportunity to share concerns. We hope the Council will assess these with due regard to the facts of the situation including any relevant evidence. For example, a comment by a member of the public opposing one of the bridge closures on our website asserts that, as a result of Stoneyhurst Road bridge being closed, people would be prevented from using their cars, which is clearly not true. The Council will also need to assess the impact of those false statements and other ‘trolling’ comments on Commonplace to determine whether these have skewed the overall consultation response.

For those concerns that are assessed to be factual and supported by relevant evidence, we hope the Council will give serious thought as to how those concerns could be addressed in a way that is consistent with Council policy and enables the prohibition of motor traffic at local bridges to be retained. For example:

  • Using parking controls at the junction of Dene Crescent and Haddricks Mill Road to implement with Highway Code Rule 243, which says do not park opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction.
  • Options for enabling vehicles travelling in opposite directions on Balmoral Terrace, Windsor Terrace, Sandringham Road and Audley Road to pass, no doubt made harder because more people are working at home so there are fewer gaps as residents’ cars remain parked all day.
  • Implementing further “point closures” to link up walking and cycling routes and prevent traffic being displaced onto other local residential streets that aren’t part of the Council’s primary and secondary distributor road network.
  • Creating a safe cycling link between Dene Crescent and Castle Farm Road along Haddricks Mill Road.
  • Continued monitoring of pollution and traffic levels on distributor roads, including Church Road / Station Road, and consideration of (i) further road-space reallocation and better crossings in line with statutory guidance and (ii) extending the proposed Clean Air Zone so it bounded by he Tyne, the A1, the Metro line and the A19 as we set out in our response to the Council’s Air Quality consultation and (iii) other traffic demand management measures to improve quality of life for residents living on local distributor roads.

We also hope the Council will also use the feedback to identify suitable topics for future communications such as:

  • Communication of objectives such as reducing air pollution and carbon emissions or making roads safer so more people will walk and cycle, and what road layout changes are likely to be needed to achieve those objectives.
  • Communication to address popular misconceptions e.g. that “point closures” will increase emissions (they don’t) or that a large proportion of traffic will displace to adjacent streets (it doesn’t).
  • Communication to explain the need to make road layout changes to direct through traffic onto distributor roads, which are safer and better-designed for higher volumes of vehicle traffic than local residential streets – and that it is neither appropriate nor acceptable to use local residential streets as alternative main road routes.
  • Case studies showing where the Council has made these changes and the benefits achieved.

A number of organisations have provided a useful summary of evidence relating to low traffic neighbourhoods, which we have referenced in Appendix A. Linked SPACE for Gosforth blogs are listed in Appendix B.

Yours Sincerely,

SPACE for Gosforth

www.spaceforgosforth.com

Appendix A Summaries of evidence relating to low traffic neighbourhoods

Sustrans
https://www.sustrans.org.uk/for-professionals/infrastructure/an-introductory-guide-to-low-traffic-neighbourhood-design/an-introductory-guide-to-low-traffic-neighbourhood-design-contents/design-guide/all/5-a-guide-to-the-evidence-around-low-traffic-neighbourhoods

London Cycling Campaign
https://www.lcc.org.uk/articles/ltns-work-new-research-shows-evidence-of-success-on-multiple-criteria

We are Possible.
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5d30896202a18c0001b49180/t/60003fabf3791928a02b707f/1610629036655/LTN+Briefing_FINAL.pdf

Transport Findings
https://findingspress.org/article/18330-the-impact-of-introducing-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-on-road-traffic-injuries

Journal of Transport and Health
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140520301626

Rachel Aldred
http://rachelaldred.org/research/low-traffic-neighbourhoods-evidence/

Appendix B SPACE for Gosforth blogs

SPACE for Gosforth has produced three blogs relating to these orders.

  1. We assessed a number of other concerns relating specifically to Stoneyhurst Road bridge in our blog “Stoneyhurst Bridge – Review of Concerns” published here: http://spaceforgosforth.com/stoneyhurst-bridge-review-of-concerns/
  2. Our blog Enabling Safe Walking and Cycling via Local Bridges is published here: http://spaceforgosforth.com/enabling-safe-walking-and-cycling-via-local-bridges/
  3. East Gosforth Streets for People – in which we propose a possible layout for a low traffic neighbourhood including the area around Stoneyhurst Road and show that closing Stoneyhurst Road Bridge to vehicle traffic would have minimal impact to most vehicle journey times. http://spaceforgosforth.com/east-gosforth-lcwip/

 

16 thoughts on “Safe Newcastle Bridges

  1. Alison Taylor

    Fully agree with this report. Very substantial and comprehensive.
    Closure of the bridges is better for everyone and for the environment.
    We live near Salters Bridge. There has been a huge improvement on our lifestyle.
    Well done Space for Gosforth and Newcastle City Council.

    Reply
  2. Emgee

    The council disguised as ‘Space for Gosforth’ replies to the council fully supporting the council proposals. Why is it no surprise.

    Reply
    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      Hi Emgee,

      We are an independent group of residents not affiliated with the Council. If you think we always support the Council look up our blogs on Haddricks Mill, Blue House or Junctions West of the City, or indeed our many blogs about air quality and lack of action to address this major public health issue.

      In this case though we do support what the Council are proposing because it aligns with evidence and best practice for how to make local streets safer for local residents as well as a whole host of other benefits. That shouldn’t be a surprise as that’s how we evaluate all the Council’s proposals.

      Reply
  3. Tony Joyce

    Very one-sided and ultimately biased towards a minority of pro-cycle groups at the very detriment of the local residents, elderly, disabled and infirm in the area. The majority is against the recent actions of tge local area (bridge closures etc).

    Fully disree with this report.
    Closure of the bridges is environmentally worse for everyone and for the environment.
    We live near Salters Bridge. There has been a huge negative impact on our lifestyle.

    Well done Space for Gosforth and Newcastle City Council for disregarding and ignoring the majority of the local population.

    Reply
    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      Hi Tony,

      You might want to read our group objectives which you can find here: http://spaceforgosforth.com/about/

      These do include cycling and also walking, accessibility, air quality and generally doing something about health issues caused by excessive amounts of traffic and lack of alternative transport options in the local area.

      We don’t advocate for the status quo, not least as it isn’t working for the groups you mention and I’m genuinely surprised you suggest it is. There isn’t a magic wand that we can wave that improves everybody’s lives together but the change to stop traffic and let people walk, cycle, scoot use wheelchairs or mobility aids on Salters Bridge does appear to be quite effective. Obviously you should put forward your own case to the Council so they can consider that alongside ours and others submission.

      Reply
  4. Lucy

    Wow – this is certainly written from a place of privilege!

    “Helping people on lower incomes because walking/cycling are cheaper than driving or the bus, including people travelling through the area & across Jesmond Dene to local employment sites.”

    Obviously poor people are so thick and uneducated that they need the council to shut bridges before they consider the possibility of walking? How patronising.

    I walk, cycle and use public transport where possible, as I have done my whole life. When people need to make econmically minded transport choices -this is usually dictated by necessity, rather than 20metres of bridge shut in a Gosforth suburb.

    In fact rather than benefit people on lower incomes this does the opposite, houses to the East are extremely disadvantaged by this bridge closure:
    Houses to the East are a mixture of flats, terraces and semi detached. The properties are also a mixture of private and rental homes. The house prices are considerably lower. Families and tennants on this side of the bridge can now expect: unsafe and unsuitable roads in poor weather, longer and stressful journey times as they wait at Matthew Bank or Station Road (without traffic lights) and most notably, delayed emergency services as large vehicles no longer have easy access to homes AND a local school. The Grove Medical group has also expressed concern at access to patients on the East.

    The residents on the East in our 6 month trial have already had – a delayed ambulance, a lorry which could not finish it’s journey, car damage from narrow terraces and a resident who only a few days ago had to have her car pushed up Dene Crescent in icy weather. And those are merely the ‘highlights’.

    By keeping this bridge closed you are benefitting a tiny handful of rich and priveleged Newcastle residents.

    How does shutting a bridge help poorer people? It doesn’t.

    Maybe it is difficult for you to see things from a different perspective? Remember not everyone is a stay at home mum or has a middle class job which can be done from a home office. Some of us have proper jobs in the real world (tradespeople/key workers).

    Please consider us on the icy days trying to get to work.

    Oh and if the council is so bothered about ‘people on lower incomes’ what about something useful like a ‘help to buy’ bike scheme?

    Reply
    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      Hi Lucy,

      I’m sure you could have made the same points without the name-calling and insults. Writing a bit of a polemic might be a bit of fun for you but doesn’t help advance any of the positions you appear to be taken.

      For example, you appear to be suggesting that the street environment doesn’t impact whether people choose to walk or not. Evidence we shared about walking in our response clearly demonstrates that the street environment does influence people’s travel choices, and I certainly don’t agree with your assertion that this is because people are ‘thick and uneducated’.

      According to Zoopla there is a three bed terrace currently for sale on Windsor Terrace for £380,000 compared to a Newcastle average house price of £210,000. Have you considered that Stoneyhurst Bridge can now be used by people including key workers who don’t have the privilege of living in Gosforth, and who were previously put off cycling by the traffic, to cycle to local employment sites?

      We are aware of Emergency Services taking the wrong route, which sounds more an issue with their internal communications than the scheme itself, so hopefully that will be resolved now. The Council have said multiple times that they are consulting with Emergency Services so they should have the best possible view on whether there has been an impact or not.

      Likewise lorries presumably used to drive along the Terraces to make deliveries so it would be interesting to know why you are suggesting that this is suddenly not possible? I’ve seen large removal lorries parked up on during the period of the trial, which are about as large as you would get for any residential street. Likewise we have explicitly checked with residents and no one we know living east of Stoneyhurst Bridge has had any issues with deliveries.

      If you are interested in cheaper bicycles maybe have a look at https://recyke.bike/about-us/ You can buy cheap reconditioned bikes and they also give away bikes for free to schools, community groups, and individuals on very low incomes including refugees and people seeking asylum.

      Reply
      1. Lucy

        I am not sure where I have ‘name called’ or ‘insulted’ anyone, perhaps you are just not used to people disagreeing with what you see as an ideal vision?

        I will respond to some of your points:
        “According to Zoopla there is a three bed terrace currently for sale on Windsor Terrace for £380,000 compared to a Newcastle average house price of £210,000. Have you considered that Stoneyhurst Bridge can now be used by people including key workers who don’t have the privilege of living in Gosforth, and who were previously put off cycling by the traffic, to cycle to local employment sites?”
        I am not sure what the relevance of the value of a lovely house on Windsor Terrace is? As I explained above there is a mix of accomodation on the East of the bridge. I live in a block of flats that houses a variety of different people and families – perhaps not indicitive of most of Gosforth.
        I really don’t think anyone was put off by a 20 metre stretch of bridge. A cylcist scared of cycling over Stoneyhurst Bridge will still have to tackle cars on Ilford or Stoneyhurst Road. Perhaps if Stoneyhurst Bridge was such an intimidating prospect they could do a Cycling proficiency test? Indeed cycling proficiency tests may be a better way for the council to spend our taxes.

        “Likewise lorries presumably used to drive along the Terraces to make deliveries so it would be interesting to know why you are suggesting that this is suddenly not possible?”
        This is because I have seen this happen – a lorry was driving towards me on Balmoral Terrace with two cars behind, I could barely squeeze by. I was later informed that this lorry was meant to be dropping building supplies somewhere on Stoneyhurst but later had to abort the journey. The terraces have cars on both sides and it really is stressful for large (or small!!) vehicles to navigate these streets without clipping cars. I really can’t imagine a fire engine using them. It just seems unfair to block off easy access to residents and large vehicles for the sake of a bridge that has pavements on both sides. Maybe double yellow lines would help nervous pedestrians feel safer?!

        “If you are interested in cheaper bicycles maybe have a look at https://recyke.bike/about-us/ You can buy cheap reconditioned bikes and they also give away bikes for free to schools, community groups, and individuals on very low incomes including refugees and people seeking asylum.”
        I actually bought my bike for £100 from them. I love them. However we need more of these as I am aware when lots of my friends tried buying bikes they were completely sold out. I think I was lucky as I am able to ride a child size raleigh! We can’t rely on the one shop in Byker. More charities like this need to be started – with help from the council. Such ventures are much more pro active in getting people fit and active, rather than this very aggressive process of shutting easy access to people who need to drive.

        On that note, as a cyclist I find the bridge unsafe. Pedestrians now meander in the middle of the road, so on numerous occasions I have nearly ran them over. It is just a rather confusing stretch of bridge with ugly bollards.

        I am a key worker (Maths Teacher) and I don’t really have much option but to drive to my school. During the snow and ice my drive to work has been extremely stressful. It really infuriates me that my only flat exit wide enough for two vehicles has been closed.

        I admire the fact people want to do more for the environment, but as I said earlier – more positive and encouraging initiatives should be used instead. It worries me that elderly or vulnerable people have complained about this closure (As have The Grove MEdical group) yet this has been ignored. Perhaps if people are worried about the school run, walking groups with high viz could be organised? More bike charities and cycling proficiency courses etc for people who are able to do so.

        Reply
        1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

          Hi Lucy,

          Cycle to Work schemes and Bikeability already do most of what you are suggesting, and the Council has previously run cycle training for adults, and I presume will do so again in future, but these aren’t sufficient in themselves to make much of a difference to cycling levels. If they were then many more people would already be cycling.

          On Ilford Road / Stoneyhurst Road I agree more can be done to make those safer, but Stoneyhurst Road bridge has already helped reduced traffic on both, which will help considerably. There are also lots of flats west of the bridge btw.

          I also agree about the Terraces being relatively narrow, although no narrower as a result of this change than before. We mentioned mitigations to help vehicles pass in our response so hopefully the Council will look at this. Stopping cars parking on street corners so bigger vehicles can turn would go a long way to help.

          Overall though, we each need to make a decision about whether we support the status quo or want to do something about it to make streets more accessible and safer for kids and older people, to improve choice for how people travel, reduce pollution etc. If you think there are better ways with evidence to support their effectiveness please do let us know.

          Reply
  5. Mark

    There is a funny definition of evidence that you use. The evidence to allow a decision to be made is this:

    Data in relation to air quality before closure and after closure in the specific location of the closure (and over long enough periods to take into account seasonal variation and the effect of COVID)

    Data in relation to traffic levels on parallel routes before closure and after closure in the specific location of the closure (and over long enough periods to take into account seasonal variation and the effect of COVID)

    Data in relation to local cycle use (not intent, but actual use) before closure and after closure in the specific location of the closure (and over long enough periods to take into account seasonal variation and the effect of COVID)

    Data in relation to objective measures of safety (not anecdotal or feeling safe) before closure and after closure in the specific location of the closure (and over long enough periods to take into account seasonal variation and The effect of COVID)

    These are objective measures – virtually everything proposed in this article is opinion or anecdote masquerading as evidence. Evidence from other areas of the country provides the rationale for a trial closure but the actual effect must be measured on site before making anything permanent if you are to say there is evidence to support closure.

    Ideally those agreeing the metrics should be in equipoise and not have a vested or ideological interest.

    When surveying public opinion, this should be done systematically so that a representative sample of the local population is provided – not Uncle Tom Cobbley and all who will not be directly affected by the closure.

    Reply
    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your suggestions for evidence, all of which are very sensible. Certainly it would be good if the government / local authorities did consider this sort of approach for traffic schemes, especially starting with the £100m+ changes that we see on major roads where actual evidence of effectiveness is less certain. Whether the government would consider it worth doing for these much cheaper minor road schemes is less sure, as they might consider it disproportionate, and delaying action on road safety especially and climate change also have consequences.

      Obviously as a community group collecting that evidence isn’t something we could do but we can summarise what evidence is available. Your assertion that your list is the only evidence that should be considered seems strange though, and I don’t agree that e.g. guidance from PHE or NICE are no more than ‘opinion or anecdote’.

      The way road design generally works is based on implementing standard approaches. So, for example, the Council doesn’t put CCTV up to measure how many people park on a new yellow line every time they put in a new one. Rather the Council relies on the fact that yellow lines have been tested before and found to be sufficiently effective.

      The approach using “point closures” is exactly the same principle. The approach is tested and proven as per the evidence and recommendations we shared. Government Statutory Guidance that the Council is implementing mentioned these as one of the standard approaches that should be taken along with e.g. wider pavements, protected cycle lanes and school streets.

      Your point on surveying public opinion is well made. We have shared some concerns with local Councillors about their questionnaire, and CommonPlace by its nature allows drivers cutting through these minor roads to easily outnumber residents who would benefit from quieter streets. Decision makers should be aware of these limitations of course when they decide on the future of these schemes.

      Reply
  6. Mark

    Sorry I don’t agree with you. NICE/PHE is as you say guidance, not evidence of positive effect.
    We need objective evidence of positive effect and an objective assessment of negative impact. You assert evidence of value for money with no actual measurement of value or cost!

    You hold a viewpoint which you support with assertions which you cannot substantiate. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but please don’t tell me that you have firm evidence of benefit without having a way of measuring that benefit. Evidence is tangible and concrete, not a feeling that things might be better. Evidence may not be without flaws, but it certainly provides a better basis for change than anecdote. You should be arguing for its collection to support your position, or perhaps you are concerned that it might prove the opposite?

    Reply
    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      When the Council install new traffic lights in Newcastle no one demands specific proof that they work at the junction in question, no one asks for Newcastle-specific vaccine trials, we don’t do Newcastle-specific tests for building codes. These, like the “point closures”, have already been proved in practice so we don’t need to go to the effort of repeating basic tests over and over, which is what I think you are suggesting.

      That said, I would be absolutely delighted if someone would undertake an academic study on these changes much like those we have referenced from other areas where similar changes have been successful. It would be great to have well-evidenced local case studies.

      What we have shared in our blog are our reasons for supporting the closure, which includes evidence that the approach taken by the Council is supported and recommended by respectable organisations like NICE and PHE. I realise that’s different to evidence of specific local benefit, but I think most people would still consider it relevant.

      Reply
  7. Mark

    Thanks for your examples, but the issue is still that you assert the presence of evidence and yet do not provide any. I am only pointing out that there is no evidence that you have provided – that doesn’t mean I don’t agree that something must not be done but we need to be sure that what is proposed is effective, does not cause harm or disadvantage and, also is acceptable to the local community.

    The reason we don’t need Newcastle specific vaccination information or building codes is because the evidence from trials or studies of these things is generalisable. The same cannot be assumed for point closures – why close these specific points and not others – would closure at other points be more effective and less disadvantageous? Some of the bridge closure may achieve the desired aims but others may not. Hence the need for proper, transparent evaluation.To extend your analogy in relation to vaccination, it is like saying that because the Pfizer vaccine works, the AstraZeneca one must also work, so there’s no need to study it. Your arguments are therefore flawed when you assert that there is evidence that traffic is reduced and there is value for money because a similar scheme elsewhere achieved the same. Also, remember vaccine trials also study adverse reactions, and if a vaccine showed evidence of efficacy but had an unacceptable adverse effect profile, it would not be approved for use. Your blog makes little mention of unintended harm. Sometimes the status quo *is* better than a change!

    I am a keen runner and cyclist. I have self-powered my commute for over three years. I am as hopeful as anyone else of reducing the amount of motor traffic on the road. I recognise the benefit of point closures, but they need to be in the right places and, most importantly, they need to take the local community with them – this requires proper, transparent consultation, not use of emergency legislation. These were meant to be trial closures – that means that evaluation is necessary – otherwise they would just be closures.

    My plea is really that you don’t produce pseudoscientific reasons to support your viewpoint – it does both you and your argument a disservice. And I agree with Emma’s point above – and also note that you have adjusted your post to remove what was a rather crass assertion

    Reply
    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      Hi Mark,

      I see where you are coming from now. If you believe these are not generalisable then yes evidence relating to similar schemes would be less relevant and it would make much more sense to require additional study, but I think you are wrong on this.

      Implementing “point closures” are part of DfT’s recommended toolkit for making streets safer. It wouldn’t make any sense for them to do that, or for PHE & NICE to recommend it unless the approach was effective in a wide range of circumstances.

      Clearly some places are more suitable than others but that’s no different to other traffic management like traffic lights, yellow lines, road widening or lane markings.

      If you think one or more of these are in the wrong place then please do suggest where you think the right places are and we can take a look those just as we have the five bridges. If there is something that works better we would genuinely welcome that.

      There were 10,000 comments on the Council’s website so they will have a good view of what people think are the positives and negatives of the closures and can use that in their decision making. We have assessed some of the concerns in previous blogs. Also if you search on ‘election’ on this website you will see we have long asked the Council to improve their engagement so people are more aware of the issues that these changes are trying to address.
       
      The blog hasn’t been updated since first published so I’m not sure what you mean by ‘adjusted your post’ unless you are referring to Lucy’s comment, but that was her words and wasn’t ever in our post to start with.

      Reply

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