It’s almost a year since the wands were installed on Gosforth High Street to assist social distancing and to make it easier to walk or cycle. In that time we’ve all had a chance to experience Gosforth High Street differently, and to see what an alternative layout could look like.
The changes were implemented at short notice following an urgent instruction from the UK Government, which told authorities to reallocate road space including widened footways, new protected cycle lanes and ‘modal filters’ like on Salters Bridge, Castle Farm Road and Stoneyhurst Road.
For that reason we should not expect the High Street layout to be perfect or look pretty, but we can take a view on what has worked and what has not. In this blog we look at seven ways in which Gosforth High Street has been improved.
1. It’s Safer
Based on traffic collision data, Gosforth High Street is substantially safer since the wands were installed than it has been for years. Between 13 August 2020 and 30 March 2021 there were two slight injuries between Elmfield Road and The Regent Centre. In the four previous years the average over a similar period was seven injuries, with one of those being serious.
Two injuries over eight months is still significant though. Possible additional measures to improve safety might include pedestrian priority at side roads, raised crossings, permanent protected cycle lanes and extending the single lane northbound and 20mph up past Gosforth Academy.
2. It’s Easier to Cross
Crossing two lanes is easier than four. While this might not seem like a big thing, we’ve heard many people say that crossing the High Street used to be dangerous due to buses and other large vehicles blocking the view of vehicles travelling in the outside (middle) lane.
3. It’s More Pleasant to Walk
Whereas buses and other large vehicles used to squeeze into the narrow lane next to the pavement, now there is a gap between the pavement edge and passing vehicles.
The photo below, taken before Covid, shows how close buses got to the pavement, sometimes travelling at up to 30mph or more with wing mirrors practically overhanging the pavement itself.
This also allows a bit of a gap to reduce noise and allow exhaust fumes to dissipate.
4. Cycling from Hollywood Avenue to Christon Road
The section between Hollywood Avenue to Christon Road was previously the weakest link, and the only paint-only section, of the Great North Road cycle route from Brunton Lane to the City Centre via Moor Road North and South. With the addition of the wands to stop vehicles encroaching on the cycle lanes many more people can use this route.
This section of road is also the route to school for many of the 2,000+ school children who attend Gosforth Academy and Gosforth Central Middle School. They deserve some consideration in how this road is designed to enable them to travel to school in safety. This would reasonably include better crossings, wider pavements and permanent protected cycle lanes. Extending the 20mph speed limit would also be beneficial, as has been announced for other Newcastle schools.
5. Cafe Culture
Look hard enough and you will find quite a few areas just off the High Street that used to be used for parking that have been turned into outdoors seating. This one below looks onto Gosforth Central Park.
We hope these can be retained permanently.
6. Cycling from Elmfield Road to The County
While cycling provision on Gosforth High Street as a whole is still poor, the section from Elmfield Road to The County is much improved with the wands preventing vehicles from encroaching onto the cycle lanes.
We also know from evidence elsewhere that adding protected cycle lanes along retail streets is likely to be good for business. If the wands were replaced by something more permanent it would also be possible to remove the existing bollards to widen the pavements.
7. Less Stressful to Drive
Just having one lane also makes driving along Gosforth High Street less stressful, and doesn’t make any real difference to journey times as it is junctions rather than the number of lanes that constrain journey times.
We know air pollution is no worse than in previous years and most likely will be slightly improved, but we haven’t included it in the list of improvements as we are still waiting on official measurements to see how 2020 compares with previous years.
NO₂ at Gosforth High Street yesterday (27-07-2021)
24h Average: 39.91 µg/m³
7 Day Average: 30.54 µg/m³ pic.twitter.com/yrsMxWezZr
— AirGosforthHighSt (@AirGosforthHiSt) July 28, 2021
Still a Work in Progress
While it’s not perfect, the changes have demonstrated that Gosforth High Street can be improved from what it was, for all users not just those who drive through without stopping.
Of course if we are talking about improvements then we need to say what is it we are trying to improve. For example…
- How could Gosforth High Street be made more attractive so more people want to come and spend their money?
- What’s needed to enable the greatest number of people to travel to the High Street without making air pollution even worse?
- How can we make it safer for children to walk or cycle to local schools, either with their parents if younger or independently?
If you think there are better questions though, please let us know via the comments below.
Newcastle City Council Update – 28 July 2021
Newcastle City Council have made the following announcement which can also be read here.
Some amendments are being made to the Covid measures on Gosforth High Street and Great North Road
Some amendments are being made to the scheme, work will start on 2nd August 2021:
- Social distancing measures on Gosforth High Street in the main shopping area to be largely retained.
- Withdrawal of any existing or intended measures southbound towards Hollywood Avenue.
- Removal of existing restrictions south of Hollywood Avenue to restore 2 running traffic lanes southbound towards Church Road. This means that car lanes will still need to merge after Christon Road as the bus lane remains.
- Cycle lanes in both directions will be retained and protected by wands to facilitate cycling whilst public transport capacity is reduced.
- At the Church Road junction, there will be 2 lanes on the southbound side, one left only into Church Road and one straight on. Buses can go straight on from the inside lane and the social distancing measures outside the Queen Victoria pub will be removed to facilitate the merge south of the junction.
- The former right turn pocket into Salters Road will not be reinstated yet.