“Crap” Cycle lanes increase the toxic fumes on Gosforth High Street, Newcastle and scarcely any cyclists! UGH

THIS IS AN UNHOLY MESS! Not the only one.

Gosforth High Street is a section of the main arterial road that starts at the main bridge over the Tyne, bypasses the city centre, going North with Jesmond to the East of it and the Town Moor to the West.

 Before it heads North, when it passes through the shopping centre for Gosforth, it is known as Gosforth High Street. It is so narrow at this point that when a local trader measured it for me, he said that the width of four bus stops was wider than the width of the road.

Congestion here is chronic, partly because it is narrow, partly because it is the main arterial road for buses, emergency vehicles and vans, lorries, and cars, and partly because it supports the shopping centre for all the amenities that are there with vans and security vehicles regularly loading and unloading there. There are banks, building societies, estate agents, cafes and restaurants, a busy hardware shop, travel agents, charity shops &c.

 Prominent on Gosforth High Street is Trinity Church that has had over £1m spent on it making it a hub for 78 different organisations in the city. Its own car park holds only about a dozen cars. Many organisations have evening meetings in Trinity Church, including the one I used to chair – the Tyneside Decorative & Fine Arts Society, now known as the Arts Society.

 There are over 5 “green men” pedestrian crossings creating three real and unavoidable bottle-necks > one a traffic light-controlled crossing at St. Nicholas’s Avenue where the cars enter and exit the large 160 car park above Gosforth’s Shopping Precinct that includes Sainsbury, Boots and W H Smith > one a bus stop on both sides of the road for diesel buses serving twelve bus routes running North of the city, > and one at the Northern end of the High Street controlling access to a major crossroad adjoining the Salters Road car park. (The picture above) ”

 In 2014 the Council had this plan designed by the cycling charity, Sustrans:

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 They consulted the public with drawings of the future and a choice of sorts. Their choice.

What they lacked in accuracy, Sustrans compensated for with their megawatt imagination and their design flair. Measure National Cycling to Work Stats for Newcastle 1,781 in 2001 up to 3,223 in 2011 against their forecast of 1,232,177 additional cycling rides. The cycling lobby’s role in all this and their vision a closely guarded secret.

At the time the project manager sent me an email saying “The current cycling figures are lower than we would like, and these changes will help increase the numbers of cyclists using the junction and the high street. Currently, there are less than 1000 cyclists a day using the High street, but we want to see that grow so that 20% of all trips in Newcastle use this mode. Given that 30,000 vehicles use the Great North Road per day for return trips then it is not unreasonable to see that figure grow to 3 or 4 thousand return trips by bicycle.” <my underlining>A local estate agent commissioned a check on the number of cyclists using the High Street. The figure he came up with – 70, some probably on return journeys.

I have nothing against cyclists – I used to cycle to school, and I cycled at University – but I do not share the belief of Sustrans and others that once you provide cycle lanes, some positive encouragement to cycling and some real discouragement to motoring, outside London, Oxford and Cambridge significant numbers of motorists will abandon their cars for a bicycle. The weather, narrow, congested roads including potholes, and above all the risk of serious injury work against it.

The main hope to get clean air must now be to accelerate the purchase of electric vehicles.

I shall now try to make what was a long personal experience as short as I can.

It is now easy to get a clear picture of the real world the Council and Sustrans had in mind in the first half of the decade. In 2020 Covid-19 struck with a worldwide pandemic. The Government thought it would help if more people could cycle instead of using public transport. They paid local authorities to facilitate that. Newcastle was happy to oblige with the plan they had had some second thoughts about. No red lines, just bollards designating the cycle lanes on Gosforth High Street. Some recent photographs illustrate it. Imagine “3 or 4 thousand return trips a day” by cyclists using them.

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 Initially, the cycle lanes were intermittent on the western side of the High Street with cyclists having to cycle in the traffic or on the pavement on the eastern side. I saw both. This may be the shortest cycle lane in the UK on the eastern side.

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Then they squeezed some more cycle lanes on the eastern side, again intermittent. Most recently they then designated some, as above, pedestrian walkways, leaving others, largely unused, as cycle lanes.

You can see a number of things. The narrowness of the cycle lane. The bus parked in the traffic lane with pedestrians having to cross the cycle lane. (I underlined in my description of the High Street.) The cause of the long tailback, with slow-moving traffic now generating even more poisonous toxic emissions than they normally would; as scientists keep saying, shortening everyone’s lives.

You now have the worst of all worlds. Slower traffic, more pollution, some very narrow largely unused cycle lanes and now a few pedestrian walkways as well. The few cyclists there are do not usually use the cycle lanes.

Here opposite sides of the same part of the High Street. The top photograph shows a cycle lane recently converted into a short pedestrian walkway. The bottom photograph shows a cycle lane converted into a pedestrian walkway, and if you look closely you will see a cyclist directed with road markings into the traffic lane with its tailback, inhaling poisonous emissions.

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Travelling South.

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 Look at the cyclists who will be inhaling toxic fumes

Travelling North

 You now have the worst of all possible worlds for absolutely everyone. And scientists say fumes shorten lives. Compare and contrast these pictures with the drawings provided in the 2014 consultation, artistic licence there was truly imaginative.

And nobody knows – nobody asks A & E – the true figures of serious accidents to cyclists. “Although the number of deaths is accurate, there could be two or three times as many seriously injured cyclists and double the number of slightly injured. RoSPA and the DfT get accident stats from incidents reported to the police.

And an accident waiting to happen here if a third cyclist comes along.

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The local Labour candidate writes “we can build on one of the very few positive impacts of Covid-19, namely improved air quality …for a greener Gosforth”. UGH

After he died, at the Wake, “Would someone be saying a good word for Patrick?” Long silence. “His brother, Michael, was worse.

The £18m spend in a period of austerity on John Dobson Street, Newcastle, known locally as a “skateboard park“, was worse than the above.

The South of England is another story.


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