Monday 31 December 2012

Mixed messages

No cycling in the centre of NewcastleNorthumberland Street is Newcastle's main shopping street. It was, under much opposition from retailers, pedestrianised in the late 90s. It's now hailed a great success by everyone. And I mean everyone.

Yet something weird is going on on Northumberland Street. Too much of this, and too little of the other. What is it? Let's take a look.

Too little...

Cycling isn't allowed on Northumberland Street despite it being the only safe route through the city centre on the North-South axis.

Campaigners have long argued that council should ditch its discrimination and permit cycling - at the very least out of shopping hours. Other cities can do it (my hometown does) so why not here? Start with a trial.

Or may cycling actually be allowed already? Or what does 'cycling forbidden' plus 'no cycling' mean?

Too much...

What really compounds the silliness is the permission of - not just street sweepers but - large delivery and service vehicles being driven through the pedestrian masses - at all times - despite a sign saying it's not allowed during shopping hours. The council - in its sheer and utter wisdom - appears to have failed applying for the right traffic orders at the time (and are trying to rectify that now, years later).

And some snow tracks here to reveal the extent of the problem:

Northumberland Street - silly

Latest plans seem to suggest that an alternative route will be developed in the short term, and John Dobson Street is council's favoured choice.

Ok, then. I ask: when? When will we be able to safely cycle through Newcastle?

In the meantime maybe this is the sign bike folks are advised to follow:



  1. Those tracks in the snow show just how much traffic is already using Northumberland Street

  2. Those tracks in the snow also show something else: because the street is pedestrianised, they aren't going to bother gritting or ploughing it.

    On the topic of cyclists in pedestrianised areas, if you want to change it you will likely have a powerful enemy in the form of the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity. They have fought very hard to have cyclists prohibited in Woking town centre on the grounds that blind and partially-sighted people fear cyclists more than they fear motor vehicles, presumably because they can't hear them coming or that they are otherwise in unexpected places. Or maybe it is just that like most people in the UK they just accept the inevitability of motor traffic and are hostile to cyclists generally. In any case, they have a significant number of staff working full-time on this issue around the country. I believe other sight-imparied charities do similar - the Macular Disease Society for example has been opposing cyclists in pedestrianised areas of Cheltenham (or is it Gloucester?)

    They do have some principled objections of course. If you refer to their website you will find that they oppose "shared surface streets" such as Exhibition Road, because the lack of tactile clues to which bits are road and which bits are footway are especially hazardous to the sight-impaired.

    If you want to get it changed you will probably have to engage with them, and I guess that probably means doing so positively, at least until you see how the land lies.

  3. Newcastle don't need to look far to the south to see an example of bikes being permitted in a pedestrianised area without any issues...

    1. Re Darlington - yes it needed a campaign and several studies to achieve. Glad they decided the right sensible way.

  4. John Dobson Street, yeah, that's a nice quiet street!

  5. The sign at the top right actually means no no cycling, they can't even get the signage right :P