Sunday, 31 March 2013

Operation successful - data not available

It'll come as no surprise for anyone who's (even just a mild) interest in cycling, that the Newcastle Cycling Campaign has incorporated into their priorities the installation of cycling contraflows and the rationalisation of Newcastle's messy 20mph (see below depiction), and as an extrapolation for all 30mph+ roads to be fitted with appropriate cycleways as per DfT's Cycle Infrastructure Design LTN2/08 (and beyond using Danish, Dutch, Spanish, German, NYC designs). Please support them in their quest for a better city (not just better information but a totally better streetscape) by joining.

It's much harder to believe however that vital road data simply should not be available. Yet this is exactly what seems to be happening at Newcastle City Council.


The Newcastle Cycling Campaign wrote to Newcastle City Council on 14 October 2011 to ask for a list of one-way streets in the City. We explained that this request is prompted by the DfT now making the contraflow traffic sign "Except Cycles" easy to install. We also explained that the cycling community - with baited breath - had been awaiting the outcome of the DfT signs review, and how good it is to see a positive result. Newcastle, we can get cracking now, we write in October 2011.

Newcastle city centre speed limits
Newcastle's beating heart at a stroke
Of course always thinking that this information would be readily available, and depending on the number of one-way systems, we also suggested that the Campaign could help working out contraflow solutions and carry out a review.

And we outlined why looking at contraflow systems is so vital: "This is an important and positive step for cycle-permeability, convenience and route shortening. All making cycling just that little bit simpler. Let's do something now: let's start with a review of the current one-way systems and assessing the feasibility of opening them up for cycling."

Council reply 14 October 2011 : "Any list will take time to prepare so I have asked the engineers for a timescale and will get back to you".

Summarised result to date : 
  • not sure if data is available
  • after nearly 1.5 years neither timescale nor dataset have been produced


I'll start by spoiling the ending (or maybe to avoid undue disappointment to the reader) : the 20mh data request storyline does not fare any better.

Interested in learning more about Newcastle City Council's flagship road safety project - a city-wide 20mph conversion with the last and sixth phase completed early 2012, I asked in February 2012 whether mapped data showing the conversion could be made available. Incidentally a local university also turned out to be interested in the data set for their research purposes, and repeated that same request, and even met with council officers, in April. A GIS data set, or even a marked up paper map, would help.

The reply from Newcastle City Council was surprising. There was no such map, but what was available is a list of over 3,000 street names in doc and pdf formats (ie the relating traffic orders). I asked for the obvious inversion : was there a list of the 400 street names of the roads not reduced to 20mph? It would have been an easier data set to handle, still awkward but feasible. The council's answer was no.

It remains a complete mystery to me - just how the 20mph conversion could have been carried out, if it didn't start with a map as a base.

Result to date :  
  • mapped 20mph data not available

Yet it is this data which would enable a holistic view and an informed discussion to take place.

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