Sunday 13 October 2013

At the value of £160,000

Behavioural Change "please feel encouraged to cycle"
On 9 October 2013, I attended yet another gathering under the banner of "Policy Cabinet" meeting; this time it was about the hot potato... transport. I hear these meetings are for the decision-makers to listen and "have a conversation" (your words). I was again shocked at your lack of comprehension and compassion.

Transport, in particular, has been a one-way cul-de-sac for a long time, with a sturdy ancient ivory tower at the end of it: totally (over)ruled by the Highway Department (who say they can't do this, can't do that for "reasons"of time, space and money, excuses we all know so well). Hello, decision-makers you have to drag 'Highways and Roads' into the 21st Century and make them 'Streets and People' engineers. Make them relevant. You have to get your hands dirty in doing so. Yes, difficult decisions are to be made. Start by 'comprising car user amenity' as a former Cabinet Councillor put it and allocating road space to cycling (Cycle City Ambition Fund). There is an added complication in Newcastle, as regional capital, that car trips stem from surrounding areas... sprawly land-use planning of surrounding areas and lack of joined-up "integrated" transport. Be assertive as a capital. Look after your people first - it's our city we live in. Newcastle is not a car city.

So a second policy meeting passed by, where your people screamed for better public transport and safer convenient cycleways, more convenient linked urban mobility (all quite in accordance with your policies). I saw it again, Newcastle people care about short trips and urban mobility. Deeply.

I was particular disappointed at £160,000 worth of Chief Executive, Pat Ritchie. The only time she spoke was to announce A1 pinchpoint funding (or suchlike) had been received. There was very little understanding she demonstrated on the Spatial and Economic plan (1Plan) or transport policies such as LTP and the Cycling Strategy. You say, you were there to listen and have a conversation. Yet, I am still baffled what path you are going to take. But I presume, Pat, you 'depend' on the car. You 'need' the car. So you promote business as usual. The car. And driving. Out of self-interest and fear of change, and reluctance to take on the Highways Department and make them relevant to your city transport policies. Dear Pat, we are at a cross-roads. Get immersed in the policies, and crack on towards a liveable Newcastle with urban mobility, transport fairness and access for all at its heart. Crack the whip with the Highways folks too. What's the saying? Ah, yes. On yer bike, you £160k girl! The invite still stands.

So listen to this.

And a word of caution (repeated from the meeting): if you don't get the cycleways physically set up in parallel with the rising and rising cycling modal share... KSI figures will disproportionately increase - that's what London is telling us. Newcastle City Council, it's your responsibility now. You have encouraged and promoted and you continue to do so... now you need to build too. We are at the cusp: you must care for cycling safety or you become negligent.

space for cycling (Newcastle)

1 comment:

  1. Hey! The job of an engineer is to take a problem and find a solution and this is no different for the five of us left working in the UK.

    It is all arse about face in that we never seem to get the high level plan that we are going to make changes to the highway network to prioritise walking and cycling; it seems to more the case of "bidding" for money and then deciding what to spend it on.

    As I always say, it is all down to leadership. Without it, we are doing the proverbial into the wind!