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How Have Heaton’s Streets Changed?

The latter part of 2022 and early part of 2023 saw a lot of changes to the streets of Heaton. The end of October marked one year since the Safe Heaton trials were implemented. It also marked six months since the extension the protected cycle lanes on Heaton Road were completed.

With such significant milestones popping up on the SPACE for Heaton reminder calendar we decided to take a look at the available data to see what effect the changes have had.

Record Numbers Cycling in Heaton

The work to extend the protected cycle lanes on Heaton Road was completed at the end of April. The previously completed section that passes the shops on Heaton Road has had automatic counters recording the number of cycles passing through since May 2019. These counters give a good indication of whether cycle traffic is increasing or decreasing.

It’s important to note that the counters are in the cycle path. They won’t count people cycling on the road or people who miss the counter by joining after it. This means actual numbers could be higher.

All the indicators show that the changes have led to more trips being made by bike. In 2023 over 100,000 cycle trips have been counted on Heaton road up to the end of October. This is more than any previous year, with an average of over 330 trips per day being recorded.

Line chart showing average daily cycling trips along Heaton Road in Newcastle upon Tyne
Average number of cycle trips per day counted on Heaton Road in the last 5 years.

Every individual month in 2023 except August also saw record numbers of cycle trips made too. July and August always show a dip in numbers of people cycling on Heaton Road. This likely reflects the school holidays. A return to school in September saw numbers rebound to levels far higher than the September before the extension was completed. Even the shorter, colder days of October have seen higher numbers of cycle trips each day than any previous year.

A bar chart showing average daily cycle trips along Heaton Road in Newcastle upon Tyne by month for each of the last 5 years.
Average number of daily cycle trips on Heaton road by month for the last 5 years.

Daily cycle trips on Heaton Road in 2023 were 37% higher than their low point of 2021, which was at the hight of the Covid pandemic, and a period that saw record numbers of cycle trips being recorded across the country as a whole.

Since 2021 the national cycling index, which plots the level of cycling traffic across England against a 2013 baseline, has been decreasing slightly. Increasing numbers of trips on Heaton Road show that local numbers are going against the national picture. This could be because recent changes have encouraged more cycle trips in Heaton.

A line chart showing the national cycling index since 2011
The National Cycling Index since January 2011

For more details on the cycling index visit https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/cycling-index-england/cycling-index-england

Fewer Vehicles Passing Through Heaton

Before the cycle lanes on Heaton Road were completed the Safer Heaton scheme, aimed at reducing the amount of traffic travelling through Heaton, was implemented on a trial basis. The scheme added a number of modal filters to streets around Heaton Park Road.

Prior to the Safer Heaton trials being implemented there had been a number of long established low traffic areas in Heaton. However, the area between Heaton Park Road and Heaton Road was left unfiltered. Over time this had become a busy route for people getting to the Coast Road via Warwick Street and Heaton Road.

A map showing low traffic areas and modal filters in Heaton before October 2022.
A map of existing low traffic areas and modal filters present in Heaton prior to October 2022

There would often be long queues of traffic along Heaton Park View and Heaton Road, all the way to the Coast Road.

The video below, recorded at 5:15pm on Thursday 23rd September 2021 shows what Heaton Road often looked like before the new filters were put in and before the cycle lanes on Heaton Road had been extended. Queues of traffic would often stretch from Heaton Park View to the Coast Road.

Heaton Road on Thursday 23rd September 2021 at 5:15pm

The changes brought the area between Heaton Park Road and Heaton Road in to line with other parts of Heaton. It is still possible to access anywhere in a car, but to travel through the area people now need to use the main roads or, if coming from further afield and passing through, use the quicker routes of the Coast Road or Byker Bypass.

A map of low traffic areas and model filters in Heaton after October 2022.
A map of new and existing low traffic areas and modal filters present in Heaton after October 2022

Counting cars

There is a permanent traffic counter on Warwick Street, which gives a good indication of the number of vehicles travelling to and from Heaton via the Heaton Park Road area.

In the ten months to the end of October 2022, before the Safer Heaton changes were made Warwick Street saw almost 2 million vehicle trips, with an average number of 6538 vehicles each day using the narrow residential road. There was a roughly equal number of vehicles heading in each direction.

Since the changes were made to the streets around Heaton Park Road the number of vehicles heading in to and out of the area via Warwick street has reduced.

The ten months to the end of October 2023 saw  approximately 144,000 fewer vehicles using Warwick Street than in the same period the year before the changes were made – almost 500 fewer vehicles each day.

Plotting the weekly change in traffic volume for Warwick Street shows that for the first 43 weeks of 2023 (up to the end of October) traffic heading to and from Heaton was lower than in 2022 for all but two weeks, with data not available for an additional one week.

A bar chart showing the weekly change in traffic for 2023 against 2022 for Warwick Street in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne
The percentage change in vehicle numbers from 2022 to 2023 for Warwick Street in Heaton.

After a post pandemic rise, the daily average number of vehicles on Warwick Street has fallen for the first time in two years. This suggests that the changes made in October 2022 have had the effect of reducing traffic traveling through Heaton.

Additionally, with close to 6000 vehicles still using Warwick Street daily, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with people who need to travel to the area being able to.

Disappearing Traffic

With Traffic on Warwick Street reduced, where are people going instead? The main alternative routes from people driving from the Central Motorway to the Coast Road or west side of Heaton are the Cradlewell Bypass or New Bridge Street and Byker Bridge.

Average daily traffic levels on the Cradlewelll Bypass (measured between the Jesmond Road and Corner House junctions) have been lower in 2023 than in 2022, suggesting that that route has not been adversely affected.

A line chart showing the average number of vehicles per day on the Cradlewell bypass for the last 5 years
Average number of vehicles per day on the Cradlewell Bypass

Average daily vehicle counts on Byker Bridge saw a small rise of 0.7%, or around 150 vehicles on average per day. This is a very small amount compared to the 22545 vehicles using the route on average each day in 2022 and the increase is smaller than the decrease in vehicles on Warwick Street. The Byker Bypass saw a slight fall in the average number of vehicles per day.

Average number of vehicles per day on Byker Bridge

There isn’t a permanent counter on Heaton Road, so we will have to wait for the final reports from the Council which will hopefully contain counts from more streets for a detailed view on that. However, the queues previously seen stretching back from the Coast Road to and along Heaton Park View don’t seem to be happening anymore.

The video below was taken on the same day of they year and at the same time of day as the video above, just two years later, after the Safer Heaton trials had been implemented. The previous queues on Heaton Road have gone and Heaton Park View had very little traffic.

Heaton Road on Thursday 21st September 2023 at 5:15pm

Persistent Problems

Despite the drop in traffic, it only takes a few dangerous drivers to make a street feel unsafe. The Safer Heaton scheme does appear to have reduced traffic, and the new crossing on Heaton Park Road has made walking and cycling routes safer.

However, unlike in some areas, the new filters don’t make the area fully impermeable to through traffic. Small numbers of drivers persist in cutting through, now driving down back lanes rather than following the main roads. Drivers emerging from back lanes and not looking for people walking along the pavements or cycling along the roads is a persistent problems, and driver standoffs can sometimes be seen when people going in opposite directions are unable to pass due to parked cars and the size of the vehicles they are driving.

These issues don’t indicate the scheme has failed in any respect, and local Councillors have been working to address the issues that have arisen.

An overall success

Overall we feel the Safer Heaton scheme has been a big improvement for Heaton, and the available data shows a drop in traffic which should be celebrated.

We are keen to see the remaining problems addressed and the Heaton Road cycle lanes extended up to and beyond the Corner House junction at the earliest opportunity.

Hopefully when this gets started the evidence showing the improvements brought about by the recent work will mean progress will be quicker than it has been in the past and Heaton can get a transport network that works for all people, not just those in car.

Changes are coming to Heaton’s streets

Almost a year ago we wrote about some changes that were being proposed for the streets between Heaton Park Road and Heaton Road.

After a long wait, the changes are set to be implemented on a trial basis and temporary measures are due to be installed at the end of October 2022.

When any change is implemented there will be some disruption while people get used to it. With this in mind we have gathered together some of the most frequently raised responses when similar changes have been made elsewhere in the city and around the country.

The Council have set up a page explaining the changes, which also has a place to leave feedback on each of the interventions. You can find this at https://safeheatontrials.commonplace.is/

Read on for some of the most common questions that get asked when changes like this are made.

It’s day one and it isn’t working

In the first few days there will inevitably be some disruption as people get used to the changes and adapt their routine appropriately. People take time to adapt to any sort of change.

The real test is how the changes perform over an extended period, and monitoring should be in place to measure that.

I need to get to my house/work/shops/other location

It will still be possible to get to any location or house that it is currently possible to get to, in a car. You may need to use a slightly different route, but nowhere will be inaccessible. No roads are being closed, it just won’t be possible for through traffic to use them to go through the area.

Traffic will divert down my street instead

The most noticeable change for people who currently use Heaton as a through route will be that Heaton Park View will no longer connect to Warwick Street.

Each of the parallel streets to the south of Heaton Park View will also have a filter to prevent any remaining traffic using those streets instead.

The junction of Wandsworth Road and Heaton Park Road will be getting changed permanently (the rest are trial changes for now)and will include a new crossing so is covered by different legal orders so may be shown on different plans.

This will put more traffic on surrounding roads.

A lot of Heaton’s streets, including in the area of the new scheme, form a grid pattern. Any traffic that used the east-west streets that are being filtered came from, or went to, one of the north-south streets. Traffic levels on those streets is unlikely to increase as any traffic that previously used the filtered streets will have also used the surrounding roads before and afterwards. There may be a decrease in traffic on the surrounding roads as people driving through switch to main roads further afield.

One exception could be North View, which is a wider road with few houses that are set back from the carriageway. This is why the bus route goes that way and no longer uses Cardigan Terrace.

My journey will be longer

People traveling to or from addresses in the area may have to take a different route but this will only extend trips by a matter of metres.

People who travelled through the area from the city centre or central motorway to get to the Coast Road can use Jesmond Road, which is the same distance and time. It may appear busier, but the road and junctions are designed to move large volumes of traffic.

People who travelled through the area from the city centre or central motorway to get to areas of Heaton near Chillingham Road can use New Bridge Street or the Coast Road. The extra distance is 0.1 of a mile.

In most cases, people would need to divert off main roads to get to Warwick Street in the first place in order to drive through the area that is being improved. While there may be a perception that those routes take longer as there is more traffic on them, in reality they are designed to cope with the volume and large numbers of vehicles pass through the junctions with each cycle of the light.

Congestion will be increased / Air quality will be worse

The cause of congestion is too many vehicles. Between 2012 and 2019 there was an increase of 82,000,000 miles driven per year in Newcastle. 26,000,000 of those miles were driven in cars and taxis. There are now just under 100 000 cars registered in the city

Congestion is caused by people in cars having to wait for other people in cars going in different directions. Fewer junctions or fewer people wanting to use existing junctions eases congestions as there is less need to stop for other people.

If people feel safe on streets they are much more likely to choose to walk or cycle shorter journeys, reducing traffic overall.

Traffic levels by year in Newcastle upon Tyne
Annual Traffic by vehicle type in Newcastle upon Tyne

Inequality

Approximately 40% of households in Newcastle don’t have access to a car. People without a car still need to get about safely. Making streets safer means that there will be more options for people without cars to get around. People are far more likely to walk or cycle when they feel safe.

While disabled people have a wide range of needs the proposed changes shouldn’t make any difference to what people can currently do. Anybody who needs access to a vehicle will still be able to use one exactly as they do now, and access to all locations will still be available for all vehicles.  

In fact, quieter streets will create an improved, safer environment for anybody using a wheelchair, mobility scooter or other mobility aid to get around.

Emergency services

The emergency service have to be consulted on changes like those being made and will have told the Council about any concerns they have so appropriate changes can be made.

In response to similar changes elsewhere in the city, the North East Ambulance Service said “they [NEAS] maintain a neutral position in their response to these types of consultations but strongly support measures that seek to improve road safety and reduce accidents and injuries.”

They went on to add “Generally, Ambulances prefer to travel on main roads and enter residential roads as close to the destination as possible.”

Tyne and Wear Fire Service, in response to other similar changes in the city had a similar response and said “The Fire service’s priority is to attend an incident within the shortest time possible and leave the main road as close to the incident as possible”.

There hasn’t been any evidence from anywhere else in the country that the emergency services get delayed by this sort of scheme.

Why is my street being filtered?

Heaton has had many filtered streets for decades and there has been no campaign to change this. The latest changes simply apply the same methods to streets that don’t currently benefit from filters.

On the map below, red dots indicate existing filters and the blue shared areas show where through traffic has been excluded.

Map showing existing modal filters and the areas they protect in Heaton.

Nobody cycles, is this needed?

Firstly, the changes are not just about cycling.  By removing through traffic that could be on main roads streets become quieter and safer, which makes it much more likely that people will choose to walk short journeys – to school for example – which in turn removes vehicles from the roads and leave more space for the people who do need to drive.

The Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index 2021 found that 49% of Newcastle residents walked on five days a week and 93% of all residents walk at some point.

The same survey found that 36% of all residents cycle and 16% cycle at least once week.

The roads were built for cars so shouldn’t be filtered

Most of Heaton was built from the 1880s onwards, with the area covered by this scheme being one of the earlier areas built. This was a long time before cars were widely available. The patent for what could be considered the first car was only applied for in 1886, so it’s unlikely much consideration was given to cars in their current for when Heaton was being planned and built.

There’s plenty of photography available that shows how Heaton’s streets looked around the 1930s and 1940s which show nearby streets practically devoid of cars. See here, here, here and here.

Heaton History Group has some great photographs of what typical Heaton streets looked like closer to when they were built on their website.

One of the biggest changes of recent times is cars crowding streets that weren’t designed for them.

Safe Heaton

In November 2021 the City Council announced some proposals for trials that would hopefully reduce  traffic travelling through Heaton and improve facilities for people walking or cycling.

There are numerous proposals, focusing on the area to the west of Heaton Road and an initial consultation exercise to gather people’s views was carried out shortly after the announcements were made.

You can read about the proposals at https://safeheaton.commonplace.is/.

The SPACE for Heaton Response

As part of the initial consultation exercise SPACE for Heaton submitted a response, which you can read below.

Generally

We are supportive of these proposals, reducing through traffic from the residential streets of Heaton is one of the primary ways of making a Safer Pedestrian and Cycling Environment for all.  The concept of engagement, trial and more formal feedback gives residents and businesses a chance to try before they buy.

We hope the trial is given a fair chance to bed in and for people to adapt to the changes, appreciate the benefits and make that vital modal shift to more sustainable transport choices.

We are hopeful that although the measures are described as temporary, they will be delivered using robust and high quality materials, and wherever possible, introduce planting, street trees and sustainable urban drainage solutions.

Our feedback to the individual interventions is as follows;

  • Ouseburn Road – Closure to traffic

This is a good idea. While it’s not a busy road, many people walk and cycle along it and a car, even being driven at relatively low speeds, causes significant problems on some of the blind bends. Stopping through traffic while keeping access to the allotments is a sensible solution.

There may be potential future issues with people turning the parts of the road accessible by car in to a car park if they think they won’t be blocking the way but that can be addressed if it becomes a problem.

We’d like some reassurance from the Council that the road surface will continue to be maintained, as it would if it was still open to traffic, I.e. being swept of debris, rubbish and leaves to ensure it is safe to use all year round.

  • Warwick Street – Heaton Park View

This proposal is very welcome. This, in combination with other streets being filtered, could have a positive affect across the area beyond Heaton Park View. Stopping this being a through route could see a reduction in traffic on Warwick Street and Heaton Road too as currently it appears to be used as a route to and from the Coast Road.

For people travelling through the area, either west bound to the city centre or east bound towards the coast, there are other routes on main roads that are a very similar distance and often quicker.

For drivers on Stoddart Street, it’s a shorter route to the Coast Road sticking to main roads than it is to go through the residential streets of Heaton.

There may be very slightly longer journeys for people living west of Chillingham Road for those people who have to drive but the difference is a few hundred metres extra and the proposals may encourage some people who are capable to walk or cycle instead.

It’s likely that some car journeys made by residents will need to go a slightly different route but any extra distance will be minimal and the benefits will outweigh that.

It will also improve access to and from Heaton Park, which is currently challenging to pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Bollingbroke Street – Heaton Park View

This proposal is the one we have most reservations about, the streets to the west of Heaton Park View are already effectively filtered at Newington Road and Stratford Road junctions to Warwick Street.  This filter, when combined with the proposal for Mowbray Street has the potential to divert more traffic down South View West, Malcolm Street and on Hotspur Street.  We feel that this intervention could be better deployed on South View West, between the Elizabeth Street Bridge and Stratford Road to reduce the volume of through traffic on the last remaining route.

  • Stratford Road – Mowbray Street

We are supportive of this proposed intervention, it aligns with the Strategic Cycle Route and will make it easier to travel east/west.  It will also potentially reduce speeds on Stratford Road itself.  We’d like to suggest that the double yellow lines are extended to the full 10m from the junction, as described in the Highway Code Rule 243 to ensure clear visibility for all users is maintained at all times.

If this becomes a permanent adaption, could we have continuous footways on either side to ensure that vehicles slow at the junction and to make sure that walking and wheeling is as easy as it can be?  There are already significant drainage issues at this junction, and a lack of dropped kerbs on one arm of the junction.

  • Cardigan Terrace – Heaton Hall Road

We are supportive of this proposed intervention, as a filter on this street is required to reduce through traffic in the whole area.  However, we are slightly concerned that introducing a filter half way along the street may cause confusion for delivery vehicles etc.  It may have been better to introduce this filter at the Heaton Park View end.

  • Heaton Road – Falmouth Road

We are supportive of this proposed intervention, as a filter on this street is required to reduce through traffic in the whole area.  However there are already long-standing issues with drivers parking on the pavement build outs on Heaton Road either side of the junction into Falmouth Road.  This makes it difficult to cross Heaton Road to the bus stops.  We hope that the Council have observed these and will replace the bollards that have been lost over the years to prevent pavement parking on Heaton Road as part of this intervention.

  • Stannington Avenue

We are supportive of this proposed intervention, as the street is not wide enough to support parking on both sides.

  • School Street at Hotspur Primary School

We are supportive of this proposed intervention and look forward to the publication of further details as to how this will work.  Any physical barriers must be accessible to cyclists as the Strategic Cycle Route runs through the middle of the School Street Zone.  If the intervention is to be introduced using ANPR cameras, will this effectively introduce a residents parking permit scheme to a specific area?

There are a number of drivers who park on the pavements either side of Mowbray Street between Stratford Road and the first back lane.  This presents a clear danger to pedestrians and we’d ask that either physical barriers, such as bike stands, trees or bollards are installed to prevent this, or as a minimum the double yellow lines are extended to prevent this.

  • Heaton Park Road – Mowbray Street – Wandsworth Road

We are supportive of this proposal, it was one of the interventions developed as part of the Streets for People Project.  It will improve walking and cycling connectivity across Heaton Park Road and make it easier to travel east / west on the Strategic Cycle Route.  As with Falmouth Road, there are long standing issues with drivers parking on the private frontages to the shops in the area, often parking on the pavement itself.  We hope the proposed intervention has taken this into account.

Additional Proposals

Would it be possible to improve the permeability of a number of the historic filters?  The filter between Stratford Road and Warwick Street is OK for pedestrians, but lacks dropped kerbs and parking restrictions to enable cycling through.  Similarly the existing filter between Heaton Road and Heaton Grove could be improved to reflect the changes in practice and design as implemented on Stannington Avenue.

Implementation

We would like to see a detailed programme for the implementation of these measures.  Some are described as trial measures and some described as permanent interventions.  We are concerned that if measures are implemented one street at a time, over a number of weeks or months, drivers may find their way through the filters.  We are particularly mindful of the process to install speed bumps on Heaton Park View, where traffic was diverted down Wandsworth Road, and once HPV was re-opened, some of the through traffic continued to use Wandsworth Road.

We realise that a lot of traffic and deliveries make routing decisions based on sat navs and electronic mapping.  Will these be updated to minimise disruption at the same time?

Finally, will the Council be briefing all Council departments about these changes?  The introduction of the filter on Tintern Crescent appeared to cause issues for bin collections for a while.

Trial

Whilst supportive of this methodology of trialling the measures, we would like reassurance and visibility of the process to amend the trial if a measure is found to exacerbate problems elsewhere.  We’re concerned that through traffic may simply start to use the backlanes, or even start to zig zag through on Cardigan Terrace, Heaton Hall Road and Falmouth Road.  Can the Council reassure us that such feedback will be listened to and acted upon, if appropriate, in a timely manner?

Next Steps

Whilst these measures are welcome and we are sure will give residents the opportunity to adapt to the changes, we are keen to resolve a few other issues that are of concern to residents.  Whilst we understand that the No1 bus route is important, it does present some challenges to the residents on Warwick Street.  The majority of drivers park half on the pavement, restricting the available width for pedestrians.

Can we suggest that a future intervention could be introducing double yellow lines on Warwick Street opposite the junction of Parkville and extending the existing lines to 10m either side of the junction, would create a “passing place” for buses, allowing drivers to park fully on the road.

If the proposed filters do not see a reduction in traffic using Warwick Street then there is a further measure that might work.  The introduction of a traffic light controlled Bus Gate at the top of Warwick Street, and Heaton Park Road.  Non-bus traffic heading north on Heaton Park Road could be diverted onto Hotspur Street, and non-bus traffic heading east on Warwick Street could be diverted north onto Stratford Road.  This would significantly reduce through traffic from this street if the other measures prove ineffective in reducing traffic volumes on this street.

Heaton air quality monitors now all in one easy to access dashboard

There are a number of air quality monitors placed around Heaton and the data collected by each device can be accessed via the Urban Observatory at Newcastle University.

Now, to make it easier to find the sensors related to Heaton, we have created a dashboard to show the latest reading and readings for the past 24 hours for each of the local sensors.  Where there is a CCTV camera near a monitor that has been included to.

Each of the monitors records the levels of NO2, with most of them also recording levels of particles in the air. In addition, the monitors also record temperature, air pressure and humidity.

The dashboard shows how levels rise and fall at different times of day as levels of traffic change, the amount of sunlight increases or decreases (sunlight breaks down NO2 in to other pollutants), and the weather changes.

What’s safe? What’s illegal?

The concentration of NO2 is recorded by the sensors in micrograms per metre cubed of air (µg/m³). While there is no safe level of any sort of pollutant there is a legal target for NO2 of an annual mean of 40 µg/m³. Additionally, a 1 hour mean average of 200 µg/m³ should not be exceeded more than 18 times a year.

The Government guide to safe levels various types of air pollution can be found on the DEFRA website (pdf) along with a useful guide explaining what the targets mean in terms of UK and EU limits.

At a later date we will investigate adding the mean average values to the dashboard.

Other data

As well as the air quality monitors traffic counts and speed records collected in June 2017 have been added to the site and all the three most recent images from CCTV cameras in and around Heaton can also be seen.

View the dashboard

Visit the dashboard at https://sensors.spaceforheaton.com

The e-scooters are coming

From the 15th February 2021 it will be possible to rent an e-scooter for the first time in Newcastle. Initially Heaton won’t be covered but the scooters will be available in the city centre. The area of use may expand as the trail progresses though.

SPACE for Heaton has had a look around the app used for the trial to see how the scheme will operate.

The scheme is being run by Neuron Mobility and their app is called ‘Neuron – Escooter Sharing’ and the app is in the usual app stores (Android, Apple) .

Firstly, it’s important to note that it will only be legal to ride the official scooters on the road – riding a privately owned e-scooter on the road will continue to be illegal.

Registration

E-scooter app signup page
The registration page in the app.

To use the trial scooters, you must be at least 18 years old and have a full or provisional driving licence, the details of which are needed to sign up to the service.

Once registered, pay-per-ride costs are £1 + 18p per minute but three-day, weekly and monthly passes are available which will allow riders to ride as often as they want for up to 90 minutes per day.

Zones

The scooters utilise GPS to control the area they will work within, speeds and to incentivise parking. If a scooter is ridden outside the allowed area, it’s motor stops working and the rider will be unable to end the ride. This means that, until the scooter is pushed back into the allowed area, the rider will continue to accrue costs to their credit card.

Additionally, there are no parking zones and low speed zones and no ride zones. While you can ride in a no parking zone it’s not possible to end the ride within the zone, so if a scooter is left the user will continue to accrue charges for it.

GPS controls what can be done where.

Within a low-speed zone, the top speed of the scooter, usually 15mph, will be limited to 9mph. A no ride zone

Early indications from a test zone shown within the app suggest that, if leaving a scooter in a preferred parking zone, the rider will get a voucher towards future rides. It appears that if a scooter is idle for 10 minutes the ride will be automatically ended (unless outside the ride zone or within a no parking zone) to stop unintended charges.

To start or end a ride the phone running the app will need to have internet access, so it won’t be possible to use a device without a data connection of some sort.

The rules

The rules of riding are quite clear that the scooters should not be ridden under the influence of alcohol or any other substance, while wearing headphones or using a device of any kind (including smartwatches). As the scooters can only be ridden on the road and cycle lanes (not pavements) it’s possible that, if caught, riders could get points on their licence for drink driving so it will be worth becoming familiar with the rules before setting out and abiding by them. In addition, all traffic laws need to be adhered to as would be expected.

The scooters

The scooters themselves have built in lights and reflectors, audible alerts with voice guidance, sensors to detect crashes or toppled scooters and reasonable size wheels so they should be able to cope with small imperfections in the road surface.

A lot is made of ‘the world’s first app-controlled helmet lock’ which secures a helmet to every e-scooter in between trips. The promotional material suggests there may be financial incentives for wearing the helmet as well as responsible parking.

Each scooter also has a unique licence plate so it (and the rider who has rented it) can be identified if necessary.

Behind the scenes is a 24h response team to deal with issues and change batteries.

A promotional image of the scooter.

Final thoughts

It looks like a lot of lessons have been learned from bike sharing schemes (or scooters are just more expensive, so more effort is put in to looking after them).

The GPS enforcement of zones, speed and parking should bring a bit of order to the scheme and the signup requirements should encourage responsible riding (and make it possible to sanction to opposite).

For short journeys around the city a scooter is a far more efficient option that a car or taxi so it will be interesting to see how the trial goes over the coming year as the area of availability expands and number of available scooters increase.

It’s good to see quieter, efficient modes of transport being trialed and if it proves a success more people using scooters could help to speed up the creation of more safe, car free routes across the city that can also be used for more active modes of travel.

Walking improvements coming to Chillingham Road

The first stage of changes the City Council plan to make following Government guidance on reallocating road space to help social distancing have been announced. Changes are being made to shopping areas around the city to create more space for pedestrians to allow for more social distancing and initial details for Chillingham Road have been announced.

The initial plans show some changes and upgrades to crossings which should make it easier for people walking or cycling to cross Chillingham Road, as well as wider pavements in places and some changes to parking areas to allow pavements to be widened.

Changes will initially be made using cones and barriers but are likely to get upgraded to more permanent materials once views from people have assessed.

The plans show parking spaces for blue badge uses, wider pavements, an upgrade of the crossing near Rothbury Terrace (possibly to allow cycles to cross) and an additional crossing at Trewhitt Road. Additionally, there will be no entry or exit for vehicles to Tosson Terrace or Trewhitt Road – something that is likely to be similar to where the Avenues meet Chillingham Road.

A website has been launched to detail the changes and provide a facility where you can leave comments.

To see the changes being made to other areas across the city visit https://newcastledistrictshoppingcentres.commonplace.is

Heaton Road Cycle Lane Update

Update

After the last public consultation the the Council have put together detailed responses to a lot of the questions raised.

You can read the document on the Streets for People website.

The plans

Designs have been drawn up to extend the protected cycle lane on Heaton Road from it’s existing end point near Meldon Terrace. The extension would continue the protected lane northwards to the Coast Road. Additionally, some side roads that currently widen where they join Heaton Road will be improved to make it safer and easier for people to cross them when walking along Heaton Road.

You can view the plans online here.

This scheme continues on from the existing lanes on Heaton Road and will go to the Corner House junction. The extensions will be slightly different the the existing stretch – the cycle lane will be a t road level, separated from the pavement by the existing kerbs with a new kerb to separate the cycle lane from the road.

It is important if you support the scheme and think it will help make Heaton a better, safer place that positive responses get heard. Let your local Councillors know you’d like to see this implemented.

You can find out the email address of your councillor here, by choosing the ward you live in.

Recent newsletters from the Councillors covering the wider Heaton area from both parties show they appear keen to make progress towards a cleaner, safer environment but they are much more likely to make positive decisions if they have public backing so drop them a quick email if you like the look of the scheme.

Read on if you would like to find out about the reasons that improvements are needed and why this scheme could help make the area better.

Public Health

In a presentation to the City Council[i] in June, Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health, reported that 2 child and maternal health indicators are heading in the wrong direction, one of which is childhood obesity.

Later on, while referring to a study on how traffic effects health[ii] he said “But I would suggest that there is a growing evidence base to show that protective and health improving physical and social infrastructure may be at the heart of a truly effective approach to population health improvement.”

The presentation also had data that showed the number of children killed or seriously injured on roads in Newcastle is far higher than the national average (32 per 100000 in Newcastle against 17.4 in England, 2015-17).

The Heaton Road scheme would extent the existing Heaton Road cycle lane and bring it closer to schools that children travel to using Heaton Road. Providing a safe cycling route from Heaton and Byker to Heaton Manor and St Mary’s schools would contribute to safer physical infrastructure as well as allowing children to be more active safely, which could help reduce the occurrence of childhood obesity.

You can read the report on the City Council website. 


[i] Presentation – Director of Public Health annual report, pg 4 https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s145125/2018-19%20DPH%20Annual%20Report%20-%20Final%2026th%20June.pdf

[ii] Appleyard, D. Livable streets, protected neighborhoods. (University of California Press, 1981).

Road Safety

Automatic traffic surveys carried by the council is the early part of the Heaton Road project counted and measured the speed of vehicles on Heaton Road.

The speed survey showed that the 85th percentile was between 30mph and 31mph during the day. This means that 15% of vehicles passing the survey point were traveling above the 30mph speed limit.

With 51761 vehicles counted over a 7 day period this suggests that over 7700 vehicles were moving in excess of the speed limit across the week. Speeding traffic does not lead to a safe environment for children traveling to school. Protective infrastructure added to the street would provide a much safer environment that would allow children to walk and cycle to school by separating them from fast moving vehicles.

Northbound traffic volumes on Heaton Road

You can see the results on the traffic survey online at https://www.heatontrafficstats.co.uk/street/heaton-road

Climate Emergency

At the April meeting of the City Council a motion on calling a Climate Emergency was submitted by the Liberal Democrats and amended by the Labour Party, with the Council passing the motion (41 votes in favour and 15 against.

The Council endorsed the view that “All government bodies have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Change. It is important for the residents of Newcastle that we commit to carbon neutrality as quickly as possible;”. It also called on the government to provide powers and resources to help the council become carbon neutral by 2030.

Given that the money for the Streets for People project comes from the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition Fund, the Heaton Road scheme fits well with the Council’s current aims set out in the motion that was passed.

The full text of the motion that the Council passed can be read in the meeting minutes.

Air Quality

The Coast Road through Heaton is one of the areas that has been identified as having illegal levels of NO2 pollution. Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory have a sensor at the Corner House junction that consistently shows levels of NO2 above the legal limit.

Readings of Nitrogen Dioxide at the Corner House junction
Air quality readings from a sensor at the Corner House junction

Various suggestions have been put forward to tackle this, but they all have the aim of reducing motor traffic in one way or another.

The only way a reduction in motor traffic will be seen, is if safe, direct alternatives are provided. The proposed scheme on Heaton Road is a good step towards having safe alternatives for people travelling north-south through this area.

Additionally, studies show that children are exposed to higher levels of pollution inside cars than those outside walking or cycling.

Safe walking and cycling routes to schools could have a big effect of reducing children’s exposure to air pollution as well as going some way to reducing the number of vehicles on the road at peak times.
 If you would like to see daily updates of readings from the monitor at the Corner House follow @airheaton on Twitter. This automatic feed shares the latest readings each morning.

Air Quality Consultation Closing Soon

There is still time to submit your comments on the Council’s proposals to tackle poor air quality. The deadline is 17th May 2019

It can be quite difficult to understand what the issues are, so we have put together some thoughts after looking at the consultation information.

What is the issue?

Councils have a responsibility to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NO2) where it exceeds legal limits. The legal limit is set at 40µg/m³ average over 12 months and a number of places in the city and surrounding areas have been found to breach this.

If no action is taken the Government will impose a charging clean air zone in an attempt to reduce emissions. The Council has put forward various alternatives that it hopes will achieve reductions in levels of NO2 without the Government forcing a solution on the city.

It is worth remembering that there is no safe level of exposure to air pollution, so just getting below the legal limit doesn’t remove all risks to health.

Air quality in Heaton

We have written about the levels of NO2 measured in Heaton previously. For the month of November 2018, the Coast Road had an average value of 50.47µg/m³.

The Coast Road is one on the areas the Government has stipulated NO2 levels must be reduced.

Heaton Road and Chillingham Road had readings around 28µg/m³ measured in the same month.

More recently the average reading on NO2 for March 2019 taken by a sensor at the junction of Heaton Road and the Coast Road is 72.75µg/m³.

The graph below showing how NO2 didn’t dip below the legal average limit on any day over the whole month at this location.

Average daily readings of NO2 for March 2019

At the time of writing the full data for April isn’t available but looking at the week of April 7th – 13th at the same location the picture is no better.

Day – April 2019Reading – NO2(µg/m³)
Sunday 7th67.31
Monday 8th 85.26
Tuesday 9th97.83
Wednesday 10th90.09
Thursday 11th73.79
Friday 12th69.69
Saturday 13th64.26

What are the proposed solutions?

You can read full details of the proposals put forward by the Council on the consultation website at https://www.breathe-cleanair.com

Briefly, the main options put forward are:

Charging Clean Air Zone – this is an area that people in certain types of vehicle will be charged to enter. The proposals don’t include a CAZ covering any of the residential areas of Heaton but the Coast Road – from Battle Hill to the city centre – would be covered. To enter the zone without paying a car would need to meet Euro 6 standard for diesel and Euro 4 standard for petrol. The same would apply for vans, HGVs and buses.

The map below, from the Council shows the possible boundaries of the clean air zone.

The potential area covered by a clean air zone if it was implemented.

You can see what standard your vehicle is using this link.

A low emission zone – covering the city centre and tolls on the bridges crossing the Tyne in the city centre. Certain vehicles would be banned from a low emission zone (with fines levied against those people breaking the law) while the bridge tolls would apply to all vehicles except buses, taxis and some ultra-low emission vehicles. Private cars are not affected by the low emission zone, only the tolls.

The potential area covered by a low emission zone if it was implemented.

There are a number of smaller proposals for goods vehicles and financial support detailed on the website.

How might this affect Heaton?

Heaton isn’t directly covered by the CAZ or low emission zone but the proposed CAZ would cover the Coast Road past Heaton.

However, it’s important that any measures that improve air quality on the Coast Road don’t result in a deterioration of the air quality elsewhere.

Things to consider include: 

  • Would a CAZ improve the air quality in Heaton as well as the area specifically covered by the zone?
  • Will charging buses cause those people currently travelling in a less harmful way to be penalised unfairly with higher ticket costs?
  • By charging only some vehicles there’s a chance that more polluting vehicles are discouraged from using the road. This could reduce pollution and traffic levels. If traffic levels reduce, will the space be taken up by other vehicles that are currently discouraged due to traffic levels?
  • Will a higher number of cleaner vehicles offset any reductions gained from removing older vehicles?
  • Will a charge on the Coast Road cause more people to use roads through Heaton or use Heaton as a park and ride to avoid paying to enter the city centre, or will it bring about an overall reduction in vehicle movements?
  • Should the CAZ  cover Heaton or parts of the area to guard against any unforeseen side effects?

Thinking about bridge tolls and a low emission zone, many of the same points apply. In addition:

  • Would these proposals improve or harm air quality in Heaton?
  • Would having tolls on the bridges that are the same as the Tyne Tunnel make the tunnel seem like a more attractive options for people heading to coastal areas south of the river? If so, would this lead to even higher levels of traffic and emissions on the Coast Road?
  • Could tolls see an overall reduction in traffic, reducing levels of pollution across the city?
  • As tolls would be levied on all vehicles except buses, are they a fairer way of bringing about a reduction in pollution?
  • Would the suggested schemes encourage more use of less polluting forms of transport?

Make your voice heard

It’s important that anybody that would like to see air quality improved in Heaton, and across the city, replies to the consultation so that all views are heard. 

You can submit your views on the consultation website.

As the readings of air quality in locations in Heaton show, something needs to be done before the health of local people starts to suffer.

An open meeting about air quality

SPACE for Heaton will be holding an open meeting on Wednesday 13th February to share information about recent air quality measurements in the Heaton area.

Taking place at Chillingham Road Primary School at 7:15pm there will be a chance to see what has been recorded by monitors put up by the Urban Observatory at Newcastle University as well as see portable monitors.

There will a short presentation on SPACE for Heaton, details about measurements of pollutants taken around the area and some information about the Sense My Street project that helped get the sensors installed as well as some words from one of the Heaton ward councillors.

See the poster below for all the information. We hope to see you there.

Air Quality Measured in Heaton

Around a year ago a number of sensors that could record levels of various types of air pollution were installed in locations around Heaton in conjunction with Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory.

After a few initial problems and some calibration, the sensors have now been recording data for a number of months. One of the pollutants that has been in the news recently and is measured by the sensors is NO2.

NO2 is nitrogen dioxide, a colourless gas that is released in to the air when fuels like petrol, diesel and natural gas are burned. High levels of NO2 can cause health problems, particularly for people with asthma.

The concentration of NO2 is recorded by the sensors in micrograms per metre cubed of air (µg/m³). While there is no safe level of any sort of pollutant there is a legal target for NO2 of an annual mean of 40 µg/m³. Additionally, a 1 hour mean average of 200 µg/m³ should not be exceeded more than 18 times a year.

The Government guide to safe levels various types of air pollution can be found on the DEFRA website (pdf) along with a useful guide explaining what the targets mean in terms of UK and EU limits.

DEFRA have a more detailed guide about nitrogen dioxide that can be found on their website if you want more detail on issues facing the UK as a whole: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/aqeg/nd-summary.pdf

NO2 in Heaton

In order to see what current levels of NO2 are in the Heaton area, and establish a baseline against which future readings can be compared, we looked at the average readings for the month of November 2018. There were three sensors operational. The average readings of NO2 for the month are show in the following table.

Sensor Location Reading (µg/m³)
Heaton Road – Outside St Teresa’s school 28.07
Chillingham Road – Outside the primary school 29.78
Junction of Heaton Road, Newton Road
and the Coast Road (Corner House)
50.47

Unsurprisingly, there is quite a difference between the Coast Road and Chillingham and Heaton Roads. This is likely to be related to the difference in volume of traffic using the different roads.

Although the three monitors recorded different levels of NO2 all three showed rises and falls on the same days. This could be due to levels of traffic rising and falling across different days or other factors such as weather conditions. More data and research would be needed to pinpoint the reasons behind the peaks. However, whatever the causes are, they seem to affect the whole area simultaneously.

The following graphs show the daily average for November 2018 of NO2 recorded by each of the sensors.

NO2 readings from Heaton Road in µg/m³
NO2 readings from Chillingham Road in µg/m³
NO2 readings from the Coast Road in µg/m³

The future

At the time of writing the Council should have submitted a plan to the Government detailing what it intends to do the tackle areas of the city that currently have levels of NO2 that breach legal limits. One of these areas is the Coast Road running past Heaton.

If no acceptable solutions are produced the Government may impose a Clean Air Charging Zone (often referred to as a CAZ) on the city.

It is important that any solution created to tackle the high pollution levels in key areas don’t have a side effect of increasing the level of pollution elsewhere. This is particularly important in Heaton as any solution could move car traffic – a major source of NO2 – from the Coast Road on to other roads running through the area if not thought through.

Unintended consequences

It is not yet known what, if any, action the Council will be taking to reduce levels on NO2 but at SPACE for Heaton we feel it is important that any measures taken in one location don’t adversely affect another.

While Chillingham Road and Heaton Road don’t currently breach legal limits, measures aimed at reducing Coast Road values should not lead to increases elsewhere around Heaton, or elsewhere in the city.

What to do

If you share our concerns about air pollution in Heaton you can join us (no fees or commitment!) by visiting our signup page.

Additionally keep a look out for news from the Council about their plans and respond to any consultation it undertakes expressing your support or concerns for the proposals when they appear.

If this has sparked you interest you can find out more at our open meeting on 13th of February.

You can find links to the sensors installed in the area where you can view and download data in our previous post.