Traffic counts and speed surveys

As part of the Streets for People project that has been running for the past year or so the City Council commissioned a number of traffic surveys on various roads in the Heaton area.

The surveys were carried out from Monday 5th to Sunday 11th June 2017 and is most cases recorded the number of vehicles in each direction and the speed vehicles were travelling at.

You can see all the data from the surveys at www.heatontrafficstats.co.uk

A lot of the results are not that surprising but there are some interesting points when the data is looked at closely. For example, the highest volumes of traffic are in the morning and evening peaks with traffic tending to be highest travelling westbound (towards town and the Central Motorway) on the morning and eastbound in the evening but there are streets that vary from the norm.

High volumes of traffic on residential streets

Some of the figures do raise some cause for concern. Warwick Street is a residential terrace the same size as most of the other streets in Heaton. The historical layout of the area has contributed to Warwick Street being used as one of the main routes to and from Heaton from the west. Now around 8000 vehicles are using the street each day which will contribute to high levels of noise and air pollution compared to other terraces in Heaton.

Despite any vehicles heading towards the city centre or Central Motorway having to end up on New Bridge Street or Sadyford Road, Warwick street appears to be favoured by commuters heading west. On one day during the survey period 150 vehicles were recorded in a 15-minute period travelling towards town, a level of traffic that would be unacceptable on most narrow, terraced streets.

Speeding Drivers

The survey data also highlighted the prevalence of speeding drivers on Heaton’s streets. Speed data was reported as average speeds along with the 85th percentile – the speed at which 85% of drivers were travelling at or below.

Speed data collected on Heaton Road, a street with a 30mph limit shows the 85th percentile as just above the 30mph limit from 6am until midnight each day. While this means the majority of drivers are travelling at or below the limit at least 15% are breaking the speed limit every day.

Of the 51761 vehicles passing the count point during the 7 day survey period the data suggests that around 7500 drivers were breaking the speed limit.

Through traffic

Many of the streets at the south end of Chillingham Road were closed to through traffic many years ago. However, cross street between Heaton Road and Chillingham Road further north remain open and appear to suffer from high levels of through traffic. There is a big imbalance between east and west bound traffic with the number of vehicles travelling towards the city centre and Central Motorway far exceeding those traveling in the other direction. This could be because people perceive cutting through the residential streets is quicker than remaining on the Coast Road when heading west in the morning.

On Cartington Terrace for example the morning peak sees between 74 and 104 vehicles in an hour westbound with between 38 and 48 eastbound. However in the evening peak when it could be expected to see the numbers reversed there is still more traffic going west than east.

The table below shows the difference between traffic in each direction on Cartington Terrace.

Day Eastbound Westbound Total
05/06/2017 549 827 1376
06/06/2017 573 900 1473
07/06/2017 546 847 1393
08/06/2017 587 861 1448
09/06/2017 592 886 1478
10/06/2017 396 481 877
11/06/2017 366 511 877
Alexandra Road House Access
The area of houses that can only be accessed by Alexandra Road

Alexandra Road is another street that appears to suffer from a lot of through traffic.

There are around 147 houses that can only be accessed from Alexandra Road with a few more that need it for rear access.

The total number of vehicles using Alexandra Road each day

However the street sees over 900 vehicles using it each week day and, like Cartington Terrace, many more travel west the east.

 

 

 

The full count and speed data, broken down by hour of the day can be seen at www.heatontrafficstats.co.uk. The raw data can also be downloaded from the Streets for People website.

SPACE for Heaton and Sense My Street

SPACE for Heaton has joined forces with Newcastle University to find out more about the air quality in Heaton. You can watch a short clip from the BBC about the project below.

We hope to publish our findings soon so that we can begin to understand what the air in Heaton is like and what can be done to improve the quality of it and safeguard clean air for the future.

Read the press release from Newcastle University about the project below.

 

Local communities tap into the UK’s largest urban data set to find out how polluted their street is.

Sam, Jenny and Fergus Whittaker test the air quality on their way to school

Residents concerned about the air quality around their homes and schools are taking control and testing the pollution levels themselves.

Using static air pollution monitors and hand-held sensors, the ‘SPACE for Heaton’ group, in Newcastle, is testing the air quality around their local area – including their three local schools – to find out exactly how much pollution they are being exposed to on a daily basis.

Carrying out the testing as part of Newcastle University’s Sense My Street project, data collected will be fed into Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory – the UK’s largest set of real-time, urban data.

This will provide a baseline against which the Heaton residents can compare the pollution levels along their own street with the average for the area.

Power to the people

Aare Puussaar, a doctoral researcher in Newcastle University’s Open Lab in the School of Computing who is leading the project, said:

The aim is to give communities the power to gather data relevant to issues that are important to them at a very local scale.

“This could be anything from air quality and noise to localised flooding or the volume of traffic through the area.

“What makes this project possible is the Urban Observatory which provides us with a reliable source of baseline data against which local data can be compared. Through the Sense my Street project, the public is in charge – identifying the areas which they believe to be pollution hotspots, gathering the evidence and driving change.”

Mark Nelson, who leads the SPACE for Heaton group and is cycling to and from work with an air monitor, said their big concern was air pollution in Heaton following the implementation of the council’s city centre Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).

“The AQMA has been introduced which stretches along Jesmond Road to Heaton Road,” he explains. “We are really supportive of the scheme and are working closely with the council on the Streets for People project which is all about improving the areas for walking and cycling.

“But it’s a really busy area and the traffic still has to go somewhere. Our concern is that it will all just shift to going through Heaton in future and that air quality in the area will plummet.”

“This project is allowing us to gather that data and find out exactly what the impact is.”

Hospital consultant and mum of three Julie Whittaker, who lives in Heaton and whose children attend St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, is one of the residents who has been taking part in the project. She and her children – Fergus, Jenny and Sam – have been collecting pollution data on their way to school.

“There are seven schools in this small area and that creates a huge amount of traffic in the morning and afternoons,” she explains.

“Ultimately, what we’d like are dedicated cycle lanes so that all our children can safely cycle to and from school. This would not only reduce the number of cars on the road but also improve our children’s health both in terms of reducing the air pollution but also getting them out of the cars and exercising.

“But to push for this we need the facts and figures to back it up. Through the Sense my Street project that’s exactly what we’re doing, gathering the evidence we need to hopefully make a case for reducing traffic and pollution in Heaton.”

Open data for the city

The Sense my Street project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is just one data set that is being fed into the Urban Observatory – a ground-breaking project that monitors Newcastle and Gateshead at multiple levels such as temperature, wind flow, air pollution and traffic.

Funded by Newcastle University and UKCRIC – the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities – the observatory is based in Newcastle University’s Urban Sciences Building on Science Central.

Data from hundreds of sensors is fed into this central hub that is openly available on the internet.

Led by Newcastle University in collaboration with Newcastle City Council and other partners, the aim is for the data to be used by planning authorities, infrastructure operators, emergency services and community groups to help them make better informed decisions about how conditions in the city could affect them.

“There is a wealth of data available in our cities and since it was established in 2015 the Urban Observatory has recorded more than half a billion observations about conditions in the city centre,” explains Phil James, who co-leads Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory research.

“But the Science of Sensing at scale is still little understood and now we’ve captured this data we need many people to get involved in using it to help deliver the cities of the future that communities want.”