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.
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.
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.
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.
[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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently a number of people have raised the issue of pavement parking, highlighting Heaton Park Road as a particular problem.
Although the pavement, particularly outside the shops, is very wide some of the area is private land and gets used by people to park cars on. These parked cars often encroach on to the public pavement causing an obstruction, putting people at risk, and making it harder to get around our community.
The obstruction means people who walk (particularly those using pushchairs/wheelchairs) find it hard to get around, and there is a risk of accidents as cars drive along the pavement looking for a space. By preventing parking on the pavements, the area would become much safer, but also be more pleasant to spend time in – which has clear benefits for both local businesses and the wider community.
The opposite side of the road (by Heaton Perk) has no parking, and is a much more pleasant environment.
To raise awareness of this issue and ensure it gets addressed in the future SPACE for Heaton have started a petition where local people can lend their voice in support of keeping pavements clear for people.