Supporters of a pioneering seafront cycle-lane have made an 11th hour appeal to North Tyneside Council to save it after submitting a petition calling for the facility to become permanent topped 5,500 signatures.
The 2 way cycle-path was introduced in July as a Government-funded Coronavirus emergency measure to support active travel and social distancing.
Campaigners have questioned why councillors are planning to remove the three mile route when Coronavirus cases are rising.
They say the project – dubbed Sunrise Cycleway by supporters – has enabled more people safely pedalling and walking the coastal strip from Tynemouth Priory to Spanish City.
They warn that a council plan to scrap the project on November 2nd would make it harder for local residents to exercise and travel healthily and undermine the fight against air pollution and climate change. More than 1,000 people signed the petition in the fortnight since the Council announced that they would remove the trial.
John Hodgson, the petition organiser, said “I have lived in Whitley Bay for more than 35 years and the cycleway along the seafront is the best thing that happened to the coast. When I realised that this was a trial, I started the petition to gather support and keep it. It is absolutely fantastic that thousands of people including 2,000 North Tyneside residents have signed it over the last 4 months. We are now asking for the petition to be presented and debated at a full council meeting. It is part of the democratic process.”
Alison Stenning from Living Streets North Tyneside, said “The space created for all – walking, cycling, scooting, wheeling, running and more – to safely move along our seafront in these tough times, with social distancing, has been remarkable. We know that thousands of people have been using the cycleway, and not just for leisure trips. They use it for commuting, for getting to school, or running errands and visiting friends and family in our coastal town and village centres, often spending money in the local businesses. It’s a boost for the economy, and for people’s mental and physical health when we need it most. We also know the pavement and the cycleway remain busy now, at a time when being able to meet friends and family outdoors is real respite. The cycleway was a bold intervention which we commended – it should stay.”
The local group is calling for more openness and transparency in the reporting, use of data and evidence and decision-making process. They will be following this up with a question to Mayor Norma Redfearn at the November’s Council meeting.
Doctor Sian Williams, a local GP who lives next to the cycleway, is a signatory of an open letter from NHS staff calling for the cycleway to remain. She said:
“We are in the middle of a pandemic and this is clearly the wrong time to be removing a cycleway that encourages cyclists and pedestrians to improve their physical and mental health.”
“If the one way system and segregated cycleway was removed, the speed and volume of traffic along this section of the coast would put off many potential cyclists – including school-age children who now use the cycle lane regularly.”
Billy Ward, Whitley Bay resident, said: “The council showed real ambition by creating a pop-up protected cycleway along the sea front from Whitley Bay to Tynemouth. I live on the route and every day and I can see lots of people using it, not your usual cyclists, but plenty of kids, families, teenagers and older folks too. It also created a much better environment for people on foot. It’s quieter and safer; the reduction in motorised traffic and cars speeding has been extraordinary and much welcomed by all my neighbours. We are devastated by the Council’s decision to rip it up.”
The petition states that “cycles using the pavement on this route have caused frequent conflict between cyclists and pedestrians putting both at risk: separating the two would make it safer for both. The scheme offers huge benefits to public health, the environment and road safety and offers a sustainable solution for future generations. The dual cycle lane is attracting thousands of cyclists, young and old, to this beautiful stretch of coastline, helping tourism and local business in the process. These improvements are particularly welcome at a time when Covid 19 highlights the need for healthy open spaces. In an era of air pollution, obesity and climate change, we urge North Tyneside Council to have the vision to back this as a permanent change.“
Living Streets North Tyneside is an inclusive organisation which campaigns to make walking, cycling and wheeling in North Tyneside safer and easier for people of all ages and abilities. Living streets are places where people, not cars, are prioritised and where the street is a social place that allows neighbours of all ages to meet and play.