May 2021 The Borough of North Tyneside re-elected Labour Candidate Norma Redfearn as Mayor on a pledge to make the borough Carbon Neutral by 2030. This was an election that saw a strong showing by The Green Party and most candidates pledging action on the Environment.
Until now North Tyneside has worked on a pledge date of 2050, but action on the 36% percent of emissions from Transport has been slow. A 2050 target “kicks the subject into touch for a few years”, putting the onus on possible technological change and future infrastructure.
A 2030 target means taking action with huge urgency. In no sector is this more true than transport. Most significant transport projects take a decade to implement, whereas North Tyneside now has 8 ½ years. Realistically that means a lot more walking, a lot more cycling and a lot more bus ridership (some of it aimed at getting the Tyne & Wear metro used more intensively).
“This will require significant changes to the transport infrastructure, and an extensive charging network to be built to aid the uptake in electric vehicles. It is anticipated that vehicle ownership/use of private vehicles will need to decrease across all scenarios. With more people using active transport (cycling, walking, e-scooters) and public transport.” (Scenarios for 2050 Carbon Nuetral).
Even under the old 2050 target the council had already pledged to reduce car based school trips by 5% per annum (pesky kids). What seems to be needed now is a serious conversation with the boroughs residents about how much less private car use there is going to need to be on all trips, not just school.
There is nothing wrong with the Council’s action plan to reduce carbon from Transport by building cycling and walking Infrastructure. However, doing this over a shorter time period is going to come as a shock, not just for some residents but also for some politicians.
Living Streets recognise that there is a need to take the public on a journey towards more sustainable ways of living and much higher levels of walking and cycling. There is always going to be a vocal minority who resist any perceived threat to their right to drive as much as they want to. A conversation with the public needs to start now alongside showing on the ground what better streets and better neighbourhoods look like.
Since the election North Tyneside’s Cabinet appears to be beginning to look at ways forward:
But to secure national investment in active travel means a commitment to boldness and technical excellence that goes far beyond anything seen to date.