North Tyneside Council’s plans for an enhanced cycle network include provision on two key routes into and out of North Shields – Preston Road, which leads north to Beach Road and John Spence School, and Tynemouth Road, which leads east to Tynemouth. Both routes are important connections for those living, working, visiting and going to school in North Shields, and it’s very welcome to see these as a part of the council’s plans.
Preston Road, in particular, is a well-used route, linking up the Beach Road cycle paths which lead inland to the Coast Road and east to the sea, with links to The Broadway. It’s a notoriously bad stretch of road for cyclists, especially the many teenagers who use it to get to and from John Spence School. There are dozens of reported and prosecuted close passes on this stretch.
On both roads, significant stretches are planned as segregated on- or off-road paths, offering cyclists good, safe routes – though there are some questions to be asked about what ‘light segregation’ means in places (white paint on the road?) and about how the council plans to manage the transitions and junctions safely.
Our concerns lie with the sections of each of these routes that are planned along pavements as shared paths. Importantly, as a campaign for walking and cycling, in principle Living Streets doesn’t believe space should be taken away from pedestrians (rather than drivers) to be given to cyclists – or that pedestrians and cyclists should be put into conflict with one another. Moreover, the government’s key design principles, set out clearly in their Gear Change vision, state that cyclists “must be separated from pedestrians” and “must be treated as vehicles, not pedestrians”. We also know that pedestrians don’t like shared paths – look at the experience along the seafront on NCN1 – they annoy everyone, apart from car drivers.
We understand, of course, that planners aren’t always dealing with ideal scenarios or unlimited budgets, but in the two cases here, we have real concerns about the mixing of cyclists and pedestrians on key sections of these vital routes.
On Preston Road, the plan is that the pavement on the eastern side of the road is shared by cyclists and pedestrians between Preston Avenue and the junction with Albion Road. This means that the busy pavement outside The Gunner, Scott and Wilson, and the One Stop Shop, and the narrow stretch leading past Haswell Gardens and Christ Church are shared. This would bring cyclists into conflict with pedestrians, shoppers, pub and cafe customers, churchgoers, and schoolchildren going to and from John Spence, King Edward and Christ Church Schools, and lead to a direct conflict with pedestrians crossing the brand new zebra at the junction with Alma Place.
It’s not clear from the plans if the council intends to widen the pavements along these sections and take some space from the road to create more space for cyclists and pedestrians, nor if they intend to segregate the footpath at all. Importantly, if the council were prepared to take the bold step of confronting the issue of on-road parking between Alma Place and Queen Alexandra Road, and between Trevor Terrace and Preston Avenue, then it might be possible to create space for a segregated on-road cycle route on this whole section. There are thousands of schoolchildren who would benefit from this, but who otherwise will find themselves in conflict with those walking along Preston Road.
We also have concerns about what happens further north on Preston Road, especially outside Pearey House for the Visually Impaired; we’d like to ensure that residents and staff there, who use this route to access North Shields town centre, have been consulted and are confident that the plans won’t make their lives trickier and more dangerous. And we’d like to see the detail of the junctions, roundabouts, and transitions between on- and off-road routes, to ensure that they are safe enough for the least confident and experienced cyclists.
On Tynemouth Road, our particular concern is with the stretch between King Street and Washington Terrace, where pedestrians and cyclists are again expected to share a narrow pavement, on the south side of the road.
Not only does this go against key principles, but this particular stretch of Tynemouth Road is home to two garages, a car wash, and two timber yards, each of which has an access point across the pavement, well-used by cars, vans and even lorries. There are also two side roads. We can not see how this could be negotiated safely and confidently by parents cycling with children, those on trikes or cargo bikes, or simply those who are less experienced cyclists. There has to be a better (or less bad) solution here – confronting the tricky issue of on-road parking, taking the route briefly onto a quieter and safer road such as Grey Street, or even using the northern pavement instead (though this is likely to create more conflict with pedestrians).
Finally, we’d raise questions about the link between these two routes – at the moment, the plans direct cyclists through North Shields town centre and around Northumberland Square, into conflict again with pedestrians in, as we flag in our town centres post.
A link along Albion Road to join the Tynemouth Road route outside the law courts (marked in green in the map above) would offer cyclists on obvious, direct, and connected route from Preston Road to Tynemouth Road; the government’s Gear Change document again underlines how routes must join together, feel direct, and reflect how cyclists would choose to travel.
It seems the challenges for Preston Road and Tynemouth Road are very similar: should the council build these vital routes with sections that are potentially conflictual and dangerous, or should it just build the sections that can be built now to appropriate standards, or should it concentrate on other routes for now, until it can resolve the issues that prevent a decent, safe cycle route the whole way along these two key roads?