This morning the Department for Transport and Active Travel England released details of the next wave of central government funding for walking and cycling, including amongst other things the North Tyneside Sustainable Seafront scheme (see this blog post and others for our views on the plans previously proposed).
We see this as fantastic news but we’re keenly aware that there are still a lot of people in North Tyneside who don’t see this as being for them. Let’s be up front, there are many of our neighbours who can’t or don’t ride a bicycle, or even walk much day to day.
Why should this matter to them as anything other than streetworks and inconvenience? The answer comes in two words:
North Tyneside is signed up to clean up its act on air quality and carbon emissions. Transport makes up around half of the change that we need to see alongside things like more energy efficient homes. We already know how many electric cars we will see over the next decade and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the challenge we face. With rail transport projects taking decades to deliver this means three things: buses, bikes and walking.
Using this funding in North Tyneside doesn’t mean we all need to embrace these sorts of changes, some of us can’t. But we need streets that enable your neighbours, cousins, nieces, nephews to all collectively make a few more trips without burning oil. You personally don’t need to make this change, but you do need to sign up to streets that are a lot safer than they are today.
Fairness is about being prepared to accept that your neighbours and visitors in North Tyneside deserve a fair amount of space when walking around the borough. Change on the seafront means making sure that people walking along our beautiful coast don’t have to put up any longer with a situation where one pavement on one side of the street crams in pedestrians and cyclists, whilst three-quarters of the street is allocated to motor traffic, parked and moving. The council’s plans aren’t just about cycling – they’ll make it much easier and much safer to travel to and along the seafront for those walking and wheeling too, with lower speed limits and multiple pedestrian crossings.
We need to treat people with respect whether they own or run a car or not, whether they are out for a stroll, walking to work, or cycling to school. And let’s not forget, around a third of North Tyneside households don’t have access to a car at all.
Is the council going to get all of this perfectly right first time? Of course not. There is a steep learning curve to go through which will be painful at times. Behind closed doors North Tyneside Living Streets are at times quite critical of our council and how it does things. We’ve fought hard to prevent new shared use footway/cycleways being built in North Tyneside and for better quality street designs to be adopted.
On Sunday Kidical Mass will ride the Coast and give just a little taste of how things could be. A fairer, greener coast is the kind of place where everyone in North Tyneside will get the chance to see that things can be different. It matters because it’s the beginning of something better and it’s happening in the place that defines who we are and what we’re going to be.