Campaigning by a Councillor? It can happen!
by Tony Waterston
In Newcastle, it is unusual for governing party councillors to speak out loudly on a topic not approved by the council. There seems to be a fear that if some residents don’t approve, it is better to take action behind the scenes. So I was pleased that a Labour councillor in St Andrews – where I have started a vibrant cycle campaign – went to the press to fly a balloon in favour of pedestrianisation – which is not (as yet) supported by the Council.
St Andrews is a beautiful and ancient city which is being ruined by motor traffic. The three central streets are choc a bloc with cars and there are no cycle lanes in the centre, and precious little cycle parking – (see picture below)
An expensive re-make made the central street, Market St, one way in 2010 with widened pavements and old style cobbles, but no cycle contraflow and lots of idling and offensive exhaust fumes. Pedestrianisation was considered at that time but was heavily opposed by the Merchants’ Association for the usual reasons. St Andrews Space for Cycling (SASC) would like to make the whole central area car free and to soften people up, we are pressing for a car free day in the autumn. Our member and councillor Brian decided there is enough support for a change and put out a press release (without council discussion) calling for pedestrianisation and asking residents to write to him with their views.
This was put on the front page of the Courier (regional paper) and Citizen (local paper) and was the subject of a feature article in the latter.
And the feedback? Lots of criticism on Facebook, but the messages received by the Councillor were 80% in favour.
.. and now, there is a momentum. Local students have offered to lead a feasibility study and Cycling Scotland will help. The council can hardly hold back if there is pressure from the public for walking and cycling spaces.
Could this happen in Newcastle? Let’s ask the new councillors after the election: for a start, a traffic free school run to West Jesmond School!