City Council Elections 2021

Jesmond candidates on walking, cycling and safer streets

Armstrong Bridge, Jesmond – a safe route

It’s election time in Newcastle again and SPACE for Jesmond have written to all candidates in North and South Jesmond wards to find out what they think about getting around Jesmond sustainably and the liveability of our streets. Do they support measures to make getting around on foot, cycle or wheelchair easier? Will they support low traffic neighbourhoods when concerns are raised by people who want to keep driving their normal routes?

Let’s find out!

The candidates in Jesmond are:

PartyNorth JesmondSouth Jesmond
ConMelissa Jane PearsonOlly Scargill
LabTanya PretswellCharlie Gray
Lib DemDeborah BurnsTom Appleby
GreenLaurence TaylorTim Dowson
Reform UKMartin Evison
North East PartyBrian Moore

We’ll be publishing the responses here in the order they are received.


Martin Evison, Reform UK Party


1.    Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them?

There is always more that can be done. I do notice street clutter getting in the way on the pavement and that the crossings of the Metro track are not all ideal for wheelchair users and cyclists. I notice the pedestrian crossings of Sandyford Road and the Coast Road are not well placed for transiting through Jesmond Old Cemetery when it is open. It would good to explore the possibility of improving the pedestrian / cycle journey from Osborne Avenue to Starbeck and then on to the Ouseburn at minimal cost to the Council Tax payer.

2.    The government’s “Gear Change” policy document sets out a vision that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school” but many are put off cycling by the level of local motor traffic. What would you do to enable more cycling to school in Jesmond?

I find this a difficult question. I cycled to school most of the time as a child and my parents used to tell me I was lucky, because they had to walk for miles (and miles). Times change and I imagine parents these days are often reluctant to expose children to a safety risk, small though it may be. Examining how traffic flow could be further channeled to separate cars and cycles while avoiding unwelcome costs and inconvenience may be an option, accommodating everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and motorist’s alike – as much as possible.

3.    In a recent survey, 23% of people said they were not willing to make any lifestyle changes to help take action against climate change. As a councillor, how would you ensure national policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be implemented when there is resistance?

I may have been one of them! However, I – like most people – like a clean safe environment, whatever the view on climate change. Ideas such as those suggested above or other low-cost and convenient environmental improvement measures might meet goals acceptable to a wide range of residents. 

4.    Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have generated a lot of inflammatory press which has further divided opinion, despite cul-de-sac estates and existing filtered areas being very popular with residents and homebuyers. When changes in neighbourhoods are often more popular after implementation than before, how would you ensure a successful consultation with residents prior to those changes?

I would show residents the evidence proffered by both sides and let them ask questions and form their own opinion. 

The modern bicycle was born in Britain and experienced a boom in the 1900s, when it was the dominant form of transport in many places. Would you like to see more people using this most British form of transport once more?

Yes, of course.


Deborah Burns and Tom Appleby, Liberal Democrats

1. Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them? 

Jesmond is a forward-thinking, progressive neighbourhood, and as such, has begun making significant steps towards improving infrastructure and facilities for all forms of non-motorised mobility, as seen (for example) with the introduction of cycling priority lanes. One barrier to this is parking; the volume of cars continues to be an issue – this is amplified in Jesmond due to the number of multi-car households (especially in the case of large HMOs) and the use of available parking space by commuters. Additional pressure mounts during school drop off and pick up times, as there are three large schools in the area. This can lead to poor practices, such as pavement parking, which obstructs both wheelchair users and parents with young children in buggies. I would say that, whilst advances have been made, there is more that can be done to prevent poor driving practices, and to create safer ‘joined up’ spaces for cyclists, pedestrians and all non-motorists. Cycle paths that come to a sudden stop are unlikely to attract new cyclists. We would also like to see more secure cycle parking and storage.

Wider implementation of parking restrictions would see less commuter traffic entering Jesmond. We have spoken to local residents who have requested restrictions for their streets, but their requests have been denied. We would look to argue the case for parking permits on residential streets where commuter parking is problematic.

In order to encourage active travel, it is vital we provide attractive alternatives to cars. In 2012, the Council approved a cycling strategy, instigated by the Lib Dems, based around strategic cycle routes and connecting links which would provide a safe structure for people to cycle instead of using the car. This has never been fully implemented and we would make this a priority.

Ensuring streets are clean and well-maintained is crucial, along with fixing all those potholes and uneven road surface that are a danger to cyclists and those on any form of scooter. Residents report that there has been an increase in litter, dog excrement and hazards such as broken glass on pavements in recent years, and it is vital this is dealt with.

Liberal Democrats would also look to implement changes to public transport systems which would make leaving the car at home a more attractive prospect. We would invest in electric buses on all key routes, and look to establish park and ride systems where possible. 

To summarise, implementing a clear cycling strategy, reducing the number of parked cars, maintaining and repairing road surfaces, ensuring pavements are clean and hazard free are all key to increasing active travel. Establishing effective, cleaner public transport systems will simultaneously reduce car use.

2. The government’s “Gear Change” policy document sets out a vision that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school” but many are put off cycling by the level of local motor traffic. What would you do to enable more cycling to school in Jesmond? 

The health and safety of our children is undoubtedly the greatest priority. Deborah says “From my own experience of cycling to West Jesmond Primary with my children, and from talking to other parents, I would say that the area where parents and children feel most unsafe is that directly around the school, most notably Tankerville Terrace. Since the removal of the two crossing wardens, tensions between motorists and pedestrians/cyclists have risen, and this is not a sustainable situation.” We would welcome the trial of a ‘school street’ scheme in Jesmond, with careful monitoring to see how various stakeholders are impacted. Once parents and children feel safe in the immediate area surrounding the school, more may be encouraged to walk or cycle. Additionally, those who live relatively close to school may feel that driving is no longer the most efficient method of transport. If successful, a school street scheme could see both the health and safety of our children improved, with cleaner air and safer streets.

Furthermore, encouraging schools to engage with schemes such as ‘Bikeability’ is an excellent way to build children’s confidence in cycling and road use. Working with children and providing them with the skills they need can help to motivate parents to become involved – when they see their child improving and gaining in confidence, they may begin to view alternative modes of transport as viable options.

3. In a recent survey, 23% of people said they were not willing to make any lifestyle changes to help take action against climate change. As a councillor, how would you ensure national policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be implemented when there is resistance? 

People wish to live and work in a healthy environment with clean air and green spaces. However, achieving this in busy locations is not always straightforward. Aside from the challenges of the practical considerations, behavioural changes tend to take time. To ease this process, changes can be made which have less impact on lifestyle, but which deliver similarly effective results. For example, the widening of pavements to reduce parking, or the introduction of pedestrian only zones at weekends can increase active travel without proving overly disruptive. Similarly, genuine consultation with stakeholders, followed by trialling and monitoring of schemes, rather than top-down implementation can help to alleviate concerns and give space for people to air their views. Allowing voices to be heard, even where they conflict, is extremely important.

4. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have generated a lot of inflammatory press which has further divided opinion, despite cul-de-sac estates and existing filtered areas being very popular with residents and homebuyers. When changes in neighbourhoods are often more popular after implementation than before, how would you ensure a successful consultation with residents prior to those changes?

When people choose a place to live, their decision is undoubtedly based on numerous factors, all of which are very important to them. Any significant change to their circumstances is, therefore, going to cause concern, as this impacts directly upon their daily lives. Accordingly, our conversations with residents often seem to focus on the frustration people feel at the lack of consultation over any changes the council makes, and the sense that new systems are introduced without discussion. There are also many who are perturbed by the perceived lack of transparency in local authority spending on projects, with questions over how, and to whom, funding is allocated. Successful consultation, therefore, is only possible where that consultation is genuine, and the considerations of all are respected and heard. As above, we believe that trialling of agreed options, with subsequent discussion and amendment, may give local people the voice to air their concerns and have a stake in the decision-making process.

Deborah: The Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges to “introduce a nationwide strategy to promote walking and cycling, including the creation of dedicated safe cycling lanes” and to place a higher priority on walking and cycling. Do you want to realise that vision in Jesmond, and if so how will you handle resident’s concerns about the re-allocation of space away from motor vehicles?

Liberal Democrats are keen to invest in cleaner, safer transport. Inevitably, this involves change. The key is to involve residents in the discussions from an early stage to try to build consensus and deal with any perceived obstacles to the proposals. Additionally, it is essential to have funding in place to implement the plans once they have been agreed. A lot of time was invested by residents on the Streets for People plans, but the Council then had insufficient funding to implement them; unfortunately, this led to disappointment, with people feeling their time had been wasted.

Tom: You have condemned the decision to close Haldane Bridge to cars before public consultation. Why is this, when there has been ongoing consultation for the last three years, and the bridge closure is an essential component of building the infrastructure proposed in the Streets for People programme?

The reasons we believe closing Haldane Bridge without prior consultation was a mistake are as follows:

1) Most residents like to have their views properly considered before decisions are made and imposing changes causes resentment and resistance. Even if they are personally opposed to a change, most people will accept a majority decision.

2) The closure has caused massive congestion at school drop-off and pick-up times, with some local residents, including key workers, being unable to get out of their street to get to work. This was entirely predictable and should have been considered in advance. Work is urgently needed with Jesmond schools to implement school travel plans that increase the numbers of pupils cycling and walking to school and reduce car journeys. This would reduce rush hour traffic and make the bridge closure more acceptable.

3) We also believe that low traffic neighbourhood plans should be prepared and discussed with residents, rather than introducing isolated measures. Plus, if you ask the people who deal with an issue day in, day out they they’d likely already have a solution to solve that issue. If you don’t ask people’s opinions, then you may miss a solution to an issue that hasn’t been considered.


Brian Moore, The North East Party

1.    Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them?

The City Council has for decades prioritised cars over pedestrians.  The North East Party is committed to reducing through traffic throughout the Ward especially at rush hour in the morning.  Clayton Road at 8am is just one stationary car park.  This is not local traffic, just drivers using the road as rat run. Haldane Bridge is a great example of turning a quiet location to live in into a nightmare for residents.  There are so many other areas within the Ward that needs traffic calming, linked to improved pedestrian and cycle facilities.  The North East Party believes in strong local discussion and agreement to ensure there is full support for any proposal.

2.    The government’s “Gear Change” policy document sets out a vision that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school” but many are put off cycling by the level of local motor traffic. What would you do to enable more cycling to school in Jesmond?

Getting young people to cycle, walk and use public transport is a priority for the North East Party.

3.    In a recent survey, 23% of people said they were not willing to make any lifestyle changes to help take action against climate change. As a councillor, how would you ensure national policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be implemented when there is resistance?

The North East Party sees resistance to change as a challenge when implementing change.  We passionately believe in public debate bringing all sections of the community together

4.    Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have generated a lot of inflammatory press which has further divided opinion, despite cul-de-sac estates and existing filtered areas being very popular with residents and homebuyers. When changes in neighbourhoods are often more popular after implementation than before, how would you ensure a successful consultation with residents prior to those changes?

The North East Party believes in public consultation at every stage of a proposal to ensure that the final implementation has the support of the community.

Brian: The NEP 2021 Manifesto seems keen on increasing parking and increasing traffic flow over the Tyne – how does sustainable transport such as walking and cycling fit into that vision, and specifically in relation to Jesmond?

Ensuring the flow of traffic on our trunk roads is important on many levels.  The Ward is built up of a number of different communities and examples like Cradlewell, where investment in the by-pass has improved the lives of local residents, show what can be done.  Therefore our farsighted policies for improving traffic flow across the Tyne can help everyone.

With respect to the Ward, the North East Party is committed to working with local residents to reduce car usage by encouraging other forms of transport such as cycling, walking and public transport.

As a Party we are looking forward to working with your Group closely to improve the Ward for residents.


Labour: Tanya Pretswell & Charlie Gray

1.    Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them?

Labour Councillors have been consistently in favour of making cycling, walking and wheeling safer and were closely involved in the Streets for People Consultation.

This is why they have lobbied for a School Street outside of West Jesmond Primary. School streets are currently being piloted in other areas of the city and when the lessons learned from the pilots are reported back this should identify ways in which similar pilots could happen in the area.

In North Jesmond there has been further lobbying for the closure of Lily Crescent/Norham Place to through traffic to create a safe area for children using Bells Yard and residents in this area, more speed bumps and continuous pavements on St George’s Terrace, and safer crossing points on the Osborne Road/North Jesmond Avenue junction. 

More recently North Jesmond Councillors were told that there was a small budget for road/pavement improvements; Councillors Young and Postlethwaite voted in favour of the new pavements now installed down the entire south side of Grosvenor Road. They opposed the LibDem Councillor’s bid to spend the budget on the back lane of Sanderson Road, which was potholed.

In South Jesmond councillors worked with residents in Jesmond Vale/Minories to draw up a list of highway safety improvements to make their streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists – and even hedgehogs! 

But we do want to see more action from the Government around protecting wildlife such as Hedgehogs. Last year an investigation by the AA found that out of the 4 councils – including Newcastle – that applied for Hedgehog road signs none were allowed by Government to go ahead with plans. We want to see the Government make it easier for councils to apply for Hedgehog road signs. This is important in both protecting wildlife and road users – who may swerve when unexpected small animals are in the road especially late at night.

Councillors insisted that safety amendments were made to the Brandling Park Cycling scheme last year when it became clear from residents and park users that pedestrians and wheelchair users didn’t feel safe entering Brandling Park. 

With regards to Haldane Bridge there were specific issues including drivers mounting the pavements when two large cars were coming in either direction and pedestrians, cyclists and other road users not feeling safe using the bridge. At the start of the COVID19 pandemic, it became clear that alongside these issues that social distancing wouldn’t be possible on the existing layout of the bridge. 

The Labour team in Jesmond and Sandyford are working hard to ensure that residents are able to safely cycle, walk and wheel. It’s important that we take into consideration the needs of all residents. Charlie and Tanya are committed to working with residents towards these aims.

2.    The government’s “Gear Change” policy document sets out a vision that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school” but many are put off cycling by the level of local motor traffic. What would you do to enable more cycling to school in Jesmond?

Labour Councillors fully support the trial of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood Scheme in Jesmond, which should help to make young cyclists safer, especially if coupled with a School Street. Lots of children come to West Jesmond Primary from other areas so a scheme to encourage the use of public transport as well as requiring parents driving their children to school to park away from Tankerville Terrace would make a difference. 

Work is being done to map out more clearly safe cycling routes to school, and work is also being done with schools in Jesmond, both Primary and Secondary, around alternatives to parents needing to drop off children at all and to raise awareness of the environmental and public health benefits of walking, cycling and increased use of public transport. 

We want to see Government give councils the power to set up their own bus companies which would be in part aimed at reducing the amount of private vehicle use, increasing the use of environmentally friendly buses, alongside being used to open up access to education, training, skills and work opportunities to those that don’t have cars. Specifically the reduction in the use of private vehicles would go a long way to ensuring that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school”.

3.    In a recent survey, 23% of people said they were not willing to make any lifestyle changes to help take action against climate change. As a councillor, how would you ensure national policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be implemented when there is resistance?

There is more to be done from an environmental point of view and Labour councillors work with the Plastic Free Jesmond and Sandyford Group to encourage outlets to use less plastic. More work needs to be done so that large organisations and big businesses make priorities of reducing their use of plastic, reducing their carbon impact, and encouraging their staff, customers and service users to walk, cycle, wheel or use public transport.

There is an annual Glorious Gardens competition with the aim of making Jesmond greener. Labour councillors have worked with Keep Jesmond Clean to pressure neglectful landlords into tidying the front gardens of their properties.

As above we feel that working with schools around awareness of climate change is important. One of our priorities is to increase the amount of recycling and to make this easier and more effective for residents. 

In South Jesmond Labour councillors are supporting a Food Nation community food waste composting trial in Sandyford which was part funded by the Labour ran Ward Committee. If successful could be extended to other locations in the area. 

Across the city the Labour ran City Council is putting climate change at the heart of every decision it makes. This is being done in part with the creation of a Committee to tackle Climate Change in the city, slashing its own carbon emissions by a third and continuing to strive for net-zero by 2030 more information can be found here (https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/our-city/climate-change-newcastle/net-zero-newcastle-2030-action-plan), decarbonizing public buildings across the city including West Jesmond Primary and the introduction of ‘Bee Friendly Verges’ to protect bees who are so vital for wider biodiversity of our city and whose

populations have been decreasing. These award-winning efforts have led to Newcastle being recognised as a world-leading city in our efforts to address climate change.

A recent very successful Climate Change Citizen’s Assembly was held by North of Tyne Combined Authority, which we hope will come up with suggestions about how best to secure community buy-in to the various actions needed to tackle the climate crisis, as we know the work around Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is just one small strand of what we all collectively need to do. 

It’s important that we all do our bit when it comes to tackling the climate emergency and we are glad to be doing ours. By working together, bringing people on board with ideas, answering questions or concerns around proposed changes and ensuring that there are consultation periods are incredibly important in creating long-lasting change and coming up with the solutions we need.

4.    Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have generated a lot of inflammatory press which has further divided opinion, despite cul-de-sac estates and existing filtered areas being very popular with residents and homebuyers. When changes in neighbourhoods are often more popular after implementation than before, how would you ensure a successful consultation with residents prior to those changes?

Councillors from North Jesmond and South Jesmond are keen to progress with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and have asked Council Traffic Engineers to draw up schemes which will help to bring this about and benefit all residents. This is after receiving many comments from residents with useful ideas.

The aim is to reduce the volume of non-local traffic while still allowing access for vehicles. This will enable more people to walk or cycle and encourage greater use of local services and shops. Following feedback from residents, a few areas and streets have been identified which will be put forward for trial schemes of six months initially, during which time all residents will be encouraged to give their comments.

It’s also important to recognise that although Low Traffic Neighbourhoods will be developed to minimise the amount of through traffic – residents can play their part by minimising car use and being mindful of the needs and safety of fellow residents, including older and frailer people, disabled people and children.

We need to ensure that there’s a full understanding of the issues involved, the design and impact of the possible schemes and ensuring all voices are heard, including older and frailer people, disabled people, children and small businesses. 

Acorn Road is such a good example of this – there was such an outcry and yet now who would go back to that dirty busy street, which was impossible to cross, when we have one of the most attractive shopping streets in Newcastle. We must build on this across Jesmond and Sandyford by working with residents ensuring that they feel like their voices are being heard.

Tanya Pretswell & Charlie Gray: Newcastle’s Labour council declared a climate emergency but despite this statement of urgency there is still £470 thousand pounds of money which is allocated to Jesmond for improving walking and cycling which is unspent from the “Streets for People” programme, awarded in 2015. How will you push for a more appropriate pace of development with regards to both this funding and the Low Traffic Neighbourhood programme?

The Labour team was disappointed that the decision-making process took so long, but this was partly due to intense opposition from individuals and groups opposed to walking, cycling and wheeling improvements outlined above.  Councillors are privileged to be able to work with highly skilled engineers that help to deliver the vision for a better Jesmond and Sandyford, and the best possible outcomes for residents – sometimes this takes time, but we must also ensure that all residents get the opportunity to be fully informed about what is being proposed and why.

The Streets for People budget will be spent in its entirety. So far the Osborne Road/North Jesmond Avenue crossing – funded in part from the Streets for People budget – is in place, the pavements outside of the Brentwood Avenue shops have been de-cluttered, and a continuous pavement along the west side of St George’s Terrace is scheduled to be put in place this year.


Green Party: Tim Dowson


1.    Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them?

 ‘Active travel’ is rarely prioritised enough anywhere, and this includes Jesmond. Non-car travel needs to be the easy and obvious way of travelling locally, and to become the first thought for residents, as a result. This is partly about making it easier to do, and partly about making car use less dominant. So, making more streets no-through routes for cars means that foot or bike or wheelchair may be easier and quicker. This in turn makes it more pleasant (not having to dodge cars so much) and means there are more people around which reinforces community links. More (strategic) dropped kerbs, ramps on steps, bike racks (lots of places but just one or two in each place), and enforcement of parking regulations – maybe with a minimum distance between parked cars to assist people crossing roads from having to walk a long way round cars. This includes expecting orange-scooter riders to behave responsibly too!. Low speed neighbourhoods are part of this as well – 20’s plenty, in residential and school areas.

2.    The government’s “Gear Change” policy document sets out a vision that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school” but many are put off cycling by the level of local motor traffic. What would you do to enable more cycling to school in Jesmond?

Getting children to walk or cycle to school involves helping them and their parents feel it is safe. So there should be fewer cars driving near to schools at opening and closing times. Schools should be on no-through roads at these times generally. Less parking near schools – say within 100 yards of entrances – and enforcement of this except for people with disabilities. Other factors such as local schooling rather than pupils being driven around town would also help.

3.    In a recent survey, 23% of people said they were not willing to make any lifestyle changes to help take action against climate change. As a councillor, how would you ensure national policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be implemented when there is resistance?

These surveys suggest that more than three quarters are actually willing to alter lifestyles to help reduce the climate extremes that are becoming more commonplace in Britain. But surveys can give stark results while the reality is often less extreme. With many changes, a gradual move allows us all to change bit by bit – eg over time petrol cars are reducing and electric ones, with less urban pollution, are increasing. And it is notable that some of the resistance is orchestrated – eg thousands of emails recently opposing the Newcastle bridge closures to motor vehicles turned out to come from a single foreign email souce. In addition, much opposition is about worries that turn out to be unfounded, eg shop keepers opposing parking restrictions then find that traffic-free streets are more attractive to shoppers.

4.    Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have generated a lot of inflammatory press which has further divided opinion, despite cul-de-sac estates and existing filtered areas being very popular with residents and homebuyers. When changes in neighbourhoods are often more popular after implementation than before, how would you ensure a successful consultation with residents prior to those changes?

In part, I’ve discussed this above. Correcting inflammatory comments is important as well as using (local) examples of where it has been successful. Involving residents at the planning stage is also important. And new estates should also be built to discourage expansion of car use, and with public transport planned in.

Tim: If elected, how would you build alliances across with other Jesmond councillors to ensure positive changes for walking and cycling could be delivered for Jesmond residents?

There is actually a lot of common ground on the above ideas but many people – including existing councillors – have spent little time considering the details. The ideas above are not ‘anti-car’ but about stopping motoring from dominating residential area, and encouraging other possibilities so we don’t all have to own cars.

I would also ensure that all schemes were discussed not just with local organisations, but with local residents/users. A number of cycle schemes implemented here seem quite dangerous, as they are confusing. But these have also been quite expensive to build. It looks as though the priority is to spend money on good-sounding schemes, rather than spend it on useful and safe ones.


Laurence Taylor, Green Party

1.    Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them?

Walking: All streets in Jesmond have pavements.  This may sound obvious but it means pedestrians have a protected space on every single street, so walking is safe and generally convenient.  The key obstacles for walking are the traffic levels on Jesmond Road, Jesmond Dene Road, Sandyford Road and Osborne Road, which make walking unpleasant, and cause delays to walking journeys by having to wait at the lights.

Wheeling: I’m not a wheelchair user so I would have to ask about this.  I would imagine that the major obstacles are the main roads already listed, and the railway line.  West Jesmond station looks quite challenging for access, with a long bridge to negotiate.  Conditions of pavements could be better.

Cycling: Residential streets are fairly good, but some eg. Grosvenor Road and St George’s Terrace are in appalling condition and need resurfacing.  Jesmond Road, Sandyford Road, Osborne Road and Jesmond Dene Road are no-go areas for cycling with kids.  These need protected cycle lanes.  Acorn Road should be pedestrianised with cycle access.  This has been shown time and again to give a major boost to shopping streets, with more footfall and sales.

2.    The government’s “Gear Change” policy document sets out a vision that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school” but many are put off cycling by the level of local motor traffic. What would you do to enable more cycling to school in Jesmond?

We have to reduce traffic, to enable people to feel safe cycling with their kids.  It’s unbelievable that in 2021, motor traffic is still allowed past West Jesmond School.  There is no need for it for access.  By allowing traffic through here we encourage people to drive their kids to school and discourage them from cycling.

Stopping traffic here would allow a play area and pocket park to be created outside the school.  This would also drastically reduce traffic on Forsyth Road, improving the SR4 cycle route, and having a knock on benefit for motorists on the Great North Road as there would be less delays at the lights.

3.    In a recent survey, 23% of people said they were not willing to make any lifestyle changes to help take action against climate change. As a councillor, how would you ensure national policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be implemented when there is resistance?
(answered below)

4.    Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have generated a lot of inflammatory press which has further divided opinion, despite cul-de-sac estates and existing filtered areas being very popular with residents and homebuyers. When changes in neighbourhoods are often more popular after implementation than before, how would you ensure a successful consultation with residents prior to those changes?

Answering (3) and (4) together:

Talk to people!  Where the LTNs have gone wrong is that they were implemented suddenly and without enough communication, so people felt they weren’t listened to and it was being imposed.  If there’s going to be a significant change, the Council need to go literally door to door setting out the plans, canvassing people, getting opinions – not just put it in and see what happens.

In addition there needs to be monitoring before and after the change is made.  Traffic levels and speeds on all surrounding streets should be counted for the weeks prior and after the change, and the results presented to residents.

Laurence:If elected, how would you build alliances across with other Jesmond councillors to ensure positive changes for walking and cycling could be delivered for Jesmond residents?


Outside of the campaigning period, I would hope that all councillors, whatever their party, would be working together for the good of the ward.  That’s certainly the approach I would take.  
Even if not elected, every vote for the Green Party counts, as it will add weight to these issues and encourage the other parties to listen.


We’ll be publishing more responses as we receive them


Our call for a Low Traffic Jesmond

Under a new City Council scheme, Jesmond, alongside other neighbourhoods across the city, is set to become a Low Traffic Neighbourhood. The aim is to reduce the volume of non-local traffic in Jesmond, while still allowing access for motor vehicles. This will enable more people to use active modes of transport such as walking and cycling.

Initially, any changes made will be temporary, with a view to making them permanent at a later date should they prove successful.

To support this, SPACE for Jesmond team have submitted a proposal for the redesign of Jesmond as a Low Traffic Neighbourhood.

Our proposal, which covers North Jesmond and South Jesmond wards, was submitted to Newcastle City Council as part of their call for ideas from local residents to shape and implement the scheme.

What is a Low Traffic Neighbourhood?

A Low Traffic Neighbourhood, or LTN, is a residential area with no through traffic. This is normally achieved with bollards and planters which allow cycles to pass through, but not motor traffic (these are known as “modal filters”).

No one loses access: all residents and businesses maintain full access to all properties.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood are quieter, safer streets, and when our neighbourhood feels safe it becomes a more sociable, friendly and fun place. The lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic gave us all direct experience of how our neighbourhood felt with less motor traffic and how much nicer it was to walk or cycle for everyday trips to the shops or parks; children played with siblings in the street, families cycled around the neighbourhood and neighbours chatted, albeit at a distance. The UK government have made funding available to councils to make that change permanent. Even as businesses return to normal and people return to office working, there is no reason that motor traffic has to cut through residential areas instead of using the main roads, and this is an opportunity to make nicer neighbourhoods our “new normal.”

Children benefit in a big way from Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Playing in the street no longer has to be a thing of the past and we could once again see groups of children walking themselves to school without a parent in tow, freeing up time for parents too. Local businesses benefit; neighbourhoods which are more pleasant encourage people to shop local, rather than hopping in the car to go to a soulless business park.

Children can cycle safely in Jesmond where through traffic is removed

Jesmond already has Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – but we can have more

23% of Jesmond is already a Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Reid Park Road and the streets to the north had bollards placed along Jesmond Dene Road when the road was closed to motor traffic in 2015, creating a quieter, safer neighbourhood for local residents. There are other other area of Jesmond which enjoy these benefits too, such as Jesmond Vale.

The remaining area of Jesmond however, is open to through traffic. The widespread availability of satellite navigations systems and smartphones in the last decade has meant many more vehicles are avoiding main roads and working their way through back streets in the name of saving a minute or two on journey time. This increase is apparent across the UK with the government reporting a massive increase in traffic on residential streets, and the side effect is that our neighbourhoods feel less safe to get around by foot or cycle.

There are other areas of Newcastle which are home to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods too – most post World War 2 housing developments are residential estates consisting of cul-de-sacs with no through traffic, and these areas remain popular with families, despite the fact they lack the shops, swimming pools and cafes of older suburbs like Jesmond. When low traffic measures are added to an area like Jesmond, you get the benefit of lower traffic levels, but much better walkability and local services than a modern estate – a winning combination.

Traffic free routes in Jesmond are pleasant and popular

A Low Traffic Neighbourhood will work well in Jesmond

A Low Traffic Neighbourhood will work well in Jesmond. Our area is extremely walkable with nearby shops and services but also has several main roads around its perimeter which are designed for motor traffic. This means that short trips within Jesmond are typically a 5 to 15 minute walk or a 5 to 10 minute cycle, and motor traffic can easily access the main roads – the Coast Road, Great North Road and Osborne Road – without any difficulty.

When through traffic is removed, access to the neighbourhood is generally by the nearest main road. Our analysis, provided to Newcastle Council, shows that the increase in journey time for trips that would previously have been made by cutting through Jesmond’s residential streets is only a few minutes – and that “going the long way round” makes little difference except for the shortest of trips which could be walked in under 15 minutes anyway. One of the aims of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is to discourage very short car journeys and encourage people to walk or cycle instead, which becomes much easier and more pleasant with the greatly reduced traffic.

Nothing radical – cycling is an old fashioned way of getting to school

What we’re asking for

We believe the best way to implement a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Jesmond is to do it properly, and not by half measures. What we’re asking Newcastle City Council for is:

  • Stop through traffic – don’t just try to slow it down
  • Make space for children – it should be safe for them to get around
  • Visually nice – adding greenery to our streets
  • Be clear – this will mean changes for some people’s usual routes
  • Be confident – even though changes can be difficult, people love Low Traffic Neighbourhoods once they’re in place

How you can show your support

Newcastle City Council’s consultation will be opening on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in due course, and we encourage you to engage in this process.

You can email your ideas and thoughts about making Jesmond a safer, nicer place by reducing motor traffic to North Jesmond Councillor Wendy Young – wendy.young@newcastle.gov.uk – who is collecting initial ideas from the community.

You can get in touch with SPACE for Jesmond via spaceforjesmond@gmail.com or @SPACEforJesmond on Twitter


SPACE for Jesmond calls for immediate emergency School Street measures

The scenes outside West Jesmond Primary School at either end of the school day on Tuesday could not have given a clearer indication of the need for a School Street to be implemented on Tankerville Terrace without delay.

Queuing children and their parents hemmed in by pedestrian guardrail to less than two metres of pavement, social distancing physically impossible, and all the while breathing filthy air from backed-up and idling vehicles. Cars parked on double yellow lines and/or two-wheels-up on the pavement – in one case directly next to a sign put out by the school urging drivers to respect students’ safety. Parents and students on foot reporting a sense of vulnerability and unease they had not felt for some time.

No space for social distancing here

It was entirely foreseeable that this would happen with public transport use being discouraged and social distancing requirements in place, and therefore wholly preventable.

Parking restrictions are often ignored

A School Street is a simple restriction of street space outside schools to pedestrians and cyclists at the start and end of the school day. The debate about a school street outside WJPS has rumbled on for ages, since well before the pandemic, and decision-makers seem paralysed by fear of angering drivers and a consequent desire for a perfect traffic management scheme that upsets no-one and as such doesn’t exist.  

We know that most of the drivers who would be affected by a school street are parents or carers themselves, with children at WJPS, Percy Hedley (which has its own circulation space for vehicles) or one of the private schools further down Tankerville Terrace. We have come across very few who would regard having to park a little further away from school as an unacceptable price to pay for ample space, clean air and a feeling of safety outside school.

This isn’t something that needs a complicated or permanent technical solution. It can be physically implemented with a few bollards or wheeled planters. It can be tried out to see if it works. It is entirely within the ambit of the active travel measures the government is urging on councils and which Newcastle City Council has already deployed with great fanfare – and very welcome success – in the city centre and elsewhere. SPACE for Jesmond and others have offered to help the Council implement a scheme on the ground.

Newcastle City Council have been moving forward with measures to support walking and cycling – but we need more.

With scenes like yesterday’s, shared widely by frustrated parents on social media, it is no longer disappointing but merely baffling that basic School Street measures aren’t being implemented outside West Jesmond Primary – and other schools around the city – as a matter of urgency. It begs the question what further evidence could possibly be brought to bear to persuade decision-makers of the necessity of urgent action to protect children and parents around schools from Covid or worse.


This article is an open letter to Arlene Ainsley, Newcastle Council cabinet member for Transport and Air Quality, Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council and also the six councillors who represent North Jesmond and South Jesmond.


Petition to make Haldane Bridge safer submitted to Newcastle Council

SPACE for Jesmond have submitted a petition to Newcastle City Council signed by over 180 people who support the currently-shelved closure of Haldane Road bridge, which was to make the streets safer for local residents and those walking and cycling through the area.

SPACE for Jesmond members submit petition to Newcastle City Council

The bridge, situated in South Jesmond ward and linking Osborne Road to existing cycling and walking routes, was to be closed to motor traffic in order form a key cycling route through Jesmond. The area is the location for two large private schools and a route to West Jesmond Primary. The narrow bridge is heavily used as a rat-run for drivers wishing to avoid traffic lights and vehicles regularly mount the pavement while congestion is caused due to high levels of school run traffic heading in opposite directions. It is also a key route for those cycling into the city and those who walk to the schools.

As previously reported in the Chronicle, the council engineers’ closure plan, part of a £1 million programme of improvement in Jesmond, has been shelved by local councillors who are reluctant to impact on residents in the area, fearing a shift in motor traffic to adjacent streets.

Our petition shows that there is actually a strong level of support from residents in the immediate vicinity to close this bridge to motor traffic; over 50 signatures were received from residents living close to the bridge during our door-knocking campaign.

SPACE for Jesmond’s position is that the council should not renege on their their commitments to increase cycling and make residential streets safer. The council have bid for and received a substantial pot of funding from central government on the basis that they will support people to travel sustainably and make streets safer and more pleasant. It makes little sense to on the one hand commit to reduce car dependency and on the other to say that those commitments will not be put into action because they must facilitate drivers.

Petition signatory Martin Edney highlights the root of the issue:

“The key to this is the school run. The worst problems in this area are around school start and end times, and there are several schools in the area. If we can get the schools to work with parents to reduce school run traffic through these narrow residential streets, it will improve things for vulnerable road users. It should be a no-brainer, since many of those vulnerable road users are also on their way to and from those schools.”

We completely agree. They key here is to reduce the traffic in the area by directly addressing the real issue – large numbers of children being driven to and from the school gates – and providing safe walking and cycling routes are a key part of making that reduction.

 


An Open Letter to Jesmond Councillors

Dear Councillor,

SPACE for Jesmond is an informal group of Jesmond residents trying to make our home a better, safer place for those who want a liveable neighbourhood and wish to travel sustainably on foot or by bicycle. Many of us have been part of the local reference group for “Streets for People” which is part of the UK Government’s “Cycle City Ambition” programme of funding. This reference group has been active for three years, and we have given many hours of our time to help shape the £1 million investment being made in Jesmond to enable walking and cycling.

The rationale behind this programme of investment is quite clear; as a society we must change the way we travel in order to reduce congestion, reduce inactivity, improve air quality and tackle climate change. Action must be taken at a local authority and ward level to effect this change – because local changes lead to national and global ones.

In November 2018, the reference group met in Northumbria University to view detailed plans from council engineers. We were rewarded with ambitious but achievable plans costed at a little over £1 million. SPACE for Jesmond agreed that the proposals would make a real difference to cycling and walking in Jesmond. On 10th November 2018, we wrote to the Community Engagement Officer at Newcastle City Council and said:

The officers have been ambitious and provided a cohesive set of schemes for the area, and we can see how these can be linked and expanded in the future. We feel they are a real step in the right direction for Jesmond, and strongly support the direction taken in the council’s plans. It is now up to the council to have the political will to see these designs, or designs which are similarly oriented, through to completion.”

The engagement officer emailed us on the 17th January 2019 with an update regarding Streets for People. In it, the shortlisted scheme list has been changed with several impactful designs completely removed and other schemes – previously ruled out by officers – replacing them on the list.

Objections:

We object to the current situation on the following grounds:

A) This decision to re-prioritise schemes has been made behind closed doors and has not involved the reference group, which it was supposed to.

The Streets for People briefing note, dated 07/01/2016, states:

“The Reference Group, with the advice and support of Technical Officers from the council, will work through the neighbourhood map and prioritise the findings”

We find this change to decision making – and lack of transparency – extremely concerning and not in keeping with the process specified by council officers, who assured us on numerous occasions that this would not happen and that this was going to be an exemplary bottom-up participatory exercise.

B) The schemes that would contribute most to cycling and walking have been removed.

A decision has been made to drop the proposed extension of Strategic Route 4 on Eslington Terrace onto Osborne road (via a modal filter on Haldane bridge). This was identified as being a key East-West route for cycling in the city during the process of developing the plans, enabling journeys into town and to Heaton and High Heaton. A decision also appears to have been made to drop improvements to Tankerville Terrace which would increase safety outside the schools and improve the streets cyclability. This is the second time that plans have been drawn up and community engagement conducted in relation to Tankerville Terrace and this is the second time that plans have been dropped without explanation.

These 2 schemes in particular are aligned with the “three stage journey” set out in the council’s “Newcastle, fit for cycling” funding bid:

  1. “Embedding cycling as a choice that people feel safe and able to make within their local areas”
  2. “Incorporating the route to work by improving the quality of strategic routes to Newcastle City Centre”

The bid also states:

“Jesmond…have been designated as potential community cycling areas. These are residential areas with established 20mph zones where rat-running, uncontrolled parking and lack of pedestrian and cycle priority for crossing make the streets feel unfriendly”

And in the initial funding application (2013) Cllr Joyce McCarty writes:

“We are ambitious. Our vision is to achieve a 12% cycle mode share for trip under 5 miles”

The de-prioritisation of these schemes is therefore not in line with the proposals submitted to the Department for Transport. They suggest that the council are anything but ambitious and do not intend to honour their original commitment to improving cycling provision in Jesmond.

C) This change does not appear to make full use of the £1 million assigned to Jesmond.

A promise was made to all three Streets for People areas that they would receive roughly (as close as possible) similar funding. The schemes proposed in November 2018 included cycle lanes on Osborne Road and Tankerville Terrace and were costed at a little over £1 million. These have not been replaced with schemes of equivalent value. We have been informed that the proposed schemes will only cost just over £500,000. Where is the rest of the funding?

Our Requests:

We request that the minutes of the meeting where this shortlist was changed are made public.

We would like to know:

  • Who has decided to cancel schemes which would support cycling?
  • On what basis did they cancel those schemes?
  • How can these changes be justified in light of the council’s own targets as set out in the funding application for Cycle City Ambition?

We believe that it is not in the public interest to withhold schemes on which a great deal of time and money has been spent. It is difficult to understand why councillors were happy for these schemes to be progressed to this point if they do not intend to follow through with them. Local councillors may feel that they have the best interests of residents at heart, however they are denying residents the opportunity to judge the plans for themselves.

We do not believe that the council’s of aim of 12% cycling mode share for journeys under 5 miles can possibly be met when the council itself is sabotaging that goal. It is time that the council stood by its commitments and delivered the changes needed to make Newcastle fit for cycling.

Yours Faithfully,

Ed Smith

On behalf of SPACE for Jesmond


Air Quality around West Jesmond Primary School – Autumn 2018

The area around West Jesmond Primary School is very busy with traffic from the three schools on Tankerville terrace, which SPACEforJesmond believe should be a priority for our community to address. High levels of traffic around the schools – some from within Jesmond and as little as 300 metres away – create an unsafe and polluted environment for our children.

In order to quantify pollution levels, last winter SPACEforJesmond used a portable air quality monitor to sample the air around Jesmond, primarily on the school run and around West Jesmond Primary school. This revealed “hotspots” of pollution in areas where it might be expected, such as Osborne Road and Tankerville Terrace. The portable air quality monitor measured particulate matter (PM) of various sizes, all of which have a detrimental effect on our health. The monitor did not however measure Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) which is the focus of much attention at the moment due its harmful effects, especially on children, who are still developing physically. NO2, a bi-product of diesel combustion, has an impact on respiratory health and development and has been indicated as a cause of obesity in children.

The air quality monitor is mounted on a lamp-post and solar powered

Thanks to the Urban Observatory, a lamp-post mounted air quality monitor was installed outside West Jesmond Primary School for the start of the new school year. This sensor measures, amongst other things, Nitrogen Dioxide (not to be confused with Nitrous Oxide, a.k.a. laughing gas).

Urban Observatory air pollution monitor outside West Jesmond Primary School, Jesmond

 

Results

The results from the first school term highlight the impact of the morning school run. The peak value on a weekday occurs between 8am-9am, when the level of pollution doubles (44ug/m3) compared to the background levels in the middle of the night. The levels rise less dramatically for the afternoon run, presumably due to the mix of after-school clubs and different approaches to picking children up at the end of the day.

 

West Jesmond Primary Hourly mean, NO2 ug/m3, weekdays only during the first half of the 2018 autumn term

What’s really interesting to note is that, on weekdays, the area around West Jesmond Primary is almost as polluted as the A1058 Coast Road. The daily mean value for the Coast Road NO2 during this period was 31.5ug/m3 (measured at the Cradlewell Urban Observatory high precision air monitor). The value for the sensor at WJPS was 30.2ug/m3.

So, what does this mean? It’s important to note that there is nothing illegal about these levels of pollution – the monitor outside WJPS is not a legally designated site, and the annual mean limit set by the EU is 40ug/m3. After a year’s worth of monitoring, it will be possible to compare these levels against the legal limits.

Despite this, the data indicates that the morning rush around Tankerville Terrace effectively doubles the pollution levels and that for the first school term, weekday pollution here was similar to the A1058 at Cradlewell, which is the location of a DEFRA network station, the measurements of which are close to breaking the legal annual limit on NO2, and have done in previous years.

Diesel combustion is also temperature sensitive and many of the pollution removing features are turned off in cold weather and this is true whether the vehicle is moving or idling. It is common to see people idling for periods of time outside the school – likely to keep the heater working – and this produces pollution too. A colder spell could really increase pollution in the area and SPACEforJesmond will continue to monitor this site.

Our view

In our view it’s vital that councillors and council officers take action to protect children on the school run by reducing polluting traffic and enabling walking and cycling to school. Children who are driven, some from very close by, are receiving a double-dose of negative health impacts through inactivity and exposure to pollutants. This is being already addressed in schemes elsewhere in the UK – such as Hackney School Streets and Edinburgh School Streets – and Newcastle should follow their lead, as a UNICEF child friendly city, to do what is right for children in Jesmond.


Campaigning by a Councillor? It can happen!

by Tony Waterston

25/04/2018

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)

Trying to cross Market Street

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!


City Council Elections 2018

There are elections for the Council happening in Newcastle on the 3rdMay 2018. This year new ward boundaries are being introduced, and Jesmond residents have three votes to elect candidates in their ward.

With lots of new faces we’re keen to find out what the candidates think, in particular about how they plan to address transport-related issues in our community. To do that we’ve come up with five statements or pledges and we have asked each of the candidates whether they support these or if not what they plan to do instead.

Below the candidate’s responses, which we’ll update as they are received, we have also written a bit of background about why we have chosen these particular statements.

Please keep checking back in advance of the elections on 3 May and if one of your candidates has not yet answered please do encourage them to do so. The very least we should expect from future local councillors is a willingness to engage with local residents and share their vision for the future of Jesmond.

THE SPACE FOR JESMOND PLEDGES

The five pledges we have asked candidates to support are:

  1. Streets that are safe (and feel safe) for children to walk and cycle to school, to the shops or to the park.
  2. Air pollution in Newcastle brought within legal limits as soon as possible.
  3. Residential streets that are pleasant, safe and attractive places to live and where children can play out.
  4. Rapid implementation of temporary changes to trial interventions to support these objectives.
  5. Constructive community engagement about how to address the public health impacts of travel and the benefits of active travel.

Please see below for more on why we have chosen these pledges and what they mean in practice.

We are contacting all the candidates and will post their responses below when we receive them. The candidates are listed in the order they appear on the Statement of Persons Nominated on the City Council website

NORTH JESMOND WARD

Name Party Response
James Bartle  Conservative Party
David Besag  Liberal Democrats  Partial Support
James Cowling  Conservative Party
Alexander Hay  Labour Party  Support
Gerry Keating  Liberal Democrats Partial Support
Kitty Lau  Conservative Party
Shehla Naqvi  Green Party  Support
Stella Postlethwaite  Labour Party  Support
Crispin Welby  Liberal Democrats  Partial Support
Wendy Young  Labour Party  Support

SOUTH JESMOND WARD

Name Party Response
Arlene Ainsley Labour Party  Support
Clare Andrews Green Party  Support
Deborah Burns Liberal Democrats
Max Graham Conservative Party
Mark Keville Liberal Democrats
Martin Levy Communist Party of Britain  Support
Alexandra Logan Liberal Democrats
Ian MacGlip Conservative Party
Felicity Mendelson Labour Party  Support
Christopher Murray Conservative Party
Judy Pearce Labour Party  Support
Tony Waterston Green Party  Support

WHY HAVE WE CHOSEN THESE PLEDGES?

Pledge 1. Streets that are safe, and feel safe, for children to walk and cycle to school, to the shops or to the park.

Everyone should be able to travel safely whether they walk, cycle, use public transport or drive and should feel safe while they do so, but this isn’t currently the case in Jesmond. Often, traffic is fast and it isn’t always easy to see due to the high level of kerbside parking and high sided vehicles.

Children are less able to look out for themselves and are more likely to be injured or even killed in the event of a collision, so focusing on children, whether travelling independently or with an adult, is a good way to make Jesmond safer for everyone.

Children are also more vulnerable to air pollution and children driven to school can be subject to up to ten times worse air quality than children who walk or cycle, and the extra vehicles make it harder for everyone else who needs to drive. Children who walk or cycle also get the benefit of the exercise – with the NHS recommending that children need at least 60 minute of moderate or vigorous exercise every day.

When we say streets ‘that are safe and feel safe’ we mean streets where children can and do walk and cycle to school, to shops or to the park, and where parents feel comfortable to let them. Ultimately it will be for local residents, and in particular parents, to judge whether a street is safe for their children to walk and cycle. We hope to work with Councillors who sign up to this pledge to engage with local parents to determine what is needed to achieve this objective.

While it is right that children are the priority, the map below shows the locations of where people have been killed or seriously injured in the Jesmond area in the last 10 years (2008-2017). As with other UK cities including Liverpool and Edinburgh we hope Newcastle will also adopt a “Vision Zero” target i.e. zero deaths or serious injuries on Newcastle’s roads.

Crash-map showing locations of  people killed or seriously injured in the Jesmond area of Newcastle 2008-2017

Pledge 2. Air pollution in Newcastle brought within legal limits as soon as possible.

In the last official figures from 2016, both Gosforth and City Centre Air Quality Management Areas (which stretches along Jesmond Road to Heaton) were in breach of the legal limits that should have been met by 2010. Bringing air pollution within legal limits as soon as possible is actually a legal requirement and Newcastle City Council has been mandated by DEFRA to produce a plan to do this by the end of 2018. Our expectation is that legal limits in Newcastle can be achieved by 2020 however that will depend on the detailed modelling currently being undertaken by the Council.

Air pollution affects everyone but it affects the young and the old the most. In Newcastle it has been estimated that 124 lives are lost every year as a result of illegal air pollution just for nitrogen dioxide with particulate matter likely to be responsible for more still. As well as causing early deaths, air pollution is also known to be a major cause of heart disease, lung disease, cancer and has been shown to be responsible for birth defects and cognitive delay in children.

In a recent report, the Royal College of Physicians has recommended that to protect public health, the UK adopt even more ambitious targets than the current legal limits and we hope Newcastle will adopt and work towards meeting those more challenging targets.

Given this is a legal requirement that the Council must meet we expect all candidates will sign up to this pledge.

Pledge 3. Residential streets that are pleasant, safe and attractive places to live and where children can play out without fear of traffic.

Streets aren’t just about movement of traffic. They are also where we live, shop and socialise, and for children also where they are most likely to play outside near their homes.

Some streets in Jesmond are suitable for children to play out but many are not. Jesmond is permeable to motor traffic wishing to avoid the Coast Road (A1058 Jesmond Road) and since the closure of Jesmond Dene Road rat-running occurs through residential streets. Similarly, Osborne Road – a residential street – is used as a “relief valve” for traffic on the Great North Road, despite electoral candidates for Jesmond agreeing in 2014 that Osborne Road should be for access only.

As a result we don’t see as many children playing out as we might expect and certainly a lot fewer than we when were children ourselves. Parents cannot be blamed for keeping their children indoors with such high volumes of traffic.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods with streets that are safe for children are better for everyone with less noise, less danger and cleaner air.  It’s even been shown that people living on streets with less traffic have more friends and a better social life than those that live on streets with heavy traffic. This is no laughing matter when loneliness is now considered such a serious issue that the Government has appointed a Minister for Loneliness to create a national loneliness strategy.

As with pledge 1, it will be for local residents to judge whether a street is pleasant, safe and attractive and where children can play out without fear of traffic. We hope to work with Councillors who sign up to this pledge to engage with local residents who have concerns about  traffic-related issues to look at options for how this objective can be met for their street.

Pledge 4. Rapid implementation of temporary changes to trial interventions in support of these objectives.

If Pledges 1-3 are to mean anything there must be some meaningful and urgent action as a result. Often changes involving traffic are controversial with long and heated debates about the likely consequences of a change. Yet other cities have shown that there is a different way, with trial interventions that can be implemented quickly that let people experience what will happen without any permanent commitment being made.

Using trials as part of a range of interventions helps inform the debate as people can see the benefits for themselves, and if there are issues with the trial then they can be stated factually with councillors and residents then able to work together to resolve or mitigate those issues.

Clearly not all issues can be resolved straight away but we hope to work with Councillors and other members of the community to identify and prioritise the areas of greatest concern, where trials might receive the most support and have the greatest benefit.

Pledge 5. Constructive community engagement about how to address the public health impacts of travel and the benefits of active travel.

Making streets safer and cutting air pollution should be objectives that everyone supports, but it is still important that the council and local councillors engage with the community to ensure that residents understand what the issues are and have a chance to help solve those issues. Air pollution in particular is invisible and we’ve found that many people haven’t been aware that it has been, and continues to be, a problem in Jesmond. Nor are people generally aware of the very serious health impact of sedentary lifestyles which cost taxpayers billions of pounds every year and are responsible for even more early deaths than air pollution.

Likewise it is often challenging to put ourselves in others’ shoes, to understand for example what it is like to be a child on Jesmond’s streets, what it is like to be a parent cycling or walking with children (or even alone) on busy streets during the rush hour, or what it is like for residents or visitors with disabilities or conditions for whom travel is a challenge. It is only by having this broad engagement that we can ensure that Jesmond’s streets are safe and accessible for everyone.

These five pledges are based on SPACE for Jesmond’s objectives* which you can see on our home page. We welcome input from candidates about how they will go about meeting other aspects of those objectives to make streets in Jesmond more healthy, liveable, accessible and safe for everyone of all ages and abilities.

Our thanks go to our neighbouring group, SPACE for Gosforth, in helping to put this information together.

*Please note that at the time of writing our objectives are temporary and may be further refined to reflect Jesmond’s specific needs.


Ministers Urged to Support Active School Travel

In an open letter to UK Transport Ministers, a group of health and transport specialists have urged Ministers to ditch a “windscreen perspective” and reverse a 42-year decline in children’s mobility.

Writing in the BMJ, the authors note:

“The rhetoric of improving the environment in favour of children’s active travel has been visible for at least two decades but tangible changes have largely been absent from transport planning. We suggest that the time is right to redress the imbalance and give back to today’s children many of the freedoms that older adults recall and benefited from in terms of the levels of independent mobility.”

Highlighting increased car use on the school run – almost half of primary pupils are now driven – the authors suggest 10% of national infrastructure budgets be put toward better routes for walking and cycling, because the “default choice” of car travel is damaging children’s health, not just through inactivity, but also because air pollution becomes concentrated inside vehicles.

Of course, it isn’t just a matter of children’s independence and health. The authors highlight the wider benefits to physical and mental health, the public purse and improvements in air quality and travel time that would result from a sensible level of investment in active travel.

With Transport Scotland doubling their investment in active travel, it would be great to think that the rest of the UK will follow suit, especially considering the myriad benefits which come from reduced reliance on motor cars. However, while we puzzle over the lack of investment from Westminster, we need to consider; what can be done right here and now in Jesmond?

After all, we don’t want our kids to end up like Alex.

Too much traffic, so we drive!


Monitoring Air Quality in Jesmond

Air Quality is an issue which has been getting a lot of press recently. On the back of the Volkswagen scandal there has been increased public scrutiny of what is coming out of the tailpipe of motor vehicles. However, while there is a focus from certain sectors on cleaner, greener cars there are many journeys which we can make on foot or bike instead, with all the well documented benefits this brings. Providing local evidence of pollution levels can help make the case for prioritising walking and cycling in Jesmond, but this is not possible to do without specialist equipment…

To try and quantify pollution in Jesmond, SPACEforJesmond have taken the opportunity to work with Sense My Street, a project run by Aare Puussaar at Newcastle University’s Open Lab.

I spent December 2017 walking around Jesmond with a Fidas Frog portable Air Quality monitor and a GPS tracker, to find out what the Air Quality is like in Jesmond, and importantly, how this changes in particular streets, especially at busy times. An area of focus was West Jesmond Primary School on Tankerville Terrace, around school run time. Tankerville Terrace is often very busy and at some times, a complete standstill. There are often idling vehicles which become backed up along the length of the street.

While Petrol and Diesel vehicles produce pollutants of varying types, the Frog measures particulate matter (PM) – very fine dust which is emitted as a by-product of diesel combustion among other things.

The results are now available, and very interesting.

Note: The colour gradient does not indicate anything dangerous or illegal about the measurement. The World Health Organisation do not have a “safe limit” for PM exposure and EU legal levels are not measured using the method employed here.

It is possible to see various “hotspots” on the map. These are:

  • Tankerville Terrace near West Jesmond Primary School
  • Sections of Osborne Road
  • Adjacent to the Royal Grammar School
  • Sandyford road adjacent Civic Centre

To get a fuller picture of PM levels in Jesmond would require more intensive monitoring, but as an indicator of the exposure I have as a commuter on the school run, it seems that the further away from the traffic I am, the lower my exposure – which is exactly what we would expect. So, to lower my exposure, I can try and avoid the main roads.

However, two of the “hotspots” are around schools, and there’s no way that children can avoid these areas. The only way to improve the air quality is to reduce the amount of motor traffic near the school, and to do that, we need to shift more journeys to walking, scooting, cycling and public transport.