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.