26 May 2020| | 3 min read
Temporary works to create safer and greener travel routes starting this week
Work to create new temporary space for people to walk and cycle is starting in Newcastle this week.
Road layouts in some areas will be altered to meet the demand for more space for walking and cycling and to allow for social distancing to be observed.
The measures being put in place mark the initial stages of plans to make it easier and safer for people to make essential journeys in the city.
Work will begin on Queen Victoria Road and St Thomas’ Street – both key access routes to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, which will help provide safe routes for frontline NHS staff and visitors to the site.
There will be changes to the road layouts to allow more space for people to walk and cycle. This will involve removing the parking on Queen Victoria Road, putting in place one-way systems on pavements and introducing new cycle lanes and temporary crossings.
The parking bays will be suspended from tomorrow (27 May) and works will be taking place on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 May.
Elsewhere in the city centre, the city council is working with NE1 to understand which businesses are open, or will soon be opening, so that floor markings can be put in place to show walkways, queuing areas and 2m distancing.
These measures will be monitored to see how effective they are, and whether any changes are needed, before they are put in place more widely, including in some district shopping centres.
City ‘marshalls’ may be used to help people understand the new system both for how to get about the area, and where to queue.
To get ready for these changes some seating and other street furniture is being removed but this will be reinstated once appropriate areas for walking and queuing have been identified.
Changes are also being made to pedestrian crossings throughout the city centre so that the green man will appear more regularly, giving more opportunities for people to cross the road and reducing queues building up. These changes will start being put in place from Thursday 28 May.
The city council will be looking at how these short-term changes could help deliver longer term ambitions for a cleaner and greener transport network that encourages and supports more active travel and a reduction in car journeys.
This includes plans both in the city centre and in local neighbourhoods for better walking and cycling routes along with more efficient public transport routes so that, when the time is right, people can be confident in public transport services.
Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: “While we have longer term ambitions for the city, right now we have to start with the immediate actions that are needed to enable people to move around safely and with social distancing as coronavirus restrictions start to ease.
“This will start with simple ways to create extra space for walking and cycling. There is a much greater demand for this now, while at the same time we are seeing a big reduction in car journeys.
“We need to do this as quickly as possible so we will be using traffic cones and bollards in the short-term and will be monitoring how the change in the use of space is working – and making further adjustments where required – before we explore turning some of these temporary measures into more permanent, longer term arrangements.”
The council is working with a range of partners, including NE1, Northumbria Police, the universities and the NHS Trust to ensure that the city centre is a safe and welcoming place for people.
Dr Julie Hall, Consultant Neuroradiologist and chair of Newcastle Hospitals’ Active & Sustainable Travel Group, said: “Making neighbourhoods and our city’s transport network more focused on active ways of getting around will facilitate social distancing while going about our daily lives. It will also help to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions and improve staff and patients’ health and wellbeing.
"The temporary proposals, particularly the plans to improve cycling infrastructure on the roads leading to the RVI and Freeman Hospitals, are very welcome. In order to support ongoing pressures on NHS staff & patients we would like to see these temporary changes become permanent.
"Public health is multi-faceted but a transport network that prioritises active and sustainable ways of getting around, and makes them safe and easy, is a great place to start.”
Further details about the longer term measures will be published in the coming weeks as they continue to be determined but people will be kept informed as plans are finalised.