A new permanent two-way, segregated active travel route along the seafront in North Tyneside has been branded “disastrous” by local Conservative councillors, who claim the coastal path will lead to an increase in congestion and collisions, and “prioritise a small handful of cyclists over thousands of commuters”.
However, North Tyneside Council and supporters of the project say the protected walking and cycling route will create a “safe space” for families riding bikes, as well as improving air quality, boosting tourism, and “improving people’s enjoyment of an already beautiful space”.
Construction work on the first phase of the active travel “safe space”, which will stretch for eight kilometres along the seafront between the North Shields Fish Quay and St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay, is set to begin next week, making permanent a popular pop-up scheme that was implemented in 2020 as part of social distancing measures.
North Tyneside Council say the revised scheme, which is expected to be finished by 2025, will provide “separate space for cyclists and other users of sustainable travel, while maintaining a two-way route along the seafront” for motor traffic, with the exception of a new 600-metre-long one-way system in Tynemouth.
The proposals, which have been financed by the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund and walking and cycling charity Sustrans, also include the introduction of various road safety measures and a 20mph speed limit.
A six-week public consultation carried out by the council, starting in October 2021, found that of the 11,000 comments made, 6,965 were in favour of the proposals, while 68 percent of the 1,500 respondents believed that they would travel more sustainably if the scheme was permanently implemented.
However, two Conservative councillors in Tynemouth hit out at the scheme in a recent meeting of North Tyneside Council, claiming it will cause chaos, disruption, and pollution “along our beautiful coastline”, Chronicle Live reports.
Speaking on behalf of councillor Christopher Johnston and himself, Tory councillor Lewis Bartoli said: “If the disastrous cycle scheme at Rake Lane has taught us anything, it is that prioritising a small handful of cyclists over thousands of commuters causes nothing but disruption and congestion and increases in accidents.
“I accept that the scheme is of high quality, but it will effectively turn Tynemouth into a one-way system and the path is not even continuous with a huge gap in the middle at Cullercoats.
“This hare-brained scheme will cause congestion, inconvenience, pollution, and chaos along our beautiful coastline.”
Bartoli also accused the Labour-controlled council of “spending other people’s money”, despite the funding being supplied by the government’s Active Travel Fund, and claimed that the original temporary scheme installed during the pandemic was unpopular, despite the results of the public consultation.
Responding to Bartoli’s criticism, Sandra Graham, the local authority’s cabinet member for climate emergency, said she was “rather surprised that Councillor Bartoli goes against his own government’s funding pots and priorities to promote more active forms of travel and against their own motion last month. In September, there was a motion for enhanced road safety across the borough, and here is a project that will help to achieve this.”
She continued: “The scheme coupled with raised crossings and other measures with a 20mph zone along the seafront will in fact make the seafront safer for all, making it a more pleasant place to be and bring greater tourism and visitors to North Tyneside.
“Road safety will be improved giving people space to walk and cycle and reducing speeds whilst giving people the confidence to take up and develop their cycling skills in a lovely setting with space for everyone.
“This will provide a very high-quality look to the public realm and it doesn’t cost council taxpayers one penny – what’s not to like?”
The scheme was also praised by Whitley Bay GP Sian Williams, one of the 50 local doctors and nurses who called on the council in February to press ahead with the project on health and environmental grounds.
“I’m really pleased to see the cycle lane start to become a reality,” Dr Williams said.
“I hope it will provide a safe space to encourage more cyclists of all ages as happened with the temporary cycleway when more children and families were out on their wheels.
“I hope that the traffic calming measures will make those walking or cycling feel safer as well as improve air quality for everyone and overall improve people’s enjoyment of an already beautiful place.”
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.