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Delays to new bike lane spark safety fears family cycle event could lead to “conflict with pedestrians” – but council ensures ride can go ahead

The Kidical Mass ride will now take place on its originally planned route, “using a combination of the brand-new cycleway and safe on-road sections” which will be coned off to motor traffic

A Kidical Mass family-friendly cycling event, which was re-routed earlier this week due to concerns that the lack of progress on a new seafront protected cycle lane would endanger young cyclists and increase the risk of “conflict” with the path’s other users, will now go ahead as planned after the local council said the section set to be used was suitable and safe for cyclists.

Organised by road safety group Street Life in North Tyneside, the family cycle forms part of Kidical Mass’ ‘Action Weeks’ for Safe Streets Now, which are set to run from 20 April to 26 May and will feature hundreds of bike demonstrations, school streets, and bike buses calling for safe streets for children to cycle and walk. Last year, 230,000 participants took part in 900 Kidical Mass-related events during these action weeks.

The event in North Tyneside, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, will see families cycle from Whitley Bay and North Shields to Tynemouth, taking in a section of the as-yet incomplete two-way protected active travel route along the seafront, a cycling and walking “safe space” described by some local councillors last autumn as “hare-brained” and seeking to “prioritise a small handful of cyclists over thousands of commuters”.

North Tyneside active travel safe space proposals (North Tyneside Council)

> “Hare-brained” segregated bike path will “prioritise a small handful of cyclists over thousands of commuters” and increase collisions, councillors claim

Construction work began in October on the two-way, segregated path, which will stretch for eight kilometres along the seafront between the North Shields Fish Quay and St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay, making permanent a popular pop-up scheme that was implemented in 2020 as part of social distancing measures.

North Tyneside Council says 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.

However, earlier this week Street Life in North Tyneside raised concerns that a section of the new cycle path, between the Tynemouth Castle Inn and the Gibraltar Rock, was not of the required safety standard to host the Kidical Mass event due to construction delays, forcing the group to re-route the ride and alter its proposed finishing point to Cullercoats instead.

“We have had to re-route the ride to ensure the safety of our riders, especially the younger ones, and to avoid conflict with other users (pedestrians, dog walkers, joggers etc.),” the group posted on social media on Tuesday.

“We are extremely disappointed with these delays, not only for our Kidical Mass, but also for the increasing numbers of residents and visitors who will be hoping to walk and cycle along the seafront as the weather improves.”

> "It would be sacrilege to take up the grass verges," claims local, as cycle lane plan with "enormous benefits for the community" met with vocal opposition

However, as the Chronicle reported, North Tyneside Council responded to the altered route by stating that while parts of the lane are still under construction, other sections are already in use.

The local authority also added that the section of the route branded unsafe by Street Life was in fact suitable and that the council had no safety concerns for the event.

Street Life then held talks with the council on Friday morning before confirming that the ride will go ahead as planned on the original route, with the local authority “pulling out all the stops” to ensure that the protected path is open and that, on sections where the route isn’t ready, parts of the road will be coned off to allow for the safe passage of the family-friendly ride.

“We are really pleased to be able to meet members of the seafront project team on site earlier today to talk through options and find a possible way to rise safely as originally planned,” Alison Stenning, a committee member for Street Life in North Tyneside said yesterday.

“A combination of careful planning on the carriageway and progress on the cycleway itself means we can happily ride and celebrate progress on the new route. We really appreciate the work of the council and Capita staff and are really looking forward to [today’s] ride and of course to even more progress on the seafront.”

Seafront Sustainable Route, North Tyneside (Street Life in North Tyneside)

“What a fabulous ride we’re going to have later!” Street Life in North Tyneside added on social media on Saturday morning.

“Thanks again to North Tyneside Council for pulling out all the stops to get one part of the Sunrise Cycleway open and another part coned off safely for us.”

As well as being part of the nationwide movement for Safe Streets Now, the Kidical Mass ride in North Tyneside has also called on the local authority to commit to delivering safe cycling and walking routes to schools by 2025, to establish school streets outside every primary school in the borough by September 2025, and to create at least four low traffic neighbourhoods in the same timeframe.

However, as noted above, one positive movement towards better active travel infrastructure in the area, the eight kilometre-long ‘seafront sustainable route’, has already proved divisive among local politicians.

In October, two Conservative councillors in Tynemouth hit out at the scheme, claiming it will cause chaos, disruption, and pollution “along our beautiful coastline”.

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.”

However, the project was praised by a group of 50 local doctors and nurses on health and environmental grounds, while the Labour-controlled council’s cabinet member for climate emergency, Sandra Graham, said 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”.

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.

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3 comments

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john_smith | 1 month ago
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A demonstration named after a concept central to nuclear detonation. In road traffic. And people are supposed to take their children on it?

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Rendel Harris replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
4 likes
john_smith wrote:

A demonstration named after a concept central to nuclear detonation. In road traffic. And people are supposed to take their children on it?

Oh come on. Please tell me you're not being serious with that comment?

Avatar
sheridan replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
1 like

Of course, more likely to come from "In social dynamics, critical mass is a sufficient number of adopters of a new idea, technology or innovation in a social system so that the rate of adoption becomes self-sustaining and creates further growth. "

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