LEFT OUTRAGED: Cyclists’ anger at Grey Street plans
A cyclist on the redesigned Grey Street in Newcastle city centre, Image: NCJ Media
Campaigners have been left outraged at plans to “effectively ban” people from cycling up Newcastle’s most beautiful street.
Grey Street has undergone a major redesign over the last 18 months to create extra space for bikes and pedestrians, with city leaders ultimately hoping to realise a long-held ambition of removing all cars from the famous route under a £50m transformation of the city centre.
The vision for the Georgian street’s cleaner, greener future has drawn widespread praise, but new proposals from Newcastle City Council have now infuriated cyclists.
Latest designs remove the protected northbound cycle lane on Grey Street, which critics warn will mean cycling up the hill from the Quayside towards Grey’s Monument will “effectively be banned” – leaving riders to either get off and push or divert into the busy Mosley Street traffic.
Sally Watson, of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign, said the discovery was “unexpected and disheartening” and urged the council to rethink its plans to create a “world class street that caters for both walking and cycling”.
She also warned that delivering a substandard cycling scheme could risk the council being asked to pay back £2.5m of cash secured from the government’s Active Travel Fund.
Lindsey Davey, from residents’ group SPACE for Gosforth, added: “The original plans and artists’ impressions for Grey Street were really exciting, with additional greenery, space for walking, pavement cafés and, importantly, a protected cycle lane for those heading up the hill from the Quayside.
“We were saddened to see that the new plans have removed this important cycle route, leaving no safe way for people to get from the Quayside to the city centre by bike.
“Given the number of people cycling along the Quayside’s national cycle routes, it’s a shame that our city council doesn’t value enabling these people, including women and children, to visit one of Britain’s favourite streets.”
Last year, the city council said that its ultimate aim was to make Grey Street a “vibrant mixed use street for cultural events and performances, al fresco dining and as a place to sit and admire the historic architectural wonder of the street”.
But Tay Pitman, of the Newcastle Green Party, claimed that the scheme risked becoming a “vanity project instead of an integral part of cutting air pollution and meeting our climate change obligations”.
She added: “Expecting people on bikes to brave four lanes of traffic on Mosley Street or to get off and push up Grey Street isn’t in keeping with a vision for 21st century low-carbon transport in our city.”
A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said: “The current layout on Grey Street is a temporary arrangement that was put in place in response to the pandemic and the need to create more space for social distancing, active travel and pavement areas for bars and cafes.
“We have been monitoring the impact of these temporary measures and liaising with local businesses in order to develop a permanent design for the street.
“Providing safe space for cycling in our city remains a priority and our programmes of investment in the city centre and local neighbourhoods clearly shows that.
“While we only completed the informal consultation about potential permanent changes on Friday, the feedback we’ve been given by people with various different viewpoints has been very helpful and will inform the final plan for this iconic street that will be advertised as soon as possible.”
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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