Lib Dems' Wendy Taylor accuses Labour Council of go-slow on cycling delivery ; Needs leadership, "much more, much faster" delivery

February 4, 2015 1:30 PM
By Wendy taylor

Dr Wendy Taylor, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Newcastle East, has supported Newcastle Cycling Campaign's criticism of the city council's approach to encouraging more cycling in the city - and has questioned why the council's delivery of improvement is so slow, given that significant funding has been made available to Newcastle for sustainable transport by Lib Dems in government.

The Newcastle cycling campaign has called for greater measures to improve infrastructure, rather than relying simply on social media messaging and confidence building sessions. They have also rightly noted that the city centre remains difficult for cyclists to navigate, particularly when sharing bus routes.

Dr Taylor commented "I think Katja and the Newcastle Cycle Campaign are right to question why so little progress has been made on improving cycle infrastructure in Newcastle in recent years by the council, given that many millions of pounds has been provided by the Government's Cycle City Ambition Fund programme in two large funding allocations, supplemented by the recent announcement of more funding for the North East LEP to promote sustainable transport."

"Newcastle is still lagging behind the Continent in provision of purpose built infrastructure including dedicated segregated cycle routes. To be frank, the council has mishandled a number of planned improvements in the city, including Acorn Road in Jesmond and Welbeck Road in Walker, by not doing enough to design schemes which have the support of local communities, and delivery is consequently behind schedule and could put the council at risk of "clawback" of unspent money. That would be scandalous, especially as this is one area where the council cannot complain they have been affected by funding cuts: the city has received massive investment in cycling and walking schemes from Lib Dem ministers in Government.

"I believe the council's leadership needs to get a grip on this issue. There is an urgent need to improve delivery, yet there is currently no senior officer with responsibility for transport in the Civic Centre. Lib Dem councillors have questioned slow progress on delivery of strategic cycle routes, including improvements to the existing cycle route between Newcastle city centre and North Tyneside adjacent to the Coast Road, where Government funding has been allocated, but we are repeatedly told that we will 'have to wait'. Even simple requests by Cochrane Park residents for missing cycle lane signs to be replaced have been met with refusal.

Thanks to Lib Dem ministers providing sustainable transport funding to Newcastle and the foundations put in place by the previous Lib Dem council's Cycling Strategy, the Labour-run council now has the budget and claims to want to improve cycling. However, their record is one of delays, bungled implementation, and a lack of joined-up delivery. They need to do much better, much faster, but they must also do more to ensure that they get more buy-in from local residents and businesses too."