Newcastle's Liberal Democrats have called on the Council to unlock the power of the City's existing cycle networks, in a bid to improve cycling rates and take advantage of national funding.
The Government launched the Cycle City Ambition Fund to provide resource for Local Authorities to take forward plans for sustainable transport improvements.Newcastle City received £16.3m from the fund, but did poorly in an assessment of the effectiveness of CCAF schemes in the nine participating cities published by the Department of Transport in 2019.
COVID-19 has presented a renewed opportunity to look at sustainable transport alternatives to mass car usage. The Government has provided additional funding for pop-up cycle lanes and innovative road network changes. However, despite swift action and bold plans in neighbouring North Tyneside and Gateshead, Newcastle has yet to implement any significant or inter-connected changes, with time to access the available funding running out.
Cllr Gareth Kane, the Opposition Transport Spokesperson, said: "Given past experience, we are concerned that the Council will struggle to deliver their programme of a very large number of small projects spread out across the City. We believe it makes much more sense to use this opportunity to unlock our half-finished strategic cycle network by creating high quality cycle superhighways where the current network is weak. Other Councils such as Gateshead and North Tyneside are showing the right level of ambition on key routes; Newcastle seriously needs to raise its sights if it isn't to let the opportunity pass."
Cllr Colin Ferguson, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, said: "We recognise that residents often have concerns about the Council's approach to infrastructure changes, and this may be the reason the Labour Administration seems slow to act. However, the Government has given the City a golden opportunity to implement experimental changes, listen to feedback and respond accordingly. Done right, the Council could inspire confidence in new schemes, and show they're prepared to listen when changes need to be made. Starting with improvements and extensions to existing infrastructure, originally conceived by the Liberal Democrats, makes sense. Doing anything else risks spending a lot of money for very little improvement."
The Opposition's Acting Transport Spokesperson Cllr Gareth Kane wrote to the Leader of Council and the Cabinet Member for Transport on 22nd July 2020, calling for high quality segregated cycle superhighways on main urban corridors, in line with Department for Transport best practice recommendations.
The City's Strategic Cycle Network was conceived and substantially designed by the City's Liberal Democrat administration before 2011, but has received little attention since Labour came to power.
Figures on city-wide cycling rates come from the Cycle City Ambition Programme interim report (https://bit.ly/2D2g4yh).
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