Many of us still fondly remember Park View Saturdays last summer. North Tyneside Council introduced pedestrian and cyclist zones along Park View and the Fish Quay, under experimental traffic orders, to facilitate social distancing and enable active travel. These trials lasted for four months only, from 1 July to 2 November 2020. They were funded by the government Emergency Active Travel programme, which supported local authorities across England to create safer space for cycling and walking and facilitate economic recovery.
One year later and while we are still facing the reality of living with covid, it’s worth remembering what we had, and ask ourselves (again) what kind of high street and town centre we want for the future.
What we had back in 2020 was wonderful. Suddenly, with only a few cones and planters, space was made for people and they embraced it wholeheartedly. Local residents and shop owners organised for buskers and aspiring musicians to play in the street. Renowned violin player, Bradley Creswick, appeared one Saturday to entertain shoppers and wanderers.
Local artists had craft and workshops on Saturdays and Park View even got its own piece of art from the lovely @seaternprint. The place was buzzing with residents, young and old people, families, children scooting and cycling… People came from further away just to soak up the new atmosphere. Locals and visitors relaxed, strolled, and discovered independent businesses they hadn’t realised were there. They stopped and sat down on the tarmac to chat, browsed the growing range of shops and grabbed a coffee or lunch. Time slowed down and Park View became a destination where people would happily spend a few hours.
There was space for bars, cafes and cake shops to spill out, tables and benches were brought in the middle of the street, and even on less sunny days, people stayed outside – enjoying drinking and eating al fresco. No fumes and no noise. Just chatter and fun.
There was a lot of talk about how to make it even better: additional seating, parklets, nicer planters, art, cycle parking etc. So, in October, we wrote to the Councillors and council officers asking to maintain the trial and start a co-design process with the community.
Sadly, this was not considered and without detailed explanation, North Tyneside Council stopped the trial and the traffic returned to Park View on Saturdays…
Living Streets volunteers have continued to engage with businesses throughout the year and talked to many people about the benefits of people friendly high streets, as documented by the Living Streets’ landmark report the pedestrian pound. We watched with great interest and envy other local authorities across the country maintaining their pedestrianised high streets, putting people first and reaping all the benefits. This could have been Park View in 2021…
With the development of the Whitley Bay city centre masterplan, there is a real opportunity to re-consider how to make Park View (and also the heart of Whitley Bay, along Whitley Road and Station Road) more people friendly; prioritise people over cars and create a cleaner, greener, healthier and more vibrant environment for residents, visitors and businesses.
What if Park View was part of a low traffic neighbourhood? How can we remove through traffic from Whitley Bay and make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk, wheel and cycle?
If you are interested in helping us make this happen, get in touch with us by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM via twitter and join the other local volunteers from Living Streets North Tyneside.