We’ve recently polled our members on a number of issues to decide how we take forward campaigning for ‘living streets’ in North Tyneside. One of the questions we asked was about “quality”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly our members, mostly people who already walk and cycle quite a bit, view the quality of future street changes as extremely important.
Wherever you go, the issue of quality can cause friction between campaigners and government. One side points accusational fingers at projects which fail to deliver, cause disputes between pedestrians and cyclists, or aren’t very safe. The other throws back accusations of failing to support schemes, unrealistic ambition, or conflicting demands.
With funding now moved to Active Travel England, it has been made very clear that modern guidance for walking and cycling projects must be followed, without exception. Better quality = more funding. This now puts local authorities like North Tyneside who have had at times quite critical local campaigners scutinising projects at an advantage.
Maybe these critical friends can actually save councils quite a lot of time and money?
Going forward things may get easier but there’s always going to be pressure from the members of a campaign to build better. As more people walk and cycle, those projects in the past that have been compromised due to financial or political pressures will need redoing.
Quality doesn’t mean building everything to one pattern or never mixing different groups of users in the same space in the right context. What it does mean is giving local residents the confidence that they can walk and cycle local streets as designed without being put a risk.
Things work best when challenge on the issue of quality comes not just from campaigners but from within local government as well. Hopefully we’ll see more of this.