I’m Steve, a regular cyclist & a confident road user but I still prefer to cycle on segregated cycle routes, and I use them whenever they are available. I cycle for a range of reasons; I use it for exercise/recreation either alone, with friends or with my son. I also shop on my bike where possible because it’s often easier when heading into Whitley Bay to use the bike & I’m now also commuting to work on it. We’re still currently a 2-car family but I’ve reduced my own mileage by 50% from what I used to do before Covid times.
I changed jobs in lockdown, worked from home for a year but I’m now working a hybrid schedule of 2-3 days in the office at Balliol Business Park and the rest at home. I have a 9-5 office-based job and the drive to Balliol at peak times was really frustrating with the volume of traffic. It could take me 10-15 minutes to get along Seatonville Rd some mornings. Parking space at work is restricted and I also struggle to fit in exercise during the week. All of this made it a no-brainer to decide to look at cycling options.
My route from Monkseaton to Balliol is 7 miles and an easy distance for me to cycle in terms of fitness levels. The section of road from Rake Lane hospital to the Village Hotel is the longest and most dangerous section of the busier roads I use to work. I was obviously over the moon with the proposals to add cycle protection to this section of my route. I haven’t driven to work once since the roundabout opened.
Rake Lane Roundabout
Before the upgrades, I found Rake Lane roundabout and the Shiremoor/Shell Garage roundabout difficult to navigate. The double lanes meant that drivers were able to travel at much higher speeds around the roundabout. Double lanes on the entrances to the roundabouts resulted in drivers changing lanes and accelerating at the last minute. Both aspects created some scary incidents when I used the roundabout.
I’ve followed the feedback on the new design of the roundabout closely and I can understand where some of the negativity from those who look at the street purely from a motoring perspective comes from. It is much harder for drivers to speed on the roundabout with the narrower lanes and the complexity of the design slows most people down too. This is a huge success in my opinion. It reduces the risks for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
The cycle crossings are probably the most contentious parts of the design but my experience of them so far is good. Most drivers are entering the roundabout at sensible speeds and are giving way to pedestrians and cyclists. I’ve cycled every week since the roundabout opened and I’ve only had 2 incidents where it was obvious that the driver did not intend to stop. My guess would be that these drivers would behave in the same way when using standard crossings.
I’ve yet to see the congestion predicted by the negative comments and there are some hidden benefits for drivers. I used the A191/Norham Road (Shell Garage) roundabout in my car at 5pm this week and I had to wait 2-3 mins to pull out into traffic because of the high speed and volume of traffic. This created a huge line of traffic behind me. This type of issue doesn’t happen on Rake Lane now.
I’ve used the roundabout as a pedestrian too when walking with my son and I find the road much safer to cross without the 2 lanes of traffic on some of the approaches.
The New York ByPass
The speed reduction and the narrowing of the lanes for traffic has made a massive difference to the safety of this road. Even when using it as a motorist in the past, I have been overtaken by drivers travelling at crazy speeds. High speed close passes were regular occurrences on the whole of Rake Lane & New York bypass. The lanes have eliminated the close passes and it’s much harder for drivers to speed on the bypass.
The cycle lanes are a huge help and make the road much safer to use when cycling. If I was cycling with my son, I would have used New York but we have still had some near misses on that route with rat-runners, drivers overtaking buses and with drivers pulling out from the shops or side streets without looking. The segregated cycle lanes & with slower traffic speeds are a massive improvement.
I really hope that NTC keep on top of the maintenance of the route. Litter looks like it could become an issue if the route isn’t cleaned often enough.
The comments for Rake Lane should be identical to the bypass but the route isn’t finished yet and now the new housing has started to have a negative impact on the infrastructure that was there. Finishing Rake Lane must be the focus if NTC want to encourage more cyclists to choose this route.
I’ve seen the numbers of cyclists continue to increase week on week along the route. I’m sure more will be like me and realise that my commute to work takes the same amount of time on the bike as it does while sitting in traffic at the busy times of the day.
I would hate for the construction work and delays to completing the section on Rake Lane to reduce the impact of the investment and scare cyclists away from the route. As a regular user of the route, I love the impact the complete sections are having.
Asks & Improvements
Other than “finish the thing”, I’d have the want to see the following improvements
- Make sure that the new roundabout being built at Lidl is built as a better version of the large Rake Lane roundabout: Single lanes, good crossings, but do everything that just bit tighter and slower.
- Don’t run protected cycle lanes directly into an unprotected roundabout as is currently the case for the temporary solution at Lidl.
- Try to make the bus stops feel safer.
- Think about the transitions at the end of the cycle lanes where most cyclists merge back into traffic. At the moment we feel squeezed as traffic has already split into 2 lanes before the cycle lane stops.
- Be open about future plans, it is stressful not knowing which junctions are next on the list
What do others think
“This is the first time North Tyneside have aimed for higher standards at a large junction”
“I liked the roundabout, especially as I didn’t have to worry about which position in the road to take”
“I generally tend to avoid going on busy roundabouts and will use the pavements to skirt around them….felt like a massive improvement to me”
“I think the roundabout is fab…….I’ve been indicating (right) when I get closer to using the crossings and even (left) to stay in the lanes as I found some drivers being too cautious”
“I struggle to see what is traffic is doing when I head for the crossings, but they’ve tried to do better”
“The big positive about the roundabout is that it prioritises walking and cycling and genuinely lets people turn in every direction.“
Street Life in North Tyneside really hope the council is able to work with Active Travel England to get the funding and design help to improve many more junctions on Preston Road and Rake Lane to a high standard. Congratulations on breaking with the past and making a genuine move in the right direction, but there’s a lot of work to do: