There’s been lots of chatter over the last year or so about North Tyneside Council’s scheme to add 2km of segregated cycle infrastructure between Foxhunters roundabout near Monkseaton High School, and the western end of the A191 New York bypass in North Shields. The scheme is part of the council’s plans to introduce around 14km (8.6 miles) of new cycling routes across the borough following successful bids for funding.
The council’s consultation on the borough-wide plan – which included making significant changes to the roundabout at the western end of Rake Lane to reduce traffic to a single lane and add a circulatory cycle lane, additional footpaths and zebra crossings on all approaches – ran between May and June 2021. Over 1900 comments were received, of which the majority were reported as positive and constructive.
The Rake Lane route is strategic and important, because it connects people living in Monkseaton, Whitley Bay, Marden, Preston Grange and New York to employment, shopping and leisure opportunities in the Silverlink and Cobalt areas. It also feeds to the Waggonway between Shiremoor and Royal Quays, which crosses nearby Silver Fox Way and gives easy access to the Park & Ride facilities at Northumberland Park. We’ve already heard from Steve, who hasn’t used his car to get to work since the scheme partially opened earlier this summer, and our members have reported seeing an increase in people walking and cycling in the vicinity, despite the works being incomplete.
What is still left to do, and why is it important for the future of active travel infrastructure in North Tyneside?
Rake Lane is still a mess, so what’s going on? Complaints have come from both sides of the fence in relation to the absence of complete segregation between the roundabouts at Rake Lane and the entrance to North Tyneside General Hospital / Lidl. These will be added and the scheme ‘completed’ when NTC completes resurfacing works on this stretch of road in late October / early November 2022. However, does this actually complete the scheme?
Anyone using this route in recent weeks will be well aware that Story Homes have started work on their ‘Robinson Fields’ development on the northern side of Rake Lane, between Monkseaton High School and Rake House Farm. This development has been on the table for some years; the site was identified in North Tyneside’s Murton Gap Master Plan in 2017. The overall strategic site is expected to deliver 3000 new homes by 2032. At an average of 1.24 cars per household, that could mean an additional 3750 vehicles.
As part of the planning consent, North Tyneside Council required the upgrade of the roundabout at the entrance to the hospital site – now further supporting the Lidl supermarket and Rosewood Close housing development. At the time, no active travel improvements were on the table, so the approved roundabout design doesn’t initially make any allowances for the safety or convenience of people walking and cycling this route.
The design sees two lanes of motor traffic, with limited facilities for pedestrians crossing the access routes, despite the proximity to the high school and hospital. NTC have requested Story Homes make some alterations to the design of the roundabout so that it ties in with the recently added cycling infrastructure on Rake Lane, however they have not required the design to meet the government’s LTN1/20 standard for active travel infrastructure. This suggests that the council have agreed to adopt a non-compliant junction, for which they will need to find funds and time in the future to complete the upgrade. There is a real possibility that residents will suffer a disjointed route for years to come.
Story Homes have been collaborative with Street Life and local residents, responding to a number of questions and concerns raised about the impacts on safety, both during the ongoing construction and the longer term development. With regards to the roundabout, they have simply confirmed that they want to stick closely to the design used for planning, and that the roundabout design is being tweaked and ‘could be upgraded to LTN1/20 standards by North Tyneside Council “in the future”’.
Failure to require an LTN1/20 standard at this junction – and missing the opportunity to design a junction which encourages more non-motorised journeys – risks the loss of future funding from Active Travel England and will result in additional unnecessary car journeys. At this stage, North Tyneside Council have not suggested there will be any public consultation or scrutiny of the updated design, meaning no opportunities for residents to reflect on how they wish to make fewer car journeys.
This is especially worrying given the number of facilities the residents of the new development will access on its immediate fringes. It isn’t expected that there will be any commercial facilities within the estate, at least in the short term, so we know that residents will need to travel to access such amenities close by. Facilitating these journeys by foot and cycling will be crucial in managing the local transport network, residents’ health & wellbeing, and reducing environmental impact.
Our mockup design shows how the junction could be laid out, with single carriageway movements for motor vehicles (as per the current installation), and segregated cycling facilities to link into the current Rake Lane design. It additionally provides a bi-directional cycle route on the northern side, to accommodate a desire line for travel to Monkseaton High School and Star of the Sea Primary School. This avoids the need to negotiate the busy Foxhunters Roundabouts for those travelling eastbound from Preston Grange and the new housing development.
We’re calling on North Tyneside Council to ensure that changes to the design of this key junction are opened to scrutiny, both for councillors and residents, to ensure that it works safely and effectively for everyone and does not immediately undo the foundations which have been laid on this corridor for a boost to active travel. We’d ask you to reach out to your local councillors and express your concerns, sharing your experiences of poorly designed roundabouts and disjointed walking and cycling provision. This collective approach increases scrutiny and highlights the importance of getting it right for local residents.