More Shared Use Footway+Cycleways?

A bad idea for North Tyneside

North Tyneside has a long history of converting footways into shared cycleways and also building shared paths like the waggonways. Although many of these are far from ideal, they are mostly located away from areas where lots of people live or come to shop or play.

Today things have at last moved on and the council is trying to build new street layouts in more useful places where there are many more pedestrians. Shared footway-cycleways have no place in this but at times it seems like the council just hasn’t quite kicked the habit.

  • For pedestrians this takeover of space just isn’t fair. In busy locations we need to be increasing room for people on foot, not taking it away.
  • For local people on bikes more shared use just doesn’t offer any value, it isn’t any improvement on what is there already. People don’t want the risks of injury that come with trying to ride a bike through groups on foot. Nobody wants to ride a bike straight past someone’s front door.

Modern design standards strongly discourage creation of new shared use footways except when pedestrian volumes are very low. The need to consider the needs of disabled and visually impaired people is noted “Engaging with such groups is an important step towards the scheme meeting the authority’s Public Sector Equality Duty” (LTN 1/20).

Why are we writing about this now? Well, the council has recently converted footways to shared use in some very problematic locations, for example, right outside houses at Four Lane Ends in Benton. There are also proposals on Beach Road in Tynemouth which seem to have crept into the coastal improvements.

What needs to change? At the moment council officers can convert footways to shared use without any sign-off from elected Councillors. Maybe this needs to change and a clear decision made to stop out of date practices?

Talking more with local residents about how they use infrastructure – be it footways, shared use paths or cycle lanes – would help North Tyneside Council better understand how people would find it safer, more convenient and more practical to get around. Often, the loudest voice comes from motorists, but frequently these arguments overlook the benefit of active travel infratructure change to all residents. The sight of people cycling on ‘footpaths’ frustrates both pedestrians and drivers, even when that path may be designated as shared use. This tells us that people really desire a better, safer layout and a council with the ambition to deliver it.

Do our politicians really want to be responsible for putting bikes on hundreds of metres of footway in busy locations?

With advice and help available from Active Travel England there’s just no excuse to be doing this anymore.

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