Dream vision for walking and cycling in South Tyneside presses ahead

The dream vision to improve walking and cycling routes to help make South Tyneside healthier and less dependent on cars is pressing ahead.

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 6:00 am
A cyclist enjoys sunny weather along the Coast Road in South Shields

Council officers have finalised a Local Cycling and Walking Investment Plan (LCWIP) which is expected to be adopted later this year, subject to council approval.

The data-led plans aim to create new and improved routes and were shaped by consultation both pre and post-lockdown.

More than 600 online responses and 2,000 individual contributions were received helping to identify small issues and sites unknown to council officers.

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Cyclist Jonathan Barlow using the cycle lanes around The Arches, Tyne Dock.

As a result of the feedback, transport experts have confirmed a number of proposals are being drawn up.

This includes either creating new routes or upgrading existing ones, such as the coast road between Whitburn and South Shields, with future schemes also accommodating for local issues.

“We have established 24 routes and 16 walking routes that have been assessed and prioritised, purely from a desk-based point of view, which will improve accessibility and road safety,” said senior transport planner, Jonathan Barlow.

“We have created the designs, now we’re looking to cost these up so if a funding round comes in, or we can get some funding from internal sources, we’re in a position where we can move quickly and confidently in what we do.”

The council officer was speaking at a meeting of the council’s Place Select Committee during a presentation on transport improvements in the borough.

A draft plan presented to councillors also outlined some of the areas that could be upgraded.

This included routes from South Shields town centre and Whitburn ending at the A184 Newcastle Road / A194 Leam Lane roundabout, alongside added connectivity across Jarrow and Hebburn.

In addition, the main network would also be connected to estates considered ‘safe for cycling’, with calming and other measures, such as additional routes or zones, able to be added.

Mr Barlow went on to say: “I’m considering all of these assessments to be live so this is not set in stone once the policy is enacted.

“If one of the councillors or a member of the public has a fantastic idea for a new cycle route we will assess it objectively and if it has merit, we will look to do it in future years.”

Looking forward, council officers are hoping to get the community involved in renaming some cycle lanes and a councillor to step forward as an ‘active travel champion’ to promote the network – alongside rolling out more cycle parking across the borough.

Footway repairs such as crossings, dropped kerbs and walking routes will be “assessed and delivered on merit” in future capital programmes.

And initiatives are also being explored to encourage council staff to use active travel to help reduce the council’s carbon footprint.

South Tyneside Council was recently allocated £100,000 from the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund which helped deliver improvements at Lukes Lane – with the underspend set to be used for additional schemes.

Submitted schemes for the second tranche of the fund include improved infrastructure from the A194 Lindisfarne Junction to Gateshead.

Other upcoming projects include completing a link from Sunderland’s network to the South Shields network along Sunderland Road.

The updates on walking and cycling were praised by councillors on the Place Select Committee, which was held digitally and broadcast live on YouTube.

Cllr Joan Atkinson, cabinet member for area management and community safety with responsibility for climate change, welcomed the progress so far.

“I was really keen on hearing this presentation as someone who is, with some of my colleagues here, working with the climate change agenda driving towards ‘2030 carbon neutral’ for all council operations,” she said.

“So cycling and walking are a big part of that if we can encourage people to come along that path with us.”

The council chief also called for signage to be put up to highlight public rights of way in remote areas and to promote walking routes through investment in technology.

This could take the form of an interactive app, Cllr Atkinson explained, to help residents discover and explore routes “off the beaten track.”

Transport planner, Mr Barlow, said he would raise the request with the ‘public rights of way’ officer.

He added: “Moving forward there are more opportunities generally speaking to harness ICT and combine it with active travel.

“I think we made reference to it in our LCWIP in general terms to harness new technologies, so it’s an avenue we can explore further.”

Walking and cycling maps can be accessed on South Tyneside Council’s website and downloaded free of charge, with hard copies also available on request.

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