Meeting Four – 14th November

 

Blue House & Jesmond Dene Road Working Group

Monday 14th November 2016

Notes of the fourth meeting taken by Ali Lamb, Transport Engagement Officer, Newcastle City Council

Present: John Dales, Independent Facilitator; Graham Grant, Head of Transport Investment, Ali Lamb, Engagement Officer; Mike Scott, Nexus; Cllrs Catherine Walker (North Jesmond); Dominic Raymont (East Gosforth); Nick Cott (West Gosforth); Stella Postlethwaite (North Jesmond).

Representatives of stakeholder groups: New Cycling; Jesmond Residents Association; Save Newcastle Wildlife; Space for Gosforth, Newcastle Cycling Forum; Gosforth Traffic; Jesmond Dene Estate Residents Association; West Gosforth Residents Association; Change.org Petition; High West Jesmond Residents Association; the Five Admirals Residents Association; T&W Public Transport User Group; Save our Town Moor; Open Lab, Newcastle University.

Agenda Items

  1. Welcome & introductions

JD welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions followed because there were a couple of new representatives attending to cover for absences.

  1. Tree Survey

Discussion points:

JD introduced a tree survey which had been undertaken between April and August this year. The survey is a condition survey of each tree completed to British Standards by arboriculturalists, the trees surveyed have also been plotted on a map.

820 trees were surveyed, 38 are currently at risk because they are dying, dead, damaged or diseased.

A number of questions were raised, the answers have been added to these notes after the meeting:

Q: What would happen to the trees identified as ‘at risk’ normally and when?

A: The at risk trees would be reported to the Arbor squad and they would schedule appropriate work – pruning or removal

Q: Would the survey have been completed anyway or was it prompted by the proposed highway works?

A: The survey is part of a full Town Moor Tree Survey, there are over 3,000 trees around the Moor and the management plan is being updated as a result.

Q: Some trees are designated ‘remove’ and some are designated ‘recommended remove’ – what is the difference?

A: ‘Remove’ is a definite instruction for the tree to be felled, ‘recommended remove’ suggested fell but also a request for a second opinion before that is done.

  1. Amendments / comments about the notes of the last meeting

Amendment to the reported collision figures from the meeting notes from 31.10.16 – figures should read between June 2010 and June 2016 there were 75 collisions which resulted in 115 injuries.

It was also noted that the notes did not convey the level of positive feeling about retaining the open space and trees in the area rather than expanding the profile of the junction that came out of the small group work … that is largely attributable to the fact that the small group work wasn’t recorded in the notes and that each group was supposed to send their findings in to be added after the meeting.

The drawn record of the meeting also misses out the group work because they were inspired by the written notes.

Web site comments – people are posting comments on the web site but there is no one to take on the responsibility of pulling the replies together. It was agreed that the best thing to do is to put a statement together to let anyone who posts know that their views are being noted and fed into the working group – CC

  1. Collisions data

The comparison figures requested at the last meeting were tabled for reference, they show the collision data for 40 junctions compared on a rolling average.

They show that Blue House has risen from 19th worst in Tyne & Wear to the worst and or second worst in the last 3 years.

Q: When does the period that data is collected start and finish

A: Data is compiled on a monthly basis and presented in 5 year clusters – the last data set that our figures relate too was collected in August 2016.

Q: The data suggests that there was a rapid increase in collisions at Blue House 5 years ago – did something happen at the junction to cause this? For example, is that when the 2 lane right turns were introduced?

A: Traffic Management team have said that there have been no significant changes in road markings at the junction for over 8 years – google maps from 2008 shows the road markings to be the same as they are today with the only change being the refreshed paint in 2012. They have also commented that the police’s accident investigation would have identified road layout problems and changes would have been demanded as a result.

Q: Can we rely on historical comparisons between junctions to indicate the danger that a junction poses? Wouldn’t absolute numbers be a better indication? Also, the map of the location of the collisions shows that some of them are on the approaches not at the actual junction.

A: The collisions mapped are within 50m of the junction. We weren’t actually asked to provide the absolute numbers of collisions, we were asked to compare Blue House to other junctions in the City. But we do have some data about collisions at similar capacity junctions in the region which will be shared and shows that in absolute numbers, Blue House far exceeds similar junctions in the area.

Comment: Some of the most dangerous junctions have the fewest accidents because people try to avoid them.

  1. Growth Assumptions and turning counts – presentation by GG

The presentation shows graphically how the capacity of the junction was tested at different times of the day in 2015.

It was noted that the width of the lanes in the vicinity is below current standards. In terms of producing a reliable growth forecast, the method involves collecting data from ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition) cameras, turning counts and queue counts and adding them into a computer model to forecast how they will grow – the findings are validated by a localised model that compares them to what is currently happening. It was pointed out that the queue information, although valuable, does not show the extent to which delays were occurring slightly further ahead at nearby bottlenecks, and therefore does not give a full picture of the impact on journey times.

The data for this forecast was collected over the course of one week.

The council accepts that currently we don’t have a queueing problem outside of the peak hours. It was also noted that human behaviour leads to peak time spreading – that is people changing the time they make their journey – a little earlier or later or finding alternative routes to avoid queues. People prefer to keep moving even if the journey time ends up being the same.

ANPR records show that the popular traffic patterns within the area have been confined to the main roads thus far.

Comment: The queue lengths shown in the model seem to be much shorter than the experience of those travelling around the junction at peak times. One explanation suggested is that the queue lengths are averaged over a peak period, meaning that the time-spans of longer queues would be quite short.

Q: Does the model account for pinch points along the approaches? Most residents believe that congestion is generated away from the junction.

A: It is agreed that queues do build up at the lights on the approaches to the junction but once the traffic gets there, the roundabout has no way of managing the flow that comes on to it.

Q: What is the tipping point or tolerance for queue lengths?

A: The policy is to keep traffic on the roads that are designed to carry it and out of residential streets which are for access.

Q: Is it possible to use network planning to divert traffic away from Blue House and onto roads like the Coast Road? Or let the queues and congestion build so that people will decide to use public transport or other travelling methods instead….. 

Anticipating Growth – the National Trip End Model predicts growth in car ownership. Currently 42% of households in Newcastle don’t have access to a car but in some areas more than 60% of households do – the most deprived areas have the lowest car ownership. The model also looks at housing growth across the region to predict the increase in population – the council have used the lowest predicted growth figures for this scenario.

JD comments that the data shows that our travel time and the number of trips are remarkably constant – the way we travel means that we can travel further, faster, by car as opposed to travelling by public transport, walking or cycling.

Q: when will the working group look at how to change travel patterns and preferences … will the group challenge travel choices?

JD comments that national traffic forecasts predict growth but they are rarely reliable.

Group members raise the idea of back casting to assess the reliability of forecasting …

Also, the issues of climate change and air pollution have taken on a greater significance after the recent government court case. JD remarks that the future isn’t written and that better air quality, economic and personal health, congestion etc. are all linked to political decision making.

One of the working group members presented a proposal to introduce better cycling provision around the junction linking the improvements in the city centre north, up the Great North Road and into Gosforth …the proposals brings together the good support that the small groups seemed to share last time for better walking and cycling provision.

  1. Assessment of possible new layout

JD presented a junction proposals that had been worked up by his team, to deliver on concerns and issues such as better lane discipline, tighter turns, preserving trees, better provision for walking and cycling …. The design shows a simple roundabout with a bigger central circle and fewer lanes (which means that it has lower capacity).

The working group worked in small groups to assess this proposal using their previously determined criteria and assessment tools.

The Headline feedback:

Positives – preserves trees, slower and safer

Negatives – lower capacity (modelling still to be done), 2 stage crossings with poor air quality on islands in the traffic – less frequent green time for pedestrians can improve the capacity – JD will get some timings.

Some members weren’t convinced that cycling provision was needed on both sides of the GNR and noted that the location of the crossings would have an impact on the traffic flow.

However, crossings for all modes are an important feature on all legs and provision for buses is also important.

  1. Any other business

The group were told that the council have prepared a paper for the next Cabinet meeting on the 21st November where they are requesting to apply for planning permission for the Haddricks Mill and Killingworth Road proposals …. The Cabinet report references the Blue House working group and the redesign of the junction in the business case for the funding for Haddricks Mill. An indicative design has been included in the business case, it is not a design that is being progressed, it is an example as required for the funding bid to progress.

Next meeting

Monday 28th November 2016 – 5.30 for a 6pm start.

For additional supporting documents click on the links below.

Bill Dodds’ proposal to enhance provision of cycling

John Dale’s team new junction design proposal (work in progress)

Comments

  1. I think it is incorrect to say that there has been no change in lane markings since 2008. I am certain that the two lane right hand turn was introduced more recently than eight years ago – I would have suggested four or five years.

  2. I think it is incorrect to say that there has been no change in lane markings since 2008. I am certain that the two lane right hand turn leaving the city and the two lane left hand turn entering the city was introduced more recently than eight years ago – I would have suggested four or five years.

  3. Would introducing a traffic light scheme on the roundabout itself (like other larger roundabouts, such as the Kingston Park/A1 roundabout) be an option to both address the flow of traffic/risk of accidents, whilst also essentially nullifying any need to encroach on the Town Moor? Or, alternatively, could the roundabout be entirely replaced by a traffic light junction system within the road space that’s already there?

  4. I am a cyclist, walker and motorist and have lived no more than 1 mile from Blue House for over 40 years. I am not sure what the obsession is to provide cycling lanes both directions Great North Road at roundabout? Very few cyclists use this route. Majority go thro exhibition park to the city etc. This needs serious appraisal. Also I just do not accept accident figures that are quoted. There is some statistical fiddling going on to justify roundabout modifications. We need detailed actual figures and exact location of each accident that is supposed to have happened at the roundabout. %’s and other statistical devices used to make the case for major roadworks here need to be vigorously challenged.

    1. Agree it is entirely possible to avoid BHR on a bike in all directions but this does rely on knowledge of the routes and a willingness to negotiate pedestrians, gates, crossings. If the idea is to get people out of their cars then some additional provision makes sense. Also moving pedestrians as well as bikes from alongside BHR to the other side of the trees means more room for vehicle lanes without loss of green space and improved safety for pedestrians and cyclists not least by moving them away from particulate spread.

    1. There is a strong case for something that stops traffic intermittently to break up the flow into the “downstream” pinch points that are always going to be there (grandstand Rd going west, central motorway junction going south, GHS going north, JDR going east). I suspect that the issue for NCC (and the group) is that to try to present this to an impatient public after the inflated claims made about the gyratory would be political suicide.

  5. M understanding was that the council already had priced out putting traffic lights at blue house. WHY WAS IT CHANGED.

    If you accept the fact that it is only at rush hour that there are any tail backs why not consider keeping the roundabout as it is and simply have traffic lights that operate at rush hour only. These could be set back a reasonable distance from the roundabout and could also operate manually outside of rush hour for pedestrian and cyclists.

    Maybe this idea is too simplistic!!

  6. My response to Nick Brown (who I have cc via a separate email) would be that he makes some good points with regard to the lack of integration in NCC overall transport policy both within their immediate sphere of influence and in relation to neighbouring councils. In sharp contrast to these well made points are the rather clumsy (and in one place grammatically incorrect) references to Blue house which simply trot out some of the myths peddled by NCC and other old fashioned commentators whose strategies are firmly based in the 1970s. On a weekday evening the bus lane on GNR simply elongates a traffic queue that has its origins at the unavoidable pinch point just past Little Moor going north into Gosforth where two lanes in a 50 limit come down to one at 30 for a residential area. Alterations to Blue house would have no bearing whatsoever on this. Removing the bus lane would admittedly have two lanes of traffic queuing on GNR but with buses and taxis joining the fray I doubt that this would reduce the backup from Gosforth. Once again we have a politician waving the safety banner, but just like NCC there is no reference to the obvious which is to lower the speed limit on the Central Motorway and GNR (which is currently the same as that on the Western Bypass) to one that is safe and/or add electronic hazard signs. Lastly and most importantly there is absolutely no reference to local environment, amenity for residents or green space, again mirroring NCC. As a card carrying Labour member this falls considerably short of what I would expect from a Parliamentary representative in terms of breadth, detail and accuracy.
    I have suggested to Nick that I think he has been poorly briefed. If you want to see the actual pinch point go to https://youtu.be/Udt5jQV38so to see slow moving rush hour traffic that has been past Blue House and is on its way to Gosforth.

  7. The current arrangements at Blue House are more likely than not to be a stimulus for accidents, because:
    1. the lane markings on the approach roads are very worn and in some directions are not intuitive – thus well-intentioned motorists are ill-disciplined in how they travel through the roundabout

    2. The speed limit arrangements are nonsensical:

    a. on the approach from Jesmond Dene Road the limit rises from 30 >40 > 50mph in a matter of several hundred metres – this suggests to drivers it is safe to increase speeds
    b. on the approach from Grandstand Road the limit rises from 40 >50mph – again suggesting it is safe to increase speeds
    c. meanwhile, on the Great North Road the speed limit is 50mph on both approach roads, which given a straight road can suggest that there is no need to slow down.

    WHY DO WE HAVE A 50 mph LIMIT ON ALL FOUR APPROACHES TO THIS ROUNDABOUT? Surely a quick win step to reduce accident risk would be to reduce the speed limits now.

  8. I am totally against the new roundabout plan which wants to reduce lanes, reduce capacity and therefore cause congestion. The focus has to be on improving traffic flow not reducing it.

    I’m also against the cyclist plan by Bill Todd. My husband and I are both cyclists but we do not need any more provision. We would much prefer to be able to get from A to B in our cars as quickly as possible when we have to. We cycle across the Town Moor when we want to go into town. There is no need for cyclists to go down the GNR.

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