Meeting Six – 12th December

Blue House & Jesmond Dene Road Working Group

Monday 12th December 2016

Notes of the sixth 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) govwnsq.

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.

Plans and documents examined in the meeting: 

Gosforth-Jesmond Dene Junction Proposal

Blue House Junction Turbo Roundabout Proposal

Blue House Junction cycle roots and branches proposal

Blue House Junction performance data summary

Blue House blank map

Agenda Items

  1. Welcome & introductions

JD welcomed substitute representatives for Save our Newcastle Wildlife and the Cycling Forum and noted the apologies.

  1. Communications and web Site

Researchers from Open Lab were seeking feedback on the website …. How well has the web site and resources worked for the group members and their wider memberships, how has the web site been received by the general public?

Comments included:

  • Mixed reactions to the illustrated minutes of meetings – in particular the new animated version to music was criticised – some people felt that it trivialised the work of the group and was too simplistic. The music accompanying the animations seemed particularly unpopular.
  • Some people in the group would prefer a static image.
  • Compliments for the web site and resources have also been made and it was noted that buying in such resources commercially would be very expensive.
  • Everyone is grateful to the university for giving their time and skills free of charge to the working group – this is a University funded research project.
  • The plans and diagrams are difficult to locate because they are posted with the notes from a particular meeting – it would be better to have all the plans and drawings in one place.
  • The web site is well used and great resource for the already engaged – the issue is how to engage with the excluded and the web site is not really achieving this.
  • The illustrated minutes are one way of trying to increase the accessibility of the material on the web site – different age groups have different preferences for the way they prefer to access material – younger people tend to prefer video over written reports. Maintaining a variety is important.
  • The model images and formats that have been used to create the illustrated minutes (the asset bank) will be posted on the web site. Any group members interested are welcome to use them to make their own posters or annotate notes and newsletters.
  • The comments feature on the web site was discussed …. Members of the public can leave comments and ask questions but the management of the feature is proving to be difficult. The comments can be wide ranging and it’s difficult for an individual to reply on behalf of the group or to bring the comments forward for the whole group’s attention. CC & AL will compose a reply to each of the comments to acknowledge the contribution and explain how the comments will be used by the group. CC will collate and catalogue the comments so they are more accessible to the group and can be discussed at pertinent times during the process of refining the recommendation.
  • Open Lab were congratulated and thanked for their work on the web site.
  • The next stage of development of the web site will be to consider how it can be used in the engagement of the wider public going forward – a suggestion was made about a video being made which distils the learning and process the working group have been through, this will benefit people outside the working group better understand their recommendations.
  1. Jesmond Dene Road Junctions

JD tabled a revised drawing and highlighted various features of the proposal which he would like the small groups to discuss and feedback on:

  • the addition of a crossing at the Friday Fields ‘Cut’ and
  • the widened footways on the north side of JDR which would offer the opportunity of bi directional cycling
  • signals at or around the junction of Moorfield / JDR – either a single pelican crossing on JDR just after the junction, so drivers would need to look for gaps in the flow and or take advantage of the gaps created by the pelican, or, the junction could be fully signalised as it is now
  • The pros and cons of one way traffic over the metro bridge at Moorfield.
  • A commitment to a pedestrian crossing at the top of Osborne Road.
  • The opportunities for creating better cycling conditions on JDR – particularly around the JDR metro bridge.

Small group feedback – Comments and ideas included:

  • Removing the parking on the east side of Moorfield and replacing it with a cycle lane (a suggestion that isn’t supported by the High West Jesmond Residents Association rep).
  • Making Moorfield one way (a suggestion that isn’t supported by the High West Jesmond Residents Association rep).
  • The proposal to remove the traffic light between Moorfield and JDR was strongly opposed in one group’s feedback. They want the traffic light to be retained and be demand-driven through detecting motor vehicles.
  • Create cycling facilities on both sides of JDR rather than the bi directional facilities suggested by the plan.
  • Build a new pedestrian / cycling bridge over the Metro at the top of Osborne Road on the south side of the existing bridge.
  • Could more space be identified along JDR between the Metro Bridge and the Moorfield by taking out the hedge and a strip of land from the allotments?
  • Could the ‘triangle’ of Moorfield and Ilford Road be accepted by cyclists as an alternative to the more direct JDR route?
  • A group member commented that they would need to understand more about the cycling flows and popular routes from all directions before reaching a view on whether bi directional on one side or directional facilities on both sides of JDR is best.
  • Maps of the local area showing existing cycle routes – strategic and local were shared to help this part of the discussion.
  • The maps were well received and it was noted that this kind of map showing routes within residential neighbourhoods would be helpful for the Cycling Strategy’s refresh next year.
  • There is a debate to be had about what would make the most difference to cycling in neighbourhoods – better infrastructure and or better signage.
  1. Comparative performance data for different junction styles

A summary paper of the most recent modelling data was shared.

The results show that the current junction arrangement at Blue House delivers reasonable efficiency, but the efficiencies are made at the expense of safety, i.e. no walking or cycling facilities.

A large conventional roundabout performs poorly going forward.

A Turbo roundabout provides better performance than the conventional one.

The best performance is delivered by a signalised crossroads with 2 banned movements – using the same footprint as the existing arrangement but at the expense of some trees.

JD commented that the model didn’t show a great deal of difference in performance between the designs and also JD has some reservations about the assumptions on which the modelling has been made. More modelling work is required.

Small group work to discuss the pros and cons of the junction designs referencing the assessment criteria established earlier in the working group process.

Comments following the small group work from one of the 3 groups:

  • Relocating the Blue house would improve the visibility at the junction
  • The turbo option is safer because it offers better lane discipline, cycling facilities and crossing points – it happens to handle higher traffic volumes as well.
  • Connected traffic lights are important to the success of any solution, they can help to smooth and regulate speeds by creating green waves and dis-incentivising speeding by impeding progress with red lights.
  • It is important that we don’t place the emphasis on better traffic performance when discussing the junction solutions – people want to see less traffic and city planning needs to reflect and support this position.
  1. Some members of the working group believe that better traffic performance is an extremely important consideration and should be a key indicator of a successful junction).
  1. Next Steps

In terms of the predicted traffic flows in our modelling … what can we recommend / explore to reduce the demand?

JD summarised the areas of emerging consensus in the working group – the new junction should be at the current location, there should be little or no tree loss, better walking and cycling facilities are essential, and, there is an acceptance that the Blue House itself may be required in terms of space.

GG will prepare a paper for the next full meeting of the Freemen in January 2017 to explain the key issues for replacing the junction including cycling and walking paths within the tree line and the potential for the footprint of the Blue House. GG will copy the paper to the Working Group.

JD will start to write a paper to collate the work that the working group have done and record the process.

GG & JD will work up more detailed traffic modelling on options and look at variations, for example, more lanes on the turbo roundabout; a larger conventional roundabout; the addition of cycling and pedestrian facilities to the current layout.

JD will provide these extras to the Working Group in advance of the next meeting at the end of January.

The Working Group are asked to take some work back to their groups – to start discussions and generate ideas about what the council might do to change the travel habits of commuters and other travellers in order to ensure that the predicted demand forecasted in the models, does not emerge. Basically, it boils down to how to lose 400 car trips to keep demand in 2031 to the same levels as 2016.

Group members were also asked to take blank locality maps and highlight the streets that are current rat-runs in the area.

  1. Next meeting

Tbc – end of January 2017

Comments

  1. Surely our absolute and over-riding principle should be a commitment to reduce noxious traffic fumes in the Blue House / Jesmond Dene Road, Matthew bank / Osborne Road area.
    This would be achieved by :
    1. reducing current through traffic flows
    2. reducing speed limits
    3.not contemplating further traffic growth on roads in residential areas – the demand for more traffic volumes generated by additional housing must be met by new roads, not cramming existing ones
    4. implementing policies to limit diesel vehicles and encourage electrics instead
    5. adopting an intelliegent and connected traffic light solution as recognised in the meeting :

    “The best performance is delivered by a signalised crossroads with 2 banned movements –
    using the same footprint as the existing arrangement but at the expense of some trees”
    and
    “Connected traffic lights are important to the success of any solution, they can help to smooth
    and regulate speeds by creating green waves and dis-incentivising speeding by impeding
    progress with red lights”
    As ever, hope this helps and best wishes to all for Christmas.

  2. I have exchanged emails with representatives on the working group about the disproportionate influence of cycle lobby groups in the discussions and how they are reflected in reports of discussions.
    This is not a Jesmond cycling forum project – in fact its not a Jesmond project. The outcome has to benefit the thousands of users of Blue House roundabout who rely on a solution which will benefit their lives.
    In the reported feedback there were 10 out of 19 comments from working groups which referred to cycling interests which looks like an attempt of a single issue group to dominate the discussion.
    It falls upon Councillors and Council representatives to ensure there is a balance of interests. Decision takers will not be thanked if extensive work and loss of green space is not accompanied by – indeed driven by – improved traffic flows.
    It is astonishing to read a view expressed that “it is important that we don’t place the emphasis on better traffic performance..”
    Thankfully others felt improvement should be a key indicator of success. Aspirational future states are fine but are not, I believe, within the terms of reference of this project.

    1. I absolutely agree with this. Provision for cyclists around Jesmond and Newcastle generally is way out of proportion. Look at John Dobson Street – months of chaos and disruption and hardly anyone cycles on the new cycle path. The end of Clayton Road has also had numerous disruptions with no noticeable improvements. Encouraging cyclists is one thing but basing entire transport systems on the few (often very inconsiderate) cyclists is unfair. And I speak as a pedestrian rather than a driver.

  3. The final paragraph in the minutes are key: “to start discussions and generate ideas about what the council might do to change the travel habits of commuters and other travellers in order to ensure that the predicted demand forecasted in the models, does not emerge.”
    1. There is no evidence to support the assumptions that the predicted traffic volumes will actually emerge; they will emerge if changes to the network encourage traffic volumes to increase.
    2. The key to reducing traffic volumes or maintaining them at current levels has to be public transport (the contribution of increase cycling and walking at peak times to reducing volumes is likely to be minimal) and that means buses and (possibly) park and ride schemes linked to the metro.
    3. Making buses more attractive to current car drivers, especially peak times, is the key: frequency , reliability and cost (to the consumer). There will always be people for whom buses will never be a realistic alternative but if others for whom it is an option use buses more frequently this should release road capacity for those who have to use a car.
    4. The key problem here is funding; central government appears to be happy to fund capital for road improvements at pinch points (e.g. BHR) but less happy to support revenue spending to support bus transport. Can we use capital money to improve bus performance (e.g. a real time information system similar to that available throughout most of London?)

  4. I am pleased to see the plans for Blue House Roundabout itself are moving in the right direction, but there are a number of environmental problems with some of the wider proposals being put forward.

    In particular, the proposed cycle path (running between the avenue of trees to the north of Grandstand Rd/Jesmond Dene Rd) would have a catastrophic impact on adjacent trees. This path would require excavation under ground level in the vicinity of tree roots. Once these roots are damaged in this way, the trees will die. Landscape officers urgently need to be involved in the work of the Group to help shape an alternative proposal that protects the trees.

    I am also concerned that a possible cycle path on Jesmond Dene Road (between Ilford Rd and Moorfield) would have a devastating impact on the local environment. The line of mature hedgerow and allotments along here provide ecological value and visual relief from the unpleasant environment caused by an endless stream of traffic. The hedgerows also add character to a street that is otherwise dominated by traffic but is, first and foremost, a residential area. The historic value of the Town Moor boundary stone on the corner of Moorfield would also be adversely affected.

    There is no justification for incursion into this valued green space as most cyclists avoid the JDR/Matthew Bank corridor with its heavy traffic and associated noise and fumes. A much better and healthier solution is to progress a designated cycle route along Ilford Road going west and Friday Fields Lane Cut going east, and joining the Highbury/Little Moor route via the new crossing at the top of Osborne Rd. Proposals affecting Haddricks Mill Junction also needs to cater for cyclists in a more meaningful way to ensure continuity and safety for cycle routes.

  5. Can someone explain to me why Save Our Town Moor are on the working panel because I am a member of their facebook group and they don’t discuss the meetings, provide no updates to anyone. I have had to find the local discussions from Space for Gosforth and Gosforth Traffic’s facebook pages and blogs.

    I feel that some participants of the working panel seem to be taking this a bit more serious than others. There’s certainly no community involvement from the Save Out Town Moor people. I thought that was the whole point of the scheme.

  6. Can i just refer you to my comments made after the 5th meeting as there is little difference in the plan and written information above so my few observations and questions are still relevant. Can i also say that there is a lot of appreciation of the hard work and time put in by all those involved.
    However one slight bugbear on ‘comments’ made through this informative portal and also via the various groups. I originally thought it would be two way process with points made acknowledged and taken on board, questions answered or to be discussed/tabled on behalf of as part of an on-going process. There appears to be little evidence of this happening. Discussing how difficult it will be to respond to all of 48! respondents who have added to this debate over a 2 month window is not something i was expecting to read in the minutes of the 6th meeting. I suspect also that most people were expecting many more comments than those already submitted. Is this a reflection that the process is working or that apathy has set in again? Or are people waiting for the next public consultation?

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