Campaigners warn Newcastle risks losing millions of pounds in DfT cycle funding

Newcycling worried over delays in implementing Cycle City Ambition funded scheme

by Simon_MacMichael   June 24, 2014  

River Tyne (Rob Bishop-Wikimedia Commons

Cycle campaigners in Newcastle-upon-Tyne have warned that millions of pounds awarded to the city council by the Department for Transport (DfT) under its Cycle City Ambition scheme risks going unspent. However a spokeman for Newcastle City Council says they remain confident no funding will be lost.

In August last year, the DfT confirmed that Newcastle City Council would receive £5.7 million under the scheme, to be supplemented by local match funding of £6 million. The government funding is valid till next March, the end of the 2014/15 financial year.

The council’s Newcastle Fit For Cycling bid included a network of seven major cycle routes across the city as well as an Active Travel Centre incorporating a bike maintenance workshop and cycle parking, with the aim of 12 per cent of all journeys of under five miles in the city being carried out by bike.

But local cycle campaign group Newcycling, which in 2010 delivered a petition to the council calling for safe cycling routes throughout the city, says that after conducting an assessment of how its plans are progressing, it has discovered that a number of projects are running more than a year late, and some have not been started at all.

Its chair, Katja Leyendecker said: "We want Newcastle's excellent and ambitious policies of a better fairer city to be implemented, better sooner than later.

“So it’s sad to note that four years on from the petition being handed to council in 2010 the sweeping road changes that were promised to improve cycling safety have not been done.

“The money is there. It is our assessment however, that millions of pounds will be left unspent and will be lost, as could be Newcastle’s reputation as a city, because projects are stuck in planning stage or not even started yet.”

Members of the group have attended fortnightly Technical Advisory Group meetings as well as bi-monthly stakeholder meetings, which has enabled Newcycling to summarise the current state of play in this progress assessment.

"We looked at the available figures and plans and found that the City Ambition programme is massively behind its original schedule; some projects are more than a year late,” said Leyendecker.

“I believe the council is kidding itself to think they will deliver this by the deadline next year.

“We ask the programme board – who seem oblivious to all this – to outline just how the programme will be delivered and what projects, and when. We’d welcome to give evidence to the board.”

She urged the council to take action, and also to be more transparent about progress being made, saying: “Hopefully we can avert the biggest heartaches and ridicule. We estimate that £1m is currently put at risk — that's a quarter of the cycleway construction budget — with more to follow quickly, as time marches on.

“City centre cycle plans and Welbeck Road’s cycle lanes have been shelved so it seems, and it's not clear what's replacing them. Engagement is abysmal — information doesn’t flow, even just finding simple numbers is hard.

"One year into the programme, at half-way point, and Newcastle seems lost. We need successes, on the ground, not more feasibility studies and convoluted red-tape processes,” she concluded.

In a statement responding to the criticism from Newcycling a Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “The Cycle City Ambition Fund is a challenging programme but nonetheless is progressing well in Newcastle. The cycling groups are well aware of this through our ongoing and constant engagement with them.

“We have always maintained that we would not be successful working on our own and greatly value the co-operation and expertise of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign.

“We are just at the start of an ambitious cycling strategy spanning 10 years and are confident that this will be delivered in line with other cycling cities and to the standards set by the Department for Transport.” 

On Newcycling's specific fears over the potential loss of Government funding for cycling infrastructure projects in the city through planning delays the council spokesman told road.cc that there was no indication that the Department for Transport would claw back any of the money they approved for Newcastle in March 2013. He also expressed confidence that the council was making good progress towards delivery on what he described as some "very complicated and innovative schemes" and would be "there or thereabouts" by March 2015. 

 

7 user comments

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shock horror, an underspend and lack of thought when it comes to cycle provision.

Maybe paint suppliers are running low, or maybe when faced with providing something that isn't paint the transport department went into meltdown?

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1022 posts]
24th June 2014 - 10:26

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what's the bets there'll be a mad rush to spend it quickly by the simple expediant of making more shared-use paths and more advisory cycle lanes and stupid cycle symbols on the road at give ways... nothing that we really want, just the usual cheap dreck done quickly that doesn't take any space away from motorists...

posted by Paul_C [147 posts]
24th June 2014 - 10:58

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Paul_C wrote:
what's the bets there'll be a mad rush to spend it quickly by the simple expediant of making more shared-use paths and more advisory cycle lanes and stupid cycle symbols on the road at give ways... nothing that we really want, just the usual cheap dreck done quickly that doesn't take any space away from motorists...

Don't forget the bike stands, lots and lots of bike stands!

I live somewhere in London where the council removed the railings at the side of the road so they could install bike stands. So now I can lock my bike to a bike stand rather than a railing, which of course is a massive improvement and a completely worthwhile use of the cycling budget.

Golf clap - Applause

posted by bikebot [413 posts]
24th June 2014 - 11:46

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This is lamentable given Newcastle's already appalling provision. The opportunities here are significant and could add to the growing reputation of Tyneside as a modern, European conurbation. Having said this, it is mostly Gateshead which has fostered this and led the renaissance with Newcastle piggybacking on its smaller and more dynamic neighbour.

posted by gussieboy [5 posts]
24th June 2014 - 11:47

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If the council are owt like the football club they'll not spend a penny lol.

In all seriousness though i used to cycle through Newcastle going to work for 9 years and its not that bad considering how busy a city it is but the more that is spent the better it will be.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2664 posts]
24th June 2014 - 16:51

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Glasgow has proved that a steady programme of on-street cycle parking installation delivers results, in 1 location from 1 bike to 48 spaces (often filled) in 20 years.

Newcastle's metro refurbishment provides a new interior layout which can accommodate cycles more sensibly. With the work almost 50% completed, the opportunity to revive the campaign for cycle carriage might fit within this time-frame, and the costs of delivery detailing and measuring the results could be met from the funding.

Work on cycle carriage in taxis shows a latent demand for the facility to get home late at night, or rescued when things go wrong, especially from groups who currently don't cycle as much as those committed to cycling. The same can apply to late and early bus services which run almost empty. The barrier of the inner ring road and fast radial routes can deter the less confident riders - and even the confident ones - everyone I know seems to have had at least one 'hit' or bad experience on John Dobson Street and the West, North and Coast roads are not for the feint hearted rider.

There are now alternatives to the popular Scratchbikes system which can become self funding through advertising and other sponsorship (eg block buy-in by a large employer as company pool bikes). With the lessons learned from Scratchbikes, revisit a city-wide bike share/hire scheme.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [468 posts]
25th June 2014 - 7:21

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@AV Lowe - was scratch bikes really popular? It doesn't appear to have been popular enough to survive.

Have to agree about entry into Newcastle by bike being tricky in places although there is both the cycle part alongside the north road and the route over the town moor to come in from the north. There is also a path of sorts along the coast road but it's badly surfaced and broken up by slip road crossings.

I come in from the east but follow the river which is longer but quieter.

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posted by joemmo [773 posts]
26th June 2014 - 20:08

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