Sometimes when dealing with local government it becomes apparent that politics has triumphed over legality or any sense of reasonableness.
Marden Bridge is what Manual For Streets (the highwayman's bible for designing urban roads) calls a Mixed Priority Route. What this means is that its very busy and Bus, Private Car, Pedestrian and Bicycle Traffic all have demands for road space. What should happen when a road like this is modified is a through consultation process giving everyone who uses the road a chance to say what works and what doesn't. North Tyneside's own Council Constitution says pretty much the same thing, decisions shouldn't be made without consulting those likely to be affected.
Unfortunately what we are dealing with here is a hurried attempt to meet the demands of lobbying shopkeepers in the run up to an election. Not what we'd really expect for an A-Road, a key bridge where traffic volumes appear at times to exceed 1,500 per hour.
Members of Newcastle Cycling Campaign have objected in droves to the Parking Order which legitimises North Tyneside's works, but rather than consider these objections they've just gone ahead and put the new bays into operation. Its apparent that Council officers don't believe in what they are defending, this is local politics designing the road network pure and simple.
So why are people who ride bikes on occasion getting so hot and bothered over a few parking bays?
Well for the volume of traffic running over this bridge people need some protection or buffer from Traffic. The government guidance for Cycle Infrastructure makes it clear that its Cycle Lanes or Tracks required here. Easy enough to do the way things were but now impossible with part of the road width appropriated for parking. Some might say that we should block pave the whole width of the bridge in as "shared space", fine go for it, as long as you halve the traffic volume first.
When we first looked at this scheme we assumed that the problems it would cause were mostly for those who don't like mixing with traffic, Nannas and Nippers if you like. But seeing it in operation and riding through it shows immediately that its far worse than that.
The impact of car parking on bicycle traffic is well established, cyclists need to allow a clearance of 1.5 m from any parked car in order to reduce the risk of being struck by a door or hit by a vehicle exiting a parking bay. But do this and the only remaining section of the carriageway available is a 1m strip immediately adjacent to the road’s centre line alongside oncoming traffic. The dynamic envelope of a bicycle is 1m wide. Oncoming traffic, particularly buses and other large vehicles, frequently crosses the centre line.
There's no usable road space been left for anyone on a bike. That's not just unfair, its illegal.
So where do we go from here?
Nothing stops individual members of Newcastle Cycle Campaign taking action to seek judicial review of the Council's actions. One Campaign member has complained to the Local Government Ombudsman. We have asked for support from the CTC. Other than that its keeping reiterating our case to anyone who will listen, with the road due for resurfacing in July there is a still a cost neutral way out open to the Council, lets hope they take it.