Must do better

On 20 May 2019, Killingworth Road re-opened to south-bound vehicle traffic. Following complaints from local residents on the SPACE for Gosforth Facebook group, we thought we would take a look.

The project has suffered multiple delays attributed to a range of causes including the discovery of asbestos, a “labyrinth of utility pipes and old infrastructure” beneath the city, bad weather and land slippage.

As well as the new Metro bridge, the final scheme will include a new south-bound bus lane, a two-way traffic-free cycle lane, parking for residents and wider pavements.

Killingworth Road proposals were part of the Blue House to Haddricks Mill consultation from August 2016. Roadworks are expected to continue into 2020.

Killingworth Road proposal – August 2016

Roadworks Review

The Council have said that the route is “Open for pedestrians and cyclists”. For cyclists this is immediately contradicted by a large sign at the south end of Kilingworth road saying cyclists should dismount and use the footpath. While this is an advisory sign, the text is written as an instruction so many people are likely to read it that way.

Cyclists dismount & use footpath

This isn’t the only issue with the route and SPACE for Gosforth has written to the Council to ask them to ensure this route can be used safely by people who wish to walk and cycle. We are also concerned to hear reports of dangerous drivingalong the newly opened road, and it looks like our concerns about the ‘Horrible’ Haddricks Mill plan are being confirmed.

Ironically the sign telling cyclists to dismount blocks half the footpath that cyclists are supposed to share with people walking. We have asked the Council to remove this sign as there is no reason at this point to require people cycling to get off and walk. The northbound carriageway of Killingworth Road is far less busy than other local roads, none of which have similar signs.

Further along Killingworth Road we found a parked car blocking the pavement, forcing people walking into the road. We have asked the Council to ensure that the pavement is not blocked by parked vehicles.

Past that, the pavement is partially blocked again but this time by a road sign that is not in use. We have asked that this sign be removed or moved onto the carriageway so the pavement is not blocked.

At the Metro Bridge the road is directed into a car park (via a puddle). The only option going north here is to use the footpath, which is still quite narrow even if it is wider than the footpath further south. For people cycling who ignored the previous sign and remained on the road there is no signage here to say if the pavement is a shared route, or if they should dismount.

This, below, is what the road should look like when finished. The bus and cycle lanes are on the right of the picture.

The Council’s mock up of the Killingworth Road Metro bridge – August 2016

At the junction with Hollywood Avenue (picture below) there is a ramp off the pavement but no corresponding ramp onto the pavement going north. We have asked for this to be fixed.

You can also see from the photo below that all the signs are pointing towards Hollywood Avenue and at right angles, so not visible, for anyone approaching from the south.

One of these signs says ‘Cyclists please stay on footpath for your own safety’. The road at this point is just a single lane for south-bound traffic.

The footpath between Hollywood Avenue and West Farm Avenue is unpaved and narrower than it should be because the verge is over-grown. It also looks like, on the other side of the road, that there is space for the fencing to be moved to widen the road and provide a segregated cycle track rather have people cycling share the narrow pavement. This would be much better for everyone.

At the north end of the works there is no signage to direct people cycling onto the new cycle track going north on the other side of the road. This new track is very good, but it would be possible for someone to miss this and continue on the road if they weren’t looking for it.

Approaching from the north, the first sign you would see also says cyclists should stay on the footpath ‘for your own safety’. We have asked the Council clarify what are the additional safety concerns here e.g. compared to the Haddricks Mill junction which is far more dangerous but doesn’t have ride on the pavement signs. We have also asked why the Council has not been able to mitigate this danger. Ideally the danger should be mitigated so this sign can be removed.

Travelling west to Hollywood Avenue, the cones next to the Road Closed sign block much of the road. We have asked the Council to make sure there is sufficient space between them to allow someone on a cycle to pass without having to stop.

Cones blocking the way

Transport for London published guidance for cyling at roadworks in 2014. This guidance states that “Simply placing a ‘cyclists dismount’ sign at each of the works is not acceptable and is only to be used where there is no vehicular access of any kind through the works.” It also states that sharing a footpath should not be considered unless those footpaths are at least 2m wide at the absolute minimum (wider than most of Killingworth Road and Salters Lane), preferably 3m.

Practically none of the TfL best practice guidance has been employed at these roadworks. People walking and cycling are being put at risk as a result. Newcastle City Council simply needs to do better.

Dangerous Driving

Meanwhile, Newcastle City Council are reporting dangerous driving on Killingworth Road with people driving north against the flow of traffic.

Additional signs say that the road is closed with access only to the Victory pub & residents, without qualifying that this only applies to vehicles and not to people walking and cycling. These signs might inadvertently discourage people from using the route on foot or by bike, but there shouldn’t be any confusion that suggests driving north-bound is ok.

By the roundabout there is a sign saying ‘Access Only to the Victory [pub] & Residents’ and another just saying ‘Access to Residents ONLY’.

As well as those there are two ‘Road Ahead Closed’ signs.

And ‘ACCESS ONLY’ is written in large letters on the road in two places.

Finally, just before the bridge, the road is divided in two with a blue arrow pointing to the left. Anyone going north would have to ignore this, and all the previous signs, and drive on the right hand carriageway towards the bridge.

Must do better

We have set out above specific issues that need to be addressed urgently and have shared these with the Council.

Based on the TfL guidance, temporary arrangements could include:

  • A temporary traffic-free cycle lane, so there is no need for cycling on pavements.
  • Reducing the speed limit for motor vehicles.
  • Reducing lane widths to discourage overtaking and reduce speed.
  • Diverting motor vehicles by another route.

Poor quality Haddricks Mill proposals

We have also challenged the Council on plans for Haddricks Mill itself. These are set out in our blog Horrible Haddricks.

Haddricks Mill plans have been designed by the Council to increase traffic, potentially making local roads even more congested and polluted as well as increasing green house gas emissions contrary to the Council’s stated Climate Emergency.

Separately, the Council will have to implement measures to reduce pollution to offset the impact of the new Haddricks Mill design.

Claims that this is about space is wrong. The Council is making a priority decision.

The roundabout is already starting to take shape, and it is possible to see the trade-off decisions that have been made by the Council. This includes two-phase crossings to enable more traffic to use the junction.

The new Haddricks Mill junction taking shape – May 2019

The junction doesn’t have to be like this. It is a key east-west route for people walking and cycling. If the Council wishes to improve choice for how people travel with better low cost, non-polluting, healthy, climate neutral options such as walking and cycling, then it could do so.