Seven ways Gosforth High Street has changed for the better

It’s almost a year since the wands were installed on Gosforth High Street to assist social distancing and to make it easier to walk or cycle. In that time we’ve all had a chance to experience Gosforth High Street differently, and to see what an alternative layout could look like.

The changes were implemented at short notice following an urgent instruction from the UK Government, which told authorities to reallocate road space including widened footways, new protected cycle lanes and ‘modal filters’ like on Salters Bridge, Castle Farm Road and Stoneyhurst Road.

For that reason we should not expect the High Street layout to be perfect or look pretty, but we can take a view on what has worked and what has not. In this blog we look at seven ways in which Gosforth High Street has been improved.

1. It’s Safer 

Based on traffic collision data, Gosforth High Street is substantially safer since the wands were installed than it has been for years. Between 13 August 2020 and 30 March 2021 there were two slight injuries between Elmfield Road and The Regent Centre. In the four previous years the average over a similar period was seven injuries, with one of those being serious.

Two injuries over eight months is still significant though. Possible additional measures to improve safety might include pedestrian priority at side roads, raised crossings, permanent protected cycle lanes and extending the single lane northbound and 20mph up past Gosforth Academy.

Graph showing injuries on Gosforth High Street 2020-2021 compared to previous years.

2. It’s Easier to Cross

Crossing two lanes is easier than four. While this might not seem like a big thing, we’ve heard many people say that crossing the High Street used to be dangerous due to buses and other large vehicles blocking the view of vehicles travelling in the outside (middle) lane.

Picture of people crossing Gosforth High Street next to Trinity Church

3. It’s More Pleasant to Walk

Whereas buses and other large vehicles used to squeeze into the narrow lane next to the pavement, now there is a gap between the pavement edge and passing vehicles.

The photo below, taken before Covid, shows how close buses got to the pavement, sometimes travelling at up to 30mph or more with wing mirrors practically overhanging the pavement itself.

This also allows a bit of a gap to reduce noise and allow exhaust fumes to dissipate.

Man standing on the edge of the pavement on Gosforth High Street next to a bus.

4. Cycling from Hollywood Avenue to Christon Road

The section between Hollywood Avenue to Christon Road was previously the weakest link, and the only paint-only section, of the Great North Road cycle route from Brunton Lane to the City Centre via Moor Road North and South. With the addition of the wands to stop vehicles encroaching on the cycle lanes many more people can use this route.

This section of road is also the route to school for many of the 2,000+ school children who attend Gosforth Academy and Gosforth Central Middle School. They deserve some consideration in how this road is designed to enable them to travel to school in safety. This would reasonably include better crossings, wider pavements and permanent protected cycle lanes. Extending the 20mph speed limit would also be beneficial, as has been announced for other Newcastle schools.

Extra walking and cycling lanes protected by wands, by Regent Centre

5. Cafe Culture

Look hard enough and you will find quite a few areas just off the High Street that used to be used for parking that have been turned into outdoors seating. This one below looks onto Gosforth Central Park.

We hope these can be retained permanently.

Pub seating behind Gosforth High Street next to Gosforth Central Park

6. Cycling from Elmfield Road to The County

While cycling provision on Gosforth High Street as a whole is still poor, the section from Elmfield Road to The County is much improved with the wands preventing vehicles from encroaching onto the cycle lanes.

We also know from evidence elsewhere that adding protected cycle lanes along retail streets is likely to be good for business. If the wands were replaced by something more permanent it would also be possible to remove the existing bollards to widen the pavements.

Cycle lane protected by wands southbound by Elmfield Road

Gosforth High Street near Elmfield Road

7. Less Stressful to Drive

Just having one lane also makes driving along Gosforth High Street less stressful, and doesn’t make any real difference to journey times as it is junctions rather than the number of lanes that  constrain journey times.

Picture of Gosforth High Street full of vehicles May 2019

Gosforth High Street, May 2019

Air Pollution

We know air pollution is no worse than in previous years and most likely will be slightly improved, but we haven’t included it in the list of improvements as we are still waiting on official measurements to see how 2020 compares with previous years.

In our previous blog Safe Gosforth High Street we compared air quality in September 2020 with previous years, and you can also follow daily readings from our Twitter feed @AirGosforthHiSt.

Still a Work in Progress

While it’s not perfect, the changes have demonstrated that Gosforth High Street can be improved from what it was, for all users not just those who drive through without stopping.

Of course if we are talking about improvements then we need to say what is it we are trying to improve. For example…

  1. How could Gosforth High Street be made more attractive so more people want to come and spend their money?
  2. What’s needed to enable the greatest number of people to travel to the High Street without making air pollution even worse?
  3. How can we make it safer for children to walk or cycle to local schools, either with their parents if younger or independently?

If you think there are better questions though, please let us know via the comments below.

Gosforth High Street pre-Covid – Polluted, Noisy and Dangerous

Newcastle City Council Update – 28 July 2021
Newcastle City Council have made the following announcement which can also be read here.

Some amendments are being made to the Covid measures on Gosforth High Street and Great North Road

Some amendments are being made to the scheme, work will start on 2nd August 2021:

  • Social distancing measures on Gosforth High Street in the main shopping area to be largely retained.
  • Withdrawal of any existing or intended measures southbound towards Hollywood Avenue.
  • Removal of existing restrictions south of Hollywood Avenue to restore 2 running traffic lanes southbound towards Church Road. This means that car lanes will still need to merge after Christon Road as the bus lane remains.
  • Cycle lanes in both directions will be retained and protected by wands to facilitate cycling whilst public transport capacity is reduced.
  • At the Church Road junction, there will be 2 lanes on the southbound side, one left only into Church Road and one straight on. Buses can go straight on from the inside lane and the social distancing measures outside the Queen Victoria pub will be removed to facilitate the merge south of the junction.
  • The former right turn pocket into Salters Road will not be reinstated yet.

6 thoughts on “Seven ways Gosforth High Street has changed for the better

  1. Stewart Falconer

    Rose coloured glasses -traffic queuing back the three mile roundabout – air pollution passed two major schools – ridiculous bollard slowing the traffic – which no one uses
    Insufficient parking – businesses suffering – just ask the cafe owners
    Old polluting buses which do not even stop on the high street -should be re routed
    The park is a disgrace run by volunteers who do their best etc etc

    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      Hi Stewart,

      I think you know we would support most, if not all, effective measures for reducing air pollution. We listed what those would be in this previous blog.

      We hope more action can be taken to reduce pollution in Gosforth. From readings on Gosforth High Street since the wands were installed, air pollution is no worse than before and we think is actually a little better.

      If your main concern is air pollution then encouraging more vehicles by adding parking or increasing road capacity would be counter-productive. These changes haven’t affected parking though and there is just as much now as there was before.

      We hope this temporary layout will lead to a better arrangement on the High Street that will both support local businesses and enable more people to travel to the High Street without adding to the existing long-term pollution issues.

  2. Emgee

    Totally blinkered approach. You never consider, never mind take the time to monitor, the impact on nearby roads.
    Classic example of setting yourself the narrowest of objectives and then claiming a hollow victory.

    1. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

      Dear Emgee,

      We don’t expect people will have read all our blogs but it might help to have a quick look before making statements as you have.

      For example, in our blog “Enabling Businesses to Open Safely on Gosforth High Street” 4/7/2020 we said:
      “Banning the left turn from Salters Road towards Regent Centre creates a risk of more traffic on Henry Street and Regent Road North, which are often busy with children travelling to or from school. This will need to be monitored along with other local roads and further action taken if necessary.”

      Our experience day to day is that traffic on local streets away from main roads has increased but is no worse than it was before Covid. So it is an issue that needs to be addressed but hasn’t been caused by the changes that are the subject of this blog.

      If there are particular streets you are worried about please say but also bear in mind that, for roads west of the High Street, the A1 roadworks may be causing higher levels of traffic than normal.

  3. John Patterson

    Really concerned about the pollution on Elsdon Road. Other streets (such as Ivy Road) managed to successfully stop the Gym on the high street from being open 24 hours due to noise. But residents in Elsdon Road have to put up with a 24 hour vet that bulk loads appointments causing large numbers of waiting clients running engines and double parking and will not allow clients inside, carrying out assessments, owner consultations and payments on the streets from cars and pavements (forcing residents to walk around customers on roads). Absolutely nobody is helping.

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