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Walkers and cyclists call for Newcastle streets to be pedestrianised

Campaigners have called for action after 21 people have been hit by buses in only two years in Newcastle city centre

Helen Shaw
The scene of an accident where a pedestrian was hit by a bus in Newcastle city centre

Walking and cycling groups have joined forces in the wake of recent bus accidents to call for greater pedestrianisation of Newcastle city centre.

Since April 2012, 21 people have been injured in 20 separate incidents within just a few hundred yards of each other.

And though Newcastle City Council says it is working on measures it hopes will help keep people safe, campaigners say the plans do not go far enough.

“Although there have been many improvements to Newcastle over recent years there are still a number of danger spots for pedestrians, most notably in Blackett Street, Market Street and St Mary’s Place,” Colin Green, the chair of Living Streets Tyneside, said.

“But these are all capable of integration into the neighbouring areas to extend the safe and enjoyable streetscapes in the city centre and make Newcastle a more attractive and prosperous city.”

And that feeling was echoed by the Newcastle Cycling Campaign’s Katja Leyendecker, who said the city centre is “a place for people”, and that it was “high time we got serious about this.”

“It is Newcastle City Council’s duty as the local highway authority to ensure vulnerable road users are safe,” she said. “A safety campaign with more warm words and some checking of traffic lights is simply not enough.

“We need better road design, more pedestrianisation, further speed reduction – putting people first.

“Pedestrians are not well cared for in the city centre.

“They are lured on to the safe space that’s Northumberland Street, but then left totally abandoned at Barras Bridge and Pilgrim Street, as well as Percy Street. And Market Street is like running a gauntlet with buses – and you can guess who ‘wins’.

“We have it on good authority that many cyclists avoid the city centre altogether – which is a shame as it is otherwise such a successful place.

“On our roads and streets we are placed under council’s care and good logic sense.

“And as vulnerable road users, walking or cycling, we have a right to be looked after by the council.”

Following some of the most recent incidents involving pedestrians and buses, Newcastle City Council revealed it already had plans to install countdown timers on some of the blackspot crossings, and was more than willing to work with bus firms to try and reduce the number of casualties.

And with the latest calls for action Peter Gray, head of highways and traffic signals at Newcastle City Council, reiterated his concern for pedestrians.

“We want the city centre to be a welcoming and accessible place for everyone,” he said.

“We’re concerned about the number of accidents that have taken place and we’re committed to talk to the bus companies and the police to see what we can do to stop more occurring.

“We are working hard to raise levels of cycling and walking across our city, for example we are already working with Living Streets on Go Smarter – a Tyne and Wear-wide initiative to get more people walking to school and work.”

Last week it was revealed that between October 2008 and September 2013, there were 85 incidents in the city centre involving buses and pedestrians – though of those the council said that in 68 cases the pedestrians involved had been found to be partially at fault.

Mr Gray said he thought the figures “speak for themselves” and that the authority “must get the message out to people that they really must take care when crossing the road.”

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