21st March 2021
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 270: Streets for kids
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
TOPICS: Play streets, cycling and the pop-up protected cycleway on the NE England coast, the Sunrise Cycleway
Carlton Reid 0:14
Welcome to Episode 270 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was uploaded on 21st Of March 2021.
David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For shownotes links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:08
On the last show I talked with author and child’s play expert Tim Gill. I’m Carlton Reid. And today’s hour long episode, I’m continuing the child’s play theme, as I talk with academics and campaigners, Alison Stenning and Sally Watson. Now it just so happens both live close to me in Newcastle. But while we talk about the northeast of England, the main theme is universal. And that’s designing our streets so children can get about under their own steam. It’s on today’s show, the previous show, hopefully, you’ve listened to was with Tim Gill, who’s a play expert. And I’ve now got other play experts on here, but from a different, a different angle. And I did preview them in the previous show. So I’d like to welcome to the show Sally Watson. Hi, Sally.
Sally Watson 2:04
Carlton Reid 2:06
And Alison Stenning.
Carlton Reid 2:09
Now you’re both incredibly local to me. So it’s like, it’s crazy that we’re even doing this over over Skype, because, you know, I could go in and meet you at any time. I mean, Allison, you’re about five miles from me, Sally, you’re probably less than two. So welcome to a very, very local episode of an international show. First of all, I’d like to come to both you and ask about your current work, cuz that’s why I’ve got you on. So let’s let’s, let’s go to Alison. First, Alison, tell us about the work you’ve been doing on play streets in the northeast. But what that also says about play Streets and play in general for the whole of the UK.
Alison Stenning 2:56
Okay, so I mean, I have two hats on here. And I’ll predominantly talk about kind of my first heart, which is, I suppose, my academic hat. And I’ve been researching play Streets, and particularly focusing on the playing out movement, which was launched just over 10 years ago, originally in Bristol. And I’ve been trying to explore what it what happens on streets when people play on them effectively. So what does it do to the street? What does it do to the life of the street? How does it change residents experience of their street, if they get a chance to play on it, both adults, and children. And I was due to be researching that over the last year, year and a half to really be focusing on that. And clearly things have changed in the last year, year and a half. So I haven’t been able to do that in quite the way I wanted. I’ve picked up that research in different ways. I’ve tried to do it in different ways at a distance, and looking at kind of previous historical periods as well as the contemporary period. But I’ve also then been able to pick up some stuff around what’s been happening in terms of playfulness on streets. During the pandemic, we all saw kind of a big outburst of play during the first lockdown in particular. So being trying to kind of use that as a way of kind of opening up debates about what else might happen on streets. How else might we enable play to happen on streets? And what might that do?
Carlton Reid 4:15
See, I was just assuming you know that this is for children, but you’ve said adults as well. So what do you mean adults playing on streets?
Alison Stenning 4:22
Alison Stenning 4:22
what we find I mean, they’re playing out model is a very particular model, which closes streets temporarily for play, usually on a monthly basis, sometimes weekly, and fortnightly. And it’s very much a child lead kind of model. You know, we don’t organise games for children. But we do assume that parents will be around and responsible for their children and for maintaining safety on the street. So what often happens is that was the children are playing and running up and down and the adults are trying to kind of stand back was the kids play and get on with whatever else they want to do. We see adults just hanging out chatting, laughing getting to know each other. You know, adults don’t often play in the same ways that children do but that kind of play Equal space and the kind of playful atmosphere that’s created on the street, when a bunch of kids are playing on it can be very kind of liberating and very kind of positive, I guess, in terms of, you know, the sorts of potential connections and relationships that can be made between adults as well. And we do. Yeah, of course, we see adults getting involved, too. You know, we see adults talking with the adults playing football, we see adults getting involved in some of the children’s play, too.
Carlton Reid 5:22
You talked about connections that is it. Is it Appleyard? Is that the study? A famous study? I think it is in New York. I’m trying to remember here what this study is. But it’s basically a study which shows that, you know, with lines across the road, you know, the proximity people or the haggle across the road is very different when there’s a bunch of cars around, compared to when there’s not a bunch of cars around.
Alison Stenning 5:46
Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, that’s the density and the kind of the number of cars flowing down the street. And obviously, what happens on a street plate close for players that there are, well, residents can drive to their, their front doors, if we allow them to, but generally, there’s no traffic so people can cross the street, people can move up and down the street. But often what we’ve seen is that for the first time, when streets close for play, people realise quite how many children there are living on the street, and they meet neighbours that they’ve, you know, maybe seen at a distance, but never spoken to. And we’ve had numerous examples of that. An example on the street In Whitley Bay, for example, where after their first place street session, there were people in their 70s, who’d lived on the street for over 30 years, meeting neighbours for the first time.
Carlton Reid 6:28
Wow. And, and Sally, welcome to the show. And, Sally, tell us a bit about your academic credentials at the moment, the kind of study that you’re doing. And and because you are, you’re you, you come on to the video, show ideas, with beers where you discuss this. So tell us a bit about what you’re doing in this in this realm.
Sally Watson 6:56
Yeah, so I’m a postgraduate researcher at Newcastle University, and my background is in Architecture and Planning. And I’m really interested in the decisions that are made about how we design our cities that that afford children, you know, more or less freedom to play and to move around. And, and for me, the mobility, and play are very much intertwined. And so I started out sort of looking at that we have this story about loss and decline of play over the over the course of the second half of the 20th century. And actually, it’s sort of a bit more lumpy than that. And there are moments where we are trying to with the efforts are made to design better environments for children. But not that aren’t just playgrounds, it’s you know, it is actually streets. And, and but these are moments and also these, this kind of increase in motor traffic and car traffic and parking that we see isn’t doesn’t isn’t something that just happens, you know, smoothly is contested. And so I was quite interested in looking at the point in the 1970s, where, where many new housing estates were designed, which separated children’s sort of pedestrian play space from from car design space, and how these become quite stigmatised for many reasons, including probably predominantly political reasons, in the 80s 90s. And, and how, but how Actually, there was also sort of a retrofitting of streets and what happened, what happened in those places where, you know, who, who wanted this to happen, who didn’t want this to happen? Why does it end? And it seems that there’s a point there where we could have some really made, you know, we were really interested as a country, it’s sort of in the UK and other places, you know, developed differently. But we were quite interested in tackling this issue of, of enabling children to play on streets. It’s just something that that we, I think, you know, there is a there’s a movement to push for this now, but it is, it’s still quite a small voice, you know, kind of wanting change.
Carlton Reid 9:04
So what hope do you see for the future, because it’s often said that touching for a politician, for instance, to touch car parking, it’s like touching the third rail, you know, it’s something you just you just don’t do if you ever want to succeed in politics. So given that’s the case, what what do you think is the future for your particular research and whether it could be changed in the real world?
Sally Watson 9:31
Now? Well, I think actually, actually, parking is something that is we don’t talk about enough. We’ve talked a lot about movements of traffic and how that sort of dangerous and deters children. But um, parking, you know, at this point that I’m looking at in the 60s 70s parking, and children are literally, you know, on the same page, when policy is being written about, you know, there is this idea that you can have it all that we can provide parking and we can also make space for children. And this idea that you can have these huge sort of, kind of you know, all main roads become really quite this urban motorways and and then residential streets or become sort of kind of a Radburn is this trying to kind of have your cake and eat it really, it’s not really tackling the issue of how you kind of ensure that people are able to travel in other ways other than other than using the private car. So sort of to go a long way around as a question. I think one of the things that if we’re really serious about making it safer and easier and more acceptable for children to play on the street, we do have to tackle, you know, the amount of driving, and the way we do that is through making safe streets safer for walking, cycling, but also we’re doing really need to improve public transport, we need to think about planning where we’re planning new housing, all of these things. It’s not an easy thing to fix.
Carlton Reid 10:47
So did you say Radburn? So like the cul de sac movement? 1920s? Is that what you mean?
Sally Watson 10:53
Yeah, Robin is it kind of is, it seems to mean many things to many people. It’s, it’s, it’s, it can be something that’s very high density, it can be as we now think of it as being because of huge sprawl and cul de sacs, the original intention was that they were more connected, there was more connectivity. For walking, then then actually, we often get in some of the sort of more 80s 90s sort of American style cul de sac estates. It’s not necessarily the solution. That’s not what I’m proposing. It’s just that at this time, when in the 60s and 70s, when we were designing radburn, or, or something like it quite widely. That was one of that was the kind of the one of the main aims was to make a safe space for children in housing areas.
Carlton Reid 11:38
So Alison, I’ve seen some of your your tweets where you’re discussing. I mean, if Sally is talking about the 70s, there where you’ve discussed previous eras, where play streets were, were being created, placements are then being uncreated. So So can you give us a bit of a history of, of, of play Streets in the UK?
Alison Stenning 12:03
lYeah, I mean, this is something very much something that kind of Sally and I have been working on in parallel through kind of WhatsApp conversations late at night, as we’ve rediscovered the history of place rates in in in the northeast, particularly in Newcastle, and what was then time at Borough Council. So in 1938, the street playgrounds act enabled local authorities to close streets for play. And Sally can add to this story for sure. But it was largely driven by the absence of play spaces in particular neighbourhoods. So these often and poor more disadvantaged neighbourhoods, they were some quite regularly through the 1940s and 50s. And beyond ones that were at risk of redevelopment as well. They tended to be places with high populations of children, and that with very few safe spaces for play, and there was, I guess, already, the kind of rising concern that numbers of motor vehicles were increasing on residential streets, often not private vehicles, but delivery vehicles, milk vans, coal, lorries, that kind of thing. And that they were threatening children that children were increasingly at risk on the play spaces that had been historically kind of their ordinary everyday spaces for play just on their doorsteps and in their back lines on their streets around the corners. And so the 1938 Street playgrounds act set out to enable local authorities to restrict traffic on those streets for certain times of the day, it was usually 8am to sunset or sunrise to sunset, when the streets were first established. This arose from a movement that started in Salford and learning from experience in New York, prior to that have been streets in London that had tried this before the 1938 Act. But after the 1938 Act, we saw a number of local authorities picking this up. And in fact, timeout Borough Council was one of the first to pick it up. And it was certainly the first in the northeast to pick it up. And originally rejecting the idea and but quite quickly, within about so four or five years of, of the acts being passed time after accounts or identifying streets to designate as placed rates, and those were almost all in North shields, and almost all in parts of North shields that kind of, I guess overlook the time overlook the shipyards, as it was then. So, Tyneside flats, narrow streets with terraced housing, and very little green space rail open space. And most of this happened then just after the war. So there were some bomb plots that had been turned into impromptu playgrounds, but there wasn’t a lot of space for play. So these were the ones that were designated.
Carlton Reid 14:43
So Sally, Where have they gone? Where do they go?
Sally Watson 14:46
Well, some of them are still there. Actually, we have found at lists in both in Newcastle and in North Tyneside, of some of places, which are still there. Many of them have been demolished because they then went on to be, they were well, they They were probably already down as being slum clearance areas. And, and then some of them, you know many of them later on the traffic there is just too much traffic. So we still have quite a few and Heaton. But, you know, the demographics of people who are living in those houses change for various reasons related to sort of to housing housing policy. And also there is just too much traffic. So just the sign on its own isn’t enough. I think what it’s, it’s made me think a lot about the work that Allison does in North Tyneside, and that, you know, the place street just closing the streets, in and of itself isn’t necessarily enough, and that there is also this, this kind of really important role, perhaps even if you, you know, even if you live on a dead end street, perhaps there is this also this important role of community organising for play that actually brings something, something else some other than just sufficient physical infrastructure.
Carlton Reid 15:51
We’re talking about play here. And this is a question to both you I guess. But it’s not just about, you know, getting out there playing hopscotch, doing all these fantastic things talking on the road. It’s also about mobility, and children, having the ability to actually move about the places where they live, you know, forget play, it’s just how to physically get from your house to school to see your friends or whatever. So, Alison, how does how does that aspect fit in actually getting people to use their own form of transport without relying on parent or taxis?
Alison Stenning 16:27
Well, I think I mean, you know, the playing out movement would very much see themselves as part of this. And I think, often, this debate within the playing out movement rests on idea of timber gills, that that the street is the first step in independent mobility that every child feels at home on their own Street and feels like they can move around their own street safely, whether that’s because they’ve learned how to manage traffic, and just to be aware of traffic and to feel that the street is theirs, and that they have a right to walk up and down it, then that can lead and build towards a much greater sense of independent mobility. And we also have a lot of evidence, for example of children learning to ride their bikes on streets that are close for play. So there is this kind of sense in which giving children the space, but also a sense that this is their street, and they belong on it, then that that can build and create kind of other spaces and extended journeys that we all started, you know, by developing our kind of spatial mobility and our independent mobility from our doorsteps. And but that’s been increasingly kind of restricted over the years. And I think there’s this sense in which of you, if you give children space to play, if you give children space to explore abuse, give children space to connect to their streets, and then they’re more they’re, I guess, they’re keener to kind of extend their roaming distance beyond the street. But then obviously, you come up against the barriers to that, which, you know, we keep coming back to the question of traffic and cars. And I think, you know, things like school streets, for example, connect to these debates, creating what is effectively a place to eat outside of school, which not only changes the atmosphere outside the school, but also for many will start to be a part of the jigsaw or in a safe journey to school. And we hope I suppose that, you know, by giving some children the space to see what is possible without cars, and what’s opened up, when we reduce the number of cars on a street or maybe dentistry, that there’s also a kind of cultural change. And I think, you know, this sense in which there’s a kind of, there’s a numbers game, I guess, going on that, you know, play workers often say that kind of the child’s favourite loose part is another child, that what they want to play with is another child more than anything. And I think that’s also true for questions of kind of independent mobility. That’s much easier for children, if they’ve met each other hanging out on the street playing together on the street to move around and beyond the streets together. And so there’s a sense that if more children are out on the streets, if more children are feeling confident on the streets, then that will generate, I guess, shifts in parenting shifts in parenting cultures, which have to go alongside the reduction of cars and car traffic.
Carlton Reid 19:06
With with it with Tim, I didn’t talk to him about like stranger danger. So you know, that’s one component. It’s not just traffic danger. People aren’t afraid of it stranger danger, too. But so I’d like to come to you and ask about because I don’t want to hyper localise it too much. Because this is this isn’t a Jesmond show, but you had issues with the school in Jesmond being able to basically get your kids to school in safety.
Sally Watson 19:38
Yeah, I suppose. I mean, just going back to Allison was saying about the street. And I think just going back to mobility, I think we can think tend to think in very adult terms about mobility and you think about what’s a toddler’s mobility? Well, you know, we know that very young children much prefer to to play very close to their homes. We think about that. You know that child knocking on a neighbour’s door to us or don’t they? Is mobility but equally, that child moving around that street and playing, you know, that’s, that’s partly that is also mobility for them and you know, and equally then to then talk about the school run a bit i think you know, mobility is is not we talk a lot about independent mobility but actually children are also travel or move with with family with friends and we need to sort of think a bit more widely about about that. So you know, that our school run is is probably many people would think is not too bad until the point that you get to school and that environment outside school is kind of what I would just call traffic chaos. And you come up against, you know, many other people trying to use that street for many different purposes. And I think it’s as good then, you know, it goes back to that the street, what, what is the purpose of that street at that time of day? And whose movement movement? Should it be facilitating? And really, you know, given you have a huge number of children trying to travel through there, it isn’t, again, I think it isn’t just about travel, as Allison said that this idea of school streets, you know, the atmosphere of arriving at a school where there is no traffic right outside kind of completely, I think transforms the experience for those children arriving at school and those families.
Carlton Reid 21:18
So if you were the Newcastle transport planner, how would you change that particular street? And how would that link into maybe other streets, other schools elsewhere in the UK, perhaps even elsewhere in the world?
Sally Watson 21:31
I think I mean, and I think actually, others have started to talk more about secondary as well, but I think there are there are differences between primary schools and secondary schools, there are differences, you know, in the types of streets that that schools are on, I think schools that aren’t on aren’t on a kind of main road, really serious main road, bus route, whatever, there’s, there isn’t really any reason why you can’t create a school street or even a network of streets that are accessed only at school drop off and pickup times. These are just decisions that you know, that we, as adults, adults in positions of power can make. Yeah, they can be controversial, but I think, if framed in the right way. And I think that they are sort of broadly acceptable compared to most people, and but then you have a different issue when it comes to older children travelling to school, the some recent research that that’s actually in Newcastle talking to children, about about their worries about pandemic and one of the things that come out of that is, is how they feel using public transport. And so sort of, again, thinking about mobility, you know, older children might be walking, might be cycling, might be using public transport to get around the city. And we’re not really kind of thinking about any of our transport planning with their needs in mind. So it’s sort of a, you know, it’s a bigger thing than the street, but it does definitely kind of start with those those streets.
Carlton Reid 22:54
Alison, that say, mentioned the pandemic there. Do you think I don’t want to touch on the sunrise cycle ages? Yeah, what am I gonna leave that for a moment? But do you think what’s happened during the pandemic, either gone organically from just people being, you know, in effect close to home, or from the government’s point of view, where they’ve, they’ve actually done stuff or tried to do stuff to increase active mobility? Do you think the pandemic will lead to societal changes in the long term?
Alison Stenning 23:34
I suppose that’s the kind of million dollar question, isn’t it? And I think, you know, I think lots of us who are kind of very excited by what we’d seen, as you say, both happening in an organic manner, during the first lockdown, but also, the announcement of the active travel funds. Last year, we’re quite excited that this might mark a shift, both in terms of people’s experience of their streets, and what they hoped for on their streets, and, but also government and local government or responses. And I suppose I’m increasingly less positive about what’s been achieved and what might be maintained. And I think, you know, we need to look back at kind of some of the biggest structural issues around, you know, cars and car parking and those different kinds of mobility. And as Sally suggested, the alternative forms of mobility, which might, which might kind of take up some of the slack, particularly kind of public transport. I think, you know, people did enjoy and recognise the value of low traffic streets, which is what we effectively had in the first lockdown. And that wasn’t true for everyone. People were still having to travel for work, and there was some essential travel going on. I think for the most part, in most parts of the UK, we saw a dramatic decline in in traffic, we did also see an increase in speeding. And that’s an interesting connection to think about, in terms of making streets safe for children for others, too. I think, you know, all of the debates that we’ve seen about low traffic neighbours Particularly in London, the controversies there, but also the controversies clearly in in Newcastle, you know, suggest that there’s still a very big kind of Hill to be climbed around this. And and I don’t really have the answers to that. But I do think yeah, I think it’s perhaps not I’m not as optimistic as I was. I suppose this time. We’re not this time last year, but over the summer.
Carlton Reid 25:23
Sally. And the same question to you. Are you as pessimisticvqs Alison, are you optimistic on that there will be societal changes will come after after the pandemic?
Sally Watson 25:35
Yeah, I probably like, Alison, I think I think that I’m optimistic about some, you know, that there have been some shifts, I’m less optimistic about where we go more broadly, because I can see that there is, you know, there isn’t in enough infrastructure being built to support other other modes other than driving fast enough. The, the, you know, the difficulty, in terms of pushback is is huge. In I mean, it is and bigger and something like that, I think London has seen a bigger backlash than I’ve seen anywhere else in the UK, but there has been a backlash out everywhere else. But also, I just can see that, you know, people are going getting in their cars, and people aren’t using public transport, and that’s a really worrying thing. And we start seeing, you know, drive thru cinemas advertised and everything’s, you know, all us, you know, cuz everything’s gonna be a drive thru. And that really worries me that we were end up ending up going to kind of actually kind of support more driving rather than discouraging it through that. But I mean, I think you know, for for politicians, there is opportunity here, and you know, the features still to be decided written, really, they do have opportunity, we see even where we live huge numbers of people cycling, one of my concerns about how we plan to support, you know, this kind of activity in the future is that we’re not measuring any of this. And we know that through, if we don’t have that sort of data to support change, it can be more difficult to make those changes.
Carlton Reid 27:11
So I said, I’m gonna come straight back to you on on the bridges, because there’s been a Newcastle has closed off to my address, not to pedestrians, not to cyclists, not to, to scooter users, etc, but close off to motorists, five bridges. And then there’s an awful lot of controversy, as they always are on these kind of things. But it does seem that touchwood that Newcastle is holding its nerve, and is not reacting to the incredibly loud voices and including some potentially fraudulent voices in this particular semi consultation. So So what’s happening with the bridges? And are you hopeful that those particular bridges will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists but close to motorists?
Sally Watson 28:01
Yeah, I think we are hopeful. I mean, we really we don’t know what the decision is going to be at. But the reason I think we’re hopeful is that they’ve they’ve kind of so far done everything that they said they would they kind of come up with a report quite quickly after the after the sort of end of the consultation and there’s a decision, I think that’s gonna be made in the summer, but they’re talking about it looking kind of looking quite carefully about how people respond to the consultation, and but also looking at other sort of other data, you know, in terms of traffic, but traffic on main roads and air pollution, what have you. So I think it is, it is important. And and also actually, I think, you know, recognising that while I think we had quite a good response to the consultation, it’s probably not representative of the people who live in these bases. And to go back to children. This is an, you know, big issue that we have, I think when we look at how many children are responding or being or even able to take part in these consultations, it’s very, very tiny numbers. So, you know, if we make the decision based on what you know, and the or your kind of, I think a recent, a recent transport policy consultation in the northeast, has just announced its findings. And you know, the majority are not the majority, but by far the biggest group of people who had responded were white men who were around some in their 50s. And, and it’s really important that we make sure that we’re we’re kind of thinking about transport, we’re thinking much more widely than, than that.
Carlton Reid 29:34
That’s a good point. So listen to children a bit more. Yeah. As children physically ask them. Yeah,
Sally Watson 29:40
And that that’s difficult. And obviously, it’s even been been more difficult in the pandemic, but in I say, it’s difficult in that, you know, we know how do you access that? How do you access that this is always the kind of question about how do you engage what what are kind of generally known as hard to reach groups but but I think you know, there are ways of doing that. And I think that we probably don’t spend make enough effort to do that.
Carlton Reid 30:06
So Alison let’s let’s talk about the Sunrise Cycleway and potentially permanent changes might result. So give us a brief rundown of the changes that were made in your neck of the woods this particular cycle way whether it was well used and and then it was dismantled. So tell us about the dismantling of it and and what happened there, but then also maybe discuss the potential for a permanent cycle way to come out of this.
Alison Stenning 30:38
Yeah, I mean, I think you know, what we saw last summer was, yeah, the creation of a three mile five kilometre cycle along the seafront, from time mouth to Whitney Bay, running through cullercoats all along the seafront, effectively removing one lane of traffic, the southbound lane, which was replaced by a two way cycle cycle lane, and there was a bit of shifting and changing kind of in the process to accommodate particularly the needs of both fishing boats, but also the volunteer life Brigade, who need access needed access kind of along the coast. So there was a bit of shifting and changing to create access points. And but largely what we had from July through to October here, I’ve got my dates, right, was a traffic free cycle way right along the seafront, it was extremely well used. And I can’t remember off the top of my head, the figures, but it was 1000s of people daily peaking, obviously, weekends and and in the summer months. And it was used by all sorts of different people, but particularly it was used by children, by families and by people on non standard bikes, as well as people who were on road bikes, but perhaps would have travelled up and down the coast anyway, this bit of road forms part of the National Cycle network route one, which is in ordinary times shared path right along the seafront. It’s quite a wide path at times, but it’s often quite narrow. And in the context of both the summer and the pandemic, we’d see huge numbers of people trying to kind of make their way up and down the coast. And I guess what we’re beginning to see after the cycleway was pulled out in October on the basis, apparently of falling fingers, but also tricky negotiations with other coastal users. And you know, the argument all along was that there would be far fewer people using this, but what we’ve seen is a consistent flow of people trying to walk and cycle along the coast, and that that’s picked up really dramatically in the last kind of month or so that it’s really quite difficult to cycle down what is now a shared path on the pavement. So we’ve been actively kind of pushing for and trying to kind of, you know, encourage the council to to move towards both kind of, I suppose, a short term solution and a longer term solution and the Council have committed to a longer term solution along the seafront. We’re not sure how that will work and living streets, North Tyneside have put forward a plan for what they think might work. And we’re not sure what the council is looking at what the council’s ideas are, but a way of accommodating different forms of traffic down the coast and creating space for walking and cycling. But we say that there’s quite an urgent need for that, in the short term as well, I have no idea what it’s going to be like on the summer during the summer on the seafront. It’s already heaving at weekends with very, very difficult kind of to walk, let alone to walk and cycle on the on the path. And there have been quite a lot of tweets and other kind of posts on social media over the last few months about the number of close passes that happen on the seafront road on the road now that most cyclists are back on the road. And of course, that excludes cyclists who aren’t confident excludes children and excludes family cycling with their children. So we’ve seen a real shift in in in the opportunities to cycle through the bar. And I think you know, obviously there was a lot of focus on this being a kind of sort of leisure route, but it often it also provided a really safe route between our our town centres between Whitley Bay, cullercoats and time mouth that say travelling for shopping, having to see friends and family and when that’s been possible, and that LinkedIn then to these closures on northfields fish key and on Park view In Whitley Bay. So these places became if you like kind of destinations for people kind of shopping and eating and drinking. And they were connected by a cycleway which made moving between these places much easier.
Carlton Reid 34:45
Now an awful lot of the chatter on social media was basically saying those places which you just mentioned, that they’re losing all their business. And that was obviously because of the pandemic. It was just that why people aren’t going To shops? And yeah, that was the evidence that was very often cited. Would you say there was there was some people would say the opposite to that? Yeah. I
Alison Stenning 35:09
mean, I think that there’s different pictures, I’d say on the fish key and park view, my understanding is that almost all of the businesses, that’s to say, kind of the food and retail businesses on the fish key were in favour of the closure and are pushing, as far as I understand for another closure this summer. And the on Park view, it was slightly more complicated, I think. But I think, you know, what we haven’t seen is the evidence that the council gathered, you know, they did record and report both traffic on the seafront, but also footfall and all sorts of other data from Park view and from the fish game, we don’t have that data. And it hasn’t been reported publicly. And so we don’t really know what numbers were like. I mean, we can rely on anecdotal evidence, obviously. But what we also don’t know there’s been no, no systematic and clear kind of survey, as far as as far as we understand of the businesses on Parkview. We hear stories of people, you know, feeling kind of at risk and losing business, but we also hear stories of people for whom it was an amazing boon in terms of their sales. That that was food shops, and some of the clothes shops and some of the bars and cafes down there. So we don’t know is the answer. And we don’t have the evidence at the moment to make those decisions. And I think, you know, in contrast to Newcastle, where there was a very widespread consultation, and we’ve already seen the initial results from that, we don’t really have that information in North Tyneside
Carlton Reid 36:34
yet. So Sally, again, we’re going to be hyperlocal here. But in our particular leafy suburb, there has just recently appeared some protection for cyclists on some stretches of, of, of, of road, so I’m assuming you welcome those kind of bits of infrastructure been installed. But do you think and he kind of mentioned this before? And you said, it’s not coming quick enough. But how quickly did that do with Newcastle City Council have to go to actually make these interventions actually physically work?
Sally Watson 37:13
Yeah, I think that it’s been really great to see the temporary stuff. I think the difficulty with it is we know this that when you when you’re talking about temporary cycling’s, you can’t really deal with the junctions. And so I can understand the reluctance to, to put in huge amounts of temporary stuff without a plan to make to do something about the junctions. But I think that, to some extent, you know, there are people who are such nervous cyclists that they will get off and cross the road junctions and still use the production. So I think there’s probably a case for more temporary, you know, we know that there are streets that are wide that are, you know, in fact, I have personally suggested to the council that, you know, shortly after this all started that they might want to think about focusing on on secondary schools looking at secondary schools, which are main roads which have space and putting in pop up cycle lanes there because even even if they can’t deal with the junctions, you have huge numbers of kids spilling out of schools onto quite narrow pavements and they’re already sort of jostling and people you know, kids who are cycling can end up on the road so you know, thinking about it in those terms then with a plan to make this permanent in the future is probably you know, those are quite good places to start. And so that we’ve been led to believe they have funding to make the some of the pop up stuff here permanent don’t know about some of the other stuff that’s wasted waiting to see what we have a high straight street here which has some cycling some pedestrian I think many of us feel that you know, who cycle feel it would be really it’s really important that that that temporary pedestrian space, kind of getting the common cycling space in the future. But I think that not that I don’t think that’s necessarily a plan that the Council have. So these things were always kind of, I suppose pushing pushing for more with the sort of recognition that if you want people to come and use high streets, you do need to make this space for cycling we’re seeing many many more people cycling if you want them to come and stop at shops you know, it’s just it’s not like when you come in the car and you bring your kids and you can get out of buggy your if you’ve brought your kids on your bike you you know how do you then tell if you have a baby and a toddler and has been huge and shopping How do you manage that so he’s we’re seeing many more different types of 500 cycle now being used to with children. And so we you know, we do need to think about infrastructure for sort of cycling and a much more broader sense it needs to really get to right to the two destinations you need psychopath from all this, all this other stuff. So it’s a big leap on from thinking about your commuter routes.
Carlton Reid 39:59
And Allison, if you asked a five year old, if you asked a 15 year old, if you asked a 16 year old, you know, what would they want from their streets? You’d get, I’m assuming a certain answer. If you then asked a 17 year old and that’s the age, of course, in the UK, where you get your driving licence, that and I’ll consider the United Nations consider to hold on to I think 18, isn’t it? So I’m a child of 17. He’s got a driving licence, we’re all of a sudden have a very different view of what should perhaps I’m assuming here of the transport priorities. So how do you make either that connection or that disconnection from as soon as you get your driving licence, your perspectives on this change completely?
Alison Stenning 40:51
Well, I suppose there’s two things is one is that having a driving licence, you know, doesn’t mean you can afford to take lessons pass test by a car. So there’s still enormous inequalities, which exist, even after 17 that is a relatively small number of children and young people who would be able to buy a car and use that as their primary mode of transport. And there are huge costs associated with driving and unless those can be absorbed by you or your family, then you’re still it’s still not going to be your primary mode of transport for quite some time. And the other thing is, I suppose that you know, that that kind of rite of passage of kind of passing your test and getting a car when you turn 70, and or kind of as soon as you possibly can afterwards, is a result of the the way in which we hold the car up in, in popular culture, if, you know, if we can make changes now, which mean that actually children see, you know, young children now see that, you know, bikes or feet, give them more freedom to move around their local communities safely with their friends, you know, okay, you can give your friends a lift in a car. But you know, getting around hanging around them, you know, I guess this is the thing about asking children and young people. And like Sally said, you know, there are now numerous ways in which people have tried and tested talking to children and young people about what they want, from their streets, what they want from their cities, what they want from their public transport systems. It’s not, you know, there’s just dozens and dozens of studies that have done this now. And it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for councils like Newcastle or North Tyneside to actually consult children and young people and to ask them, and yeah, there will be much the needs of an 11 year old will be very different to the needs of a 17 year old. And there’s been a lot of stuff recently, about how how little, for example, teenage girls are accounted for in public space, and how they might move about public space. And how they might, you know, choose to travel, choose to meet their friends, and so on. So I think it is about asking children and young people, asking them what might make a difference to them making choices to buy a car or to take driving lessons, or in fact, just to have a bike. And you know, you see, I see, I see young people, I don’t know, 15, 16, 17 year olds, cycling all over North Tyneside, they’re often cycling on the pavement, because it’s the only place that they can safely cycle. But it’s clearly how young people do get around. That’s how I got around to the young person. And it’s one of those, you know, taking your test at 17. Buying a car is one route, but it’s not the only route. And it’s a privileged route.
Carlton Reid 43:21
Well, thank you, both of you for taking the time today to chat with me to end Could you please tell everybody how they can find you on social media and perhaps any links to your academic or any other hats? You like to put that I know Sally might give a cycling campaign hat there. So first of all, Alison, give us your social media and any other links.
Alison Stenning 43:49
So I’m on Twitter as @Alisonstenning, quite easy to find there. And, and in terms of my academic role, it’s very easy to search for me at Newcastle University. I’m in geography at the university and you’ll find me if you if you search for me, and I also have you kind of I guess to activist hats, I run playmate Street, North Tyneside here coordinate street closures play in North Tyneside, again, that’s at play meet street on Twitter. And you can find us by searching. We’re on Facebook, as well as we have a basic website. And I’m also involved in living streets in North Tyneside, and off the top of my head. I can’t remember what their Twitter handle is. But again, if you search for that, you’ll find both a website and twitter twitter handle and the Facebook page. Thank you
Carlton Reid 44:41
Sally Watson 44:42
So yeah, I’m also on Twitter @SalaWatson. I can be also found in Newcastle University in the School of Architecture, planning and landscape. I additionally I chair the Newcastle cycling campaign, we have a Twitter which is @Newcycling We also have you can find too that we have a Facebook website as well
Carlton Reid 45:07
Thanks to Alison Stanning and Sally Watson there and thanks to you for listening to the spokesmen cycling podcast. Show notes and more can be found on the-spokesmen.com but as always
Carlton Reid 45:23
get out there and ride!