CYCLE TRACK: Consultation was seriously flawed

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I agree with Isabel Johnson’s comments about the Broadway cycle track (News Guardian, March 24).

In addition to the hazards she identified, motorists entering and leaving the side roads with new traffic humps at their junctions with the Broadway, such as Dene Road, Milldene Avenue and Millfield Gardens, are driving over tactile paving surfaces and across grass verges and flower beds.

As a result, extensive tyre damage is being caused to the verges and a trail of grass and mud left on the pavement, and the Milldene Avenue junction is in especially poor condition.

Furthermore, tactile paving is designed to be felt underfoot by the blind, and the colours detected by the visually impaired.

How are disabled people supposed to cope when using a section of pavement designed for them when it is covered in tyre marks, mud and grass?

I would guess that motorists are driving over the disabled paving and grass verges to avoid the new traffic humps.

The council was determined to press ahead with the cycling scheme, irrespective of the wishes of local people.

It chose only to consult directly with those residents on the Broadway whose houses front onto the scheme, about 26 homes in total. The five side roads intended for traffic humps were excluded.

Some consultation responses were from pro-cycling groups and organisations that would be expected to support a cycle path.

Other respondents were not from the local area, and some were counted despite providing no address, and in some instances, no surname, so there is a big question mark over the verification process. In total, there were 47 responses where no address was provided.

Even more alarming was the high proportion of responses received after the consultation closing date of September 12, 2014.

Nineteen responses were accepted after this date. Of these, only one objected, three were neutral and 15 supported the scheme.

The final numbers gave the council a narrow majority in favour of the scheme. However, if the responses received after the closing date had been excluded, the outcome shows a majority objecting to the scheme by 41-38. Therefore, if the council had adhered to the closing date for receipt of comments, it would not have had a response supporting the cycle track and the scheme could not have been given the go-ahead.

A petition objecting to the cycle track, containing 171 names and addresses of local people whose streets were directly affected by the cycle path proposals, was rejected by the council. Yet, respondents who gave no address, and in some instances no surname, were considered acceptable, as were residents from outside the local area and from elsewhere in the borough.

As ward councillor and resident of Milldene Avenue, I was part of the local opposition group that identified design flaws and road safety issues in the early plans for the cycle track. I was the only ward councillor to support local residents at the time.

Perhaps if we had been listened to, and allowed to take part in the consultation process, those concerns, as well as the hazards both Isabel Johnson and I are now highlighting, might not be emerging.

The Broadway cycle path scheme was estimated to cost £275,000 of public funding, of which around £62,000 came from the council’s own coffers.

It may be worth asking the council if there was any under-spend, which could be used not just to repair the damage already caused, but also to try to find ways of preventing any further recurrences.

Jean McLaughlin

Tynemouth Ward Councillor 2011-2015