Acorn Road “an injustice”, says campaigner
Allocation of road space on Acorn Road is an “injustice”, a cycling campaigner has said.
Empty shops, deserted roads, park benches that have long been in a disused state is a common streetscape scenario repeated on high streets across Britain – but not on the lively, busy and crowded Acorn Road in Jesmond.
Nonetheless, high streets are struggling to maintain their importance in people’s shopping habits and thus the British government commissioned a review of the streets’ critical condition. Mary Portas, a retail expert and self-proclaimed “Queen of Shops”, took on the challenge to explore the future of Britain’s High Streets in 2011. Her review concluded that “local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes.”
An alternative report by Bill Grimsey in March 2013 concluded that councils ought “to make it easier for motorists to shop.” Grimsey suggested implementing two hours of free parking – and potentially abandoning charges outright – for at least one year.
Cycling campaigners in Jesmond disagree with the findings of Portas’ and Grimsey’s reviews. The asphalt of Acorn Road has proved a boiling surface for the question of pedestrianisation. The Newcastle Cycling Campaign, an organisation speaking up for cyclists’ concerns, challenges Portas’ findings : cyclists and walkers, it says, are of vital importance to a healthy high street.
JesmondLocal met Katja Leyendecker, the chair of the campaign to talk about her views on the future of Acorn Road, Jesmond’s high street as well as the focal point of the campaign’s survey on shopping behaviour. The Newcastle Cycle Campaign suggests different solutions and levels of traffic reduction, but Leyendecker admits that for her “pedestrianization would be the very upper end, the high quality solution.”
When asked if she considered a compromise, the chair of Newcastle Cycling Campaign is determined. She favours a shutdown of car traffic in Acorn Road and in her opinion, the survey showed the importance of walkers to the turnover of the street’s businesses. Certainly the data reveals walkers’ purchasing power: they spend £959,546 every month, compared to car drivers, who spend £376,250 in the local shops. Acorn Road draws people within a one-mile radius who use it as a local resource, explains Leyendecker.
“It’s an inverse relationship of money and pedestrian spend for people who walk to Acorn Road, and the space allocated to them to get to the shops, as opposed to people who drive there and spend money and the place that’s allocated to them,” Leyendecker says. “There seems to be a space injustice going on in Acorn Road!”
Do you agree with the plans for Acorn Road? JesmondLocal will be talking to Katja Leyendecker tonight, live on YouTube and JesmondLocal.com, from 7:30pm.