More than 60 people attended the “Save Jesmond Path” protest rally on Sunday morning 10am 11/12/2016. This was a fabulous turnout given how short a notice was given for calling the protest.
The crowd listened to addresses from Mr Lachlan Wetherall (creator of the kissyourpathgoodbye.com website), Dr Ben Ewald (a member of Newcastle Cycleways Movement) and from Cr Declan Clausen (Newcastle City Council).
Everyone present was urged to submit a response to the EIS (closes 16th December) to register their objection to the closure of the path.
Mr Wetherall spoke of how in the space of three weeks he had become a citizen activist in response to the anger at seeing the RMS yet again ignore the community. He summarised the three aims of the protest.
Number one, we want the Jesmond shared path retained as continuous off-road path using a combination of overpass and underpass, instead of the current unacceptable and unsafe plan that will force pedestrians and cyclists onto the road.
Secondly, we want the Roads and Maritime Services to stop practicing their token consultation process, where they merely call for submissions and then change nothing – we want genuine consultation, where the RMS actually listens to the overwhelming concerns of the community, and actually changes their plans in response to those concerns.
Thirdly, although the principal aim of this protest is the retention of the off road shared path, there are many other aspects of the bypass plan that are detrimental to cyclists and pedestrians – and they are detrimental because the culture of the RMS and this State government is that they consider pedestrian and cycling infrastructure as an afterthought, an optional add-on, something token to be done for marketing purposes. We want planning of infrastructure in this state, in this city, in this suburb to be done in a way that doesn’t marginalise people who choose to move around under the power of their own two feet.
Dr Ben Ewald spoke of the many benefits of providing and maintaining good cycling infrastructure, including the fact that on a given space of road, it is possible to move about 6 times as many people per hour on cycles as compared to people driving cars. He spoke of some of the other deficiencies of the bypass plan, and how retaining the Jesmond path as an off-road path would also be beneficial to motorists, as cars travelling west on Newcastle Rd and turning south onto the bypass would not need to stop at a traffic light.
Dr Ewald spoke of the need for everyone to submit objections to the current plans by submitting a response to EIS.
Councillor Declan Clausen spoke of how Newcastle Council has always been opposed to the flawed plan of the RMS to remove the shared path and replace it with traffic crossings. He indicated that he and Mayor Nuatali Nelmes would be tabling a Mayoral Minute at the last council meeting for the year on Tuesday night, to once again voice their strong support for the retention of the path. He also spoke of a meeting that RMS had last Wednesday with some cycling organisation representatives where the RMS expressed that they are investigating the possibility of retaining the path by a bridge of the onramp/offramp lanes and an tunnel under the bypass lanes. The preliminary costing of this option was said to be 4 to 6 million dollars.
In discussions amongst the crowd after the meeting there was a lot of skepticism about the RMS’s investigation of this new option. People have often heard before that the RMS is “addressing concerns” but then seen them change nothing. Secondly there was a fair measure of disbelief at the supposed costings of up to $6 million! If the 450metre Anzac Walk bridge could be constructed for $4.5 million, then there was incredulity that a much shorter bridge and tunnel would cost more. People feared that the RMS is already setting the scene to say that retaining the path can’t be done.