“The most liveable cities are those which are sweet to their people. You can never find a UK city in any of the lists.” 
The Theatre Royal and Grey’s monument on Grey Street
Grey Street is at the centre of a battleground between urban designers, planners and the public; this blog interrogates its suitability for pedestrianisation, imagining a vision of Grey Street 2065.
The insightful lecture given by Alan Wann on sustainable transport systems highlighted the renovation of John Dobson Street. A £1.1m council-backed investment  created a bike highway running the length of the street.
This proposal arose in the wake of Newcastle University’s ‘Newcastle City Futures 2065’ exhibition , which featured an ‘interactive city feedback’ installation. Residents were asked for their opinion of the city, and the issue repeatedly raised was that of pedestrian movement around Newcastle.
Being a pedestrian in Newcastle is frustrating to say the least. The numerous one-way systems, seemingly infinite pedestrian crossings, bus lanes, cycle routes, taxi ranks and skywalks  give a plethora of different messages to the user. It is surely the moment to reconsider pedestrian navigation in the city.
Pedestrianising Grey Street
One of the world’s leading Urban Designers, Jan Gehl, is an advocate for walkable cities. His book, “Cities for People” explains walking as an “occasion for many other activities” and city space as a “forum for social activities” .
The ‘City Futures’ Exhibition attendees recognised this and were overwhelmingly in favour of pedestrianising Grey Street. Newcastle Labour Councillor Nick Forbes has recently echoed these sentiments, revealing plans to re-imagine the UK’s “most beautiful car park” .
(Left: Top of Grey Street by Theatre Royal; Right: Intersection with The Side at the Bottom of Grey Street . Author’s photo’s)
The Opposition to Pedestrianisation
However, there are still several factors that need resolution. Those primarily impacted by pedestrianisation schemes are bus drives, and those who rely on their service.
Also, looking at the two images above, we can see that Grey Street’s topography is a significant barrier for pedestrians. At around 500m long, Grey Street has an average incline of about 10%. Giving people no option but to walk this would not be, as Gehl might say, very ‘sweet to the people’.
In Support of Tired Legs
There is a disconnect in both physical and human geography between the City Centre and the Quayside.
The city centre has become the significant shopping area in Newcastle. Yet the Quayside remains the centre for food and drink spots as the views of the numerous bridges are highly desirable.
A potential solution to these issues would be a public transport intervention. The Tyne & Wear Metro doesn’t connect the two, so an over-ground tram line could fit the bill.
The tram could be directed down Grey Street, starting at the Theatre Royal, and finishing at the bottom of Dean Street as it meets The Side. It could be imagined as part of the Metro ticketing system, or even as a ‘hop-on-hop-off’ shuttle system. However it is managed, the principle of connecting the Quayside to the Metro infrastructure is a key benefit.
A tram would also give those who have difficulty walking the opportunity to enjoy the newly pedestrianised street. This leaves Mosley Street as the only bus route affected by the pedestrianisation.
Mosley Street: Another Newcastle Bridge?
Author drawn graphic showing Mosley Street vehicle bridge.
Let us consider a vehicular bridge across Moseley Street.
Running perpendicular to Grey Street, the road crossing would be one of the key design elements to resolve as it forms a serious barrier to pedestrian movement. However, the road is a key traffic route between the train station and motorway into Newcastle, so cannot be removed.
Its intersection with Grey Street is at the bottom of a 6m dip. Creating a bridge over this dip allows the tram and pedestrians to pass underneath, whilst not interrupting the flow of traffic. The space under this bridge could also help create more commercial opportunities, and let’s be honest, Newcastle absolutely loves bridges.
Grey Street 2065
As the pedestrian link between the two, the development of Grey Street holds the key to the expansion and connectedness of the city centre.
If nothing else, this blog has highlighted that pedestrianisation must consider more than simply banning cars. It requires a holistic design approach that considers all factors. In developing walkable cities, we certainly must think about tired legs.
We can imagine that a tram would go some way towards facilitating movement around Newcastle, but what is undeniable is that the development of public transport is key in improving the City Centre-Quayside pedestrian connections.
The pedestrianisation of Grey Street looks set to happen. With council backing, it is surely only a matter of time, and I believe it will be to Newcastle’s benefit. Jan Gehl laments how cities are no longer the “primarily the province of the pedestrians” and decries being “pushed up along building facades” by cars. In pedestrianising Grey Street, we are taking a piece of Newcastle back from the automobile and putting it back in the hands, or under the feet, of pedestrians.
 Gosforth, S. for, 2016. John Dobson Street: a Safe Pedestrian And Cycling Environment. SPACE Gosforth. URL http://spaceforgosforth.com/john-dobson-street/ (accessed 1.11.20).
 Tewdwr-Jones, M., Goddard, J., Cowie, P., 2015. Newcastle City Futures 2065: Anchoring Universities in Urban Regions through City Foresight.
 Newcastle’s skywalks were an ambitious proposal from the mid-20th century in response to the emergence and popularity of automobile traffic. The idea was to completely separate pedestrians from automobiles by creating a network of elevated paths that would connect the city. A person would be able to walk from one side of Newcastle to the other without crossing a single road.
(Doc, 2016. Newcastle’s Skywalks. Met. DUST. URL https://metalanddust.org/2016/07/03/newcastles-skywalks/ (accessed 1.11.20).)
 Gehl, J., 2010. Cities for People. Island Press, Washington D.C.
 Holland, D., 2019. Cars could be banned from Grey Street in new vision [WWW Document]. nechronicle. URL https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/grey-street-car-ban-forbes-17027170 (accessed 1.11.20).
 Gehl, 2010