Gateshead Council has announced it is keeping the changes made to road layouts at the north end of the town centre.
The changes, introduced in July 2020, have seen a bus only lane introduced on Askew Road between the junction with West Street and Wellington Street and the Tyne Bridge, and the introduction of a parallel cycle lane.
To support this change, and prevent traffic diverting along neighbouring roads, Hills Street was also closed to through traffic and Nelson Street and Lambton Street were altered to become access only to and from Trinity Square shopping centre.
Gateshead Council says the new layouts will be retained for an extended period, with a review to be carried out after two years.
Since the changes were introduced, government policy has shifted even further in favour of retaining schemes that prioritise active travel, unless there is compelling evidence to remove them.
The Government has stated that low traffic schemes introduced in the last 18 months should be retained “unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary”.
Almost a third of North East households have no access to a car, and for many people, walking or cycling, or using the bus or Metro, are vital to get to work, education or health appointments.
Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for development, transport and public protection said:
“This has not been an easy decision to reach, as we know there are strong feelings on both sides, and we are living in uncertain times, but on the basis of the evidence in front of us and in working towards our goals on air quality and climate change, we believe this is the best solution for now.
"The changes to Askew Road, Hills Street and Nelson Street and Lambton Street together have hugely improved routes for cyclists, walkers and bus passengers.
“We recognise traffic flows on surrounding routes have been affected, but the total number of vehicles has reduced over time.
“Our research shows that making Askew Road bus only has made a big contribution to improved flows on the Tyne Bridge, as it currently operates. This makes an important contribution to improving air quality.”
Gateshead Council is working with Newcastle City Council to improve air quality, with a Clean Air Zone due to be introduced in summer 2022, and the changes made to Askew Road have helped to reduce traffic levels, and hence improve air quality, on the Tyne Bridge and approaches.
The council will also be looking at what further changes to other roads and junctions in the town centre can be made to improve traffic circulation.
Anneliese Hutchinson added:
“We will continue to do everything we can to encourage cycling, walking and more sustainable forms of transport because we believe that is best for us all - for our health, for our environment, and for household budgets.
“We have to keep working to reduce the number of people driving through and around the town centre and enable those who can switch to use other ways of getting around. It is time for us to make a stand to modernise and improve our town centre and reduce the dominance of the car for our health and for the planet. It will take time but this is the first step on that journey.”