NEWCASTLE could accommodate a larger population and become a faster, more effective city if it changed its focus from roads and parking to high density housing and bikes.
Architecture academic Steven Fleming said if Newcastle tripled in population during the next 50 years, the average commute time would be about 25 minutes.
But if the city adopted a similar approach to Amsterdam, where two-thirds of the population travel by bike, then that commute time could be slashed to 8.5 minutes.
“If we carry on the way we’re going we’ll end up with something like Brisbane or Perth,” Dr Fleming said.
“Those cities have average commute times of 25 minutes, which we know for a lot of people means trip times of an hour each way, or two hours, in a car. Which is pretty dismal.”
Dr Fleming said that because society was moving towards more knowledge-based economies rather than farming and resources, the Newcastle of the future would need faster connections to be an effective city.
“The car city is not going to give it to us,” he said.
“You can see in Sydney what happens when you try to build a big city with cars, it just leads to congestion.
“Rather than thinking about cities growing out to East Maitland or out west to where the farms and the mines are, if we just look at the flat plane between Mayfield and Adamstown, bounded from the north and south, and Cooks Hill and Lambton bounded from the east and the west, that’s a 28-kilometre square plane which is almost circular, and it is very similar in size to the central burroughs in Amsterdam which are really dense and use bicycles for two thirds of the transport mix.”
The Newcastle East-based Dr Fleming said if we made it possible to use cars for the bare minimum of trips, with the default option being cycling, public transport and walking, we could house 1.4 million people within that area, much like Paris does.
“But the real kicker is that average trip times would be 8.5 minutes, not 25 minutes,” he told The Herald.
Dr Fleming, who spends much of his time working in Amsterdam, has developed a proposal called the Newcastle Waterway Discovery Loop, which would connect the loose ends of the city’s main cycleways and make it easier to live without cars.
“In Newcastle, there are a lot of interesting comparisons to Amsterdam that suggest another way forward, rather than just copying Sydney blindly and ending with traffic jams,” he said.
Dr Fleming’s first book, Cycle Space, explored bike cities around the world. His second, Velotopia, will be published soon.
Find out more about Dr Fleming’s proposal by clicking here.