I cycle pretty much past Oxford's Covered Market (down Turl St) daily, on my way home from work, and often want to get fresh vegetables or meat. But I never go there, because there's no bike parking. (more…)
There's an approach to cycling which my friend Scott Urban calls "urge and merge". The first part of this involves encouraging people to cycle, through providing information, training, and so forth. The second part involves then getting them to "merge" with the motor traffic, to share space with dense traffic flows, perhaps even to "take the lane" and cycle as if they were a vehicle — or in some cases to "merge" with people walking. This is an approach that has dominated thinking about cycling in the UK for decades, despite the fact that it clearly hasn't worked. Things are changing, but these ideas keep being used as an alternative to avoid more effective but harder changes.
Three lists illustrate how how this works, with a focus on Oxford, where decades of "urge and merge" have moved the cycling modal share nowhere. (more…)
I'm not trying to reform transport in Oxford for myself. Personally, I find Oxford remarkably easy to get around, and indeed one of its attractions for me has always been that, while it has the "cultural capital" of a city many times its size, it feels like a village because getting around it is so easy. (more…)
Central Oxford is severely space constrained. It suffers from bus and vehicle congestion, and not enough space is provided for people walking or waiting for buses or admiring the buildings, for proper bus layovers, or for safe cycling routes. Creating more space is not an option, so there is no way to do anything about these problems without shifting people from the least space efficient mode — private motor vehicles — to more efficient modes — buses, bicycles, or feet. One key tool for achieving this would be an access charge for motor vehicles. (more…)
The recent Phil Jones Associates' "Oxford City Centre Movement and Public Realm Strategy", commissioned by the city and county councils, proposes a radical reworking of Oxford's core in favour of public space and active travel. This offers an escape from the transport "swamp" the city is currently stuck in: the alternative is stumbling along, flailing about but sinking deeper into the quagmire. Everyone concerned about air pollution, congestion and barriers to walking and cycling in Oxford should push the councils to take the proposals in this report, give them flesh, and put them into (respectively) their Local Plan and Transport Strategy. (more…)
In this post I examine a "micro" example from East Oxford that illustrates how street design fails people walking or cycling: where the lane from Boundary Brook Rd meets Howard St. (more…)
One of the big advantages of cycling is that, like walking, it has predictable journey times. There are many trips where driving may be faster on average, but in Oxford at least driving times are highly unpredictable. This is a particular problem if one needs to be somewhere at a particular time - for a school drop-off, say, or for work, since one then has to leave earlier to allow for contingencies, obviating any speed advantage. (more…)
The Gilligan report Running out of Road: Investing in cycling in Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford offers an excellent analysis of the potential cycling has to help Oxford fix its transport problems. And its suggestions are on target. But it has some weaknesses, largely the result of considering cycling in isolation from other transport modes. (more…)
Oxford's transport system is trapped in a local optimum; it has already been heavily optimised for this and there is no way to improve it by making small changes. (more…)
Six years ago I was inspired by a story about how Groningen had controlled its motor traffic by blocking routes through its centre, and suggested the same thing be done in Oxford. Richard Mann pointed out that the Groningen "ring road" was 5km long where Oxford's was 25km, however, and there didn't seem much enthusiasm even in CyclOx for the idea. (more…)
In so far as there is any cycling infrastructure in Oxford it is substandard, but some of it is so bad it is actually dangerous and should be removed. (more…)
As with transport in the UK more broadly, in Oxford a lot of work sometimes seems to be done for very small improvements, in what I call "expensive incrementalism". To illustrate this, consider the rebuild last year of Oxford's Warneford Lane-Gypsy Lane-Roosevelt Drive-Old Rd intersection (which was on my route from work to nursery). (more…)
On Saturday I went on a tour of the Waltham Forest "mini-Holland" project, organised by CyclOx and hosted by the WF branch of London Cycling Campaign (thanks Paul and Dan!). We caught a mini-bus into London, then used Urbo dockless hire bikes to do a 14km loop around the borough, looking at what they've done and are doing. (more…)
Like most urban primary schools, Larkrise has a reasonably small catchment area (and out-of-catchment children are selected largely based on distance), so walking or cycling to school, accompanied or independently for the older children, should be an option for almost all children. But there are some serious failings with the transport infrastructure around the school, and a little investment here could make active travel to it significantly more attractive. (more…)
Here are some comments on the options for transport surveyed in "Movement and the Public Realm in Oxford City Centre". (more…)
I realise that ranting on this blog is a pretty ineffectual way of actually achieving change. But when I contemplated requesting a meeting with my local councillors (city and county), I had trouble working out what I was actually going to request from them. Two-way cycling on Howard St, or the removal of parking in cycle lanes on Donnington Bridge Rd, were asks too small to be worth the trouble. Requesting anything as abstract as "Dutch-style infrastructure" seemed too waffly, while if I was going to lobby for Broad St to be turned into a square, that was going to require more than me acting in isolation.
So my suggestion as to what we (CyclOx and others) could request as part of a concerted lobbying campaign is first-rate cycling infrastructure along Botley Rd. (more…)
The recently redesigned Pembroke St is attractive, but also seems a lost opportunity.
Previously it was a fairly traditional lane, with a carriageway and pavements. The new design keeps essentially the same layout, only replacing the kerbs with gentle "gutters" or brick edging, on as far as I can tell exactly the same line, and changing the (still too narrow) footpaths to a "brick" surface. The other substantive change is that the street is now two-way for cycling (motor traffic is still allowed to enter only from St Ebbes). (more…)
Oxford's centre faces rigid space constraints that, even if private motor vehicles could be excluded, create an apparently insurmountable conflict between livability and active transport modes on the one hand and public transport on the other. As a long-term solution, I propose that all inner-city public transport be provided by a mini-bus (or tram) shuttle loop, connecting to city and intercity bus services at interchanges at the Plain (or the bottom of South Park), St Aldates, the railway station, and St Giles. (more…)
Walking with Helen to the Cowley Rd Tesco yesterday made me think back on how her development and changes in transport modes have affected our experience of Oxford's geography. (more…)
Update (February 2018): this idea gets some council support!
This document proposes the installation and use of a cable car system along with other measures to significantly reduce congestion and pollution in Oxford.
Give me the girl until she is eleven and I will give you the woman...
Neither Camilla nor I are that keen on religious schooling, but I had suggested before, only half in jest, that a good Jesuit-run school would be an attractive option. And now I've seen the closest thing I'm likely to see to this for girls, in an Open Day visit to one of Oxford's private preparatory schools. (more…)
I've mostly discussed cycling in this blog, but I thought I'd turn my attention to walking, starting with a look at central Oxford, roughly defined as the region frequented by tourists. (more…)
My cycle to work is about 3.6km and takes maybe 15 minutes, which I think is about the perfect length. It's enough that I'm getting at least a small amount of regular exercise, but not so long that it ever feels tedious, and even on the rare occasions when there's serious rain (or it's dark on the way home in winter) it's not too daunting. It's also an attractive route, much of it quite pleasant cycling. I begin with a description, which I follow with some commentary on Oxford cycling infrastructure, on which it doesn't shed such a flattering light. (more…)
It's true that every Oxford Mail article about cycling gets the usual complaints about red light jumping, people cycling without lights, and suchlike, but I've seen no sign of any kind of backlash against cycling infrastructure. And this is easy to explain. There is no cycling infrastructure in Oxford. That is to say, nothing that gives people on bicycles any real space of their own, nothing that substantially inconveniences cars, buses, trucks or taxis. (more…)
I had had to take the day off work to look after Helen yesterday, since she was home after after having had the runs at nursery the day before. But we had a really good day. (more…)
It's early days yet, even for the UK where children start formal schooling between 4 and 5 years old, but we've already started thinking about schooling for Helen, and as part of that we visited two primary schools. The first was our local state school, the one we're actually in the catchment for and (since it's just around the corner) could be relatively confident of getting a place in (due to a baby boom, there's such pressure on schools that even being in the catchment is now no longer a guarantee of a place). The second was the prep school for a prestigious private Oxford girls high school. (more…)
I finally got around to taking Helen to the Story Museum. This is all about stories and learning from them, and runs regularly changing exhibitions. Last summer Helen seemed too young at one and a half to appreciate their 26 Characters exhibition (though it ran until February and if I'd thought about it again I'd probably have taken her then). The downside is the price: it's £7.50 for an adult and £5 for a child, so that was £12.50 for me and Helen. But there's a lot of fun stuff and we ended up staying there from 1pm to 5pm when they shut (including maybe an hour for afternoon tea in their cafe), so I'd have to say it's worth that. (more…)
A dual network strategy for cycling only makes sense if we have a bimodal population of cyclists. To illustrate this, consider Frideswide Square, where the planners are clearly picturing something like this. (more…)
The term is amorphous and vague, but Oxford's forthcoming redevelopments at the Plain roundabout and Frideswide Square continue to follow some kind of "shared space" ideology. So it's interesting to look at how previous incarnations of that have worked for cyclists. So Cowley Rd (more…)
I have three friends who I use as a litmus test for cycling. They don't cycle in Oxford, even though it would often be convenient for them if they did — one of them walks two miles to work instead — largely because they find the environment too hostile and unpleasant. (more…)
Oxford is pretty good for cycling, at least compared to most cities in the English-speaking world, but there's huge room for improvement, those improvements aren't happening fast if at all, and I feel we need a change of focus to advance further.
In particular, I feel we need to ditch a "dual network" approach which is incapable of growing cycling much beyond its current share of transport and making it an option for everyone. Education and training, encouragement and so forth are important, but to make cycling significantly more popular than it is already we need to give people the option to cycle with minimal interaction with fast or dense motor traffic. (more…)
The Plain is being rebuilt and ambitious plans to redesign St Giles have been floated, but for me the most obvious redevelopment for central Oxford, the one that will cost the least and deliver the most, is Broad St. All that is basically needed is to remove the car parking, remove the kerbs and resurface the entire area, drop the speed limit to 5mph and time-restrict loading access, and Oxford could have a showpiece central square. (more…)
A few weekends ago I went on a short cycle trip, with someone I had met on an earlier cycle tour, to two sights I hadn't known about: Wheatley windmill and Bishop Edward King chapel. (more…)
It's early days yet, but I'm starting to look at the options for moving Helen around by bicycle. The basic choices seem to be a front-mounted child seat, a rear-mounted child seat, a trailer, or some kind of front-load cargo bicycle or tricycle (bakfiets-style or modern variants on that). (more…)
A cosmopolitan city, Oxford has a religious diversity to match. (more…)
One of the things we inherited with our house was a folder of photos and documents of an owner from the 1950s, in one of which the house carries a sign "J. E. ASTON PRACTICAL CHIMNEY SWEEP".
Our new house backs onto a large area of allotments, and in a fit of madness Camilla signed up for half a plot - about 60 sqm - last weekend. (more…)
Pete was running the Chicken Beauty Contest at the Binsey Fete, so I cycled up the Thames Path to see what was happening. (more…)
A View from the Cyclepath has an interesting account of how Groningen in the Netherlands came to be the world's number one cycling city. (more…)
Some of the places in Oxford we've eaten in and recommend. (more…)
The daffodils are out in full glory, the cherry trees are starting to blossom, and busloads of tourists have started appearing. (more…)
Further adventures with the Bodleian Library system have gone well. (more…)
I joined the Oxford Council library soon after arrival in Oxford, but never found much to get excited by in their holdings, since they have neither academic books nor much in the way of world literature.
It wasn't till recently that I got around to getting a Bodleian readers card. This was very easy - I just turned up with the forms and paid my money - with the only unusual feature being that they made me speak the oath out loud! (more…)
The little cluster of shops closest to us — around the junction of Magdalen Road with Hurst and Catherine Streets — has just gained two places to eat. (more…)
The traditional divide in Oxford was between town and gown. That is now cut across by other social divisions, however, and there's a third component to Oxford's population, in the form of tourists. (more…)
Oxford is a vastly nicer environment for cycling than any part of Sydney I know about, or pretty much any town or city I have visited. This is not because of its cycling infrastructure, which is actually pretty pathetic, but because of its low speed limits. (more…)
Camilla had applied for Wytham Woods permit last year, but we'd never got around to using it. But on Easter Sunday we went there for a picnic with Jenny and Thomas and the boys. (more…)
After photographing chimneys, I switched to photographing people along High St. I stopped at the Last Bookshop (where I bought three books), got an icecream from G+D's, and then walked back home along the river, taking more photographs of people relaxing or rowing. (more…)
To take advantage of a lovely sunny spring day, I walked into town, taking my camera. I'd had a lot of fun with the telephoto lens when we were in Africa, so I took that instead of my standard zoom. (more…)
Between Oxford University, the museums, and an assortment of other research institutions, there's an excellent range of talks, lectures and seminars on in Oxford. (more…)
Coming out of the Cowley Rd Tesco a few weeks ago, I ran into an old chess and bushwalking friend I hadn't seen more for more than a decade. (more…)
Again, this won't impress those of you in Sweden, but Oxford got maybe 15 centimetres of snow yesterday, which was the largest snowfall I've ever experienced. (more…)
I'm not sure where I stand on legally mandated helmets for bike riders. (more…)
It's not going to impress those of you living in Stockholm, Uppsala, or Berlin, or who spent two winters in Basel, but it's got rather chilly here in Oxford: temperatures as low as -6 overnight and days - possibly a whole week - where it doesn't rise above 0. (more…)
Our friend Selma from Australia arrived last Saturday morning. She only had a day and a half here, so we whisked her off immediately, before jet lag could set in. We cycled up the Thames to Medley Manor Farm, where we picked blackberries and raspberries and strawberries and broad beans, and then had lunch in the Perch Inn. (more…)
Gabi was our first visitor, but she stayed with my sister. So Matthew and Colene were our first house guests, staying for two days as part of a trip around the UK and Europe. (more…)
As well as it being a university town with attendant facilities, where my sister was living, one of the attractions of Oxford was that it had a gamelan group. (more…)
We haven't been eating out nearly as often as we did in Sydney, but so far our experiences in Oxford have been quite good. (more…)
Yesterday, after waiting for them to get something the right size in, I bought a refurbished bike from the Oxford Cycle Workshop around the corner. I was very happy with the purchase, and put it next to C's bike at the back of the house. This morning when I got up it had been stolen. (more…)
We're in East Oxford, which is a marginal constituency, held by Labour but with the Liberal Democrats only a few hundred votes behind at the last election. (more…)
I've read that the optimal size for a city is around 700,000 - big enough to provide services but not so big as to be unwieldy. With a population of about 140,000, Oxford is a fair bit short of that, but as one of the UK's two premier university towns it ranks way above its size as a cultural and intellectual centre. (more…)
Wandering around central and inner East Oxford, there are few signs of economic malaise (more…)
Oxford used to have a great range of bookshops, not surprisingly for a university town, but they have been steadily closing. Here are the ones that are left. (more…)
Yesterday C and I moved into a house on Catherine St, just around the corner from my sister. (more…)
I had an uneventful flight - the best kind - got through border control and customs at Heathrow, carted my baggage to the bus station, rang C, and had time for coffee and a croissant before getting the bus to Oxford. (more…)
Talking about the weather is a particularly English pastime, but the UK weather at the moment is rather dramatic. (more…)