How should the planned Oxford traffic filters work: what hours should they operate, what exemptions should there be, and so forth? To understand this, we need to understand their purposes:
- to allow space and time to be reallocated to make walking and cycling safe and accessible, especially at junctions
- to stop buses being congested and delayed, to have better and more efficient bus services
- to free up space (and reduce noise and air pollution) for an improved public realm
But while the goals may be the same, the unique geography of each filter — and the very different roads they are on — means that they may need quite different implementations. This can be illustrated by Hythe Bridge St and Marston Ferry Rd. more
Based on a four day visit to York, I think its city centre should be a model for Oxford's. York has pedestrianised a huge chunk of its centre, and it's really great to walk around. After a bit it just feels entirely normal, just as it does in similarly pedestrianised European cities, and it really shows up just how horrible walking around central Oxford is.
At least during the daytime, outside loading hours, there are no cars at all, moving or parked in the core area of York. This means that one never has to think about traffic at all, or even about getting around parked cars, which makes for a completely different feel to bits of Oxford such as Catte St or Turl St or New Inn Hall St or Merton St or Pembroke St, where anyone walking is likely to encounter at least one moving motor vehicle and many parked ones. more
Oxfordshire was recently awarded central government funding, under the ZEBRA program, to electrify Oxford's local bus services. Looking at the full business case for this, two things are clear:
- The ZEBRA funding for bus electrification is contingent on the traffic filters in Connecting Oxford.
- If we don't get the ZEBRA funding, we're not just going to miss out on electric buses - we're going to be facing cuts to bus services.
Here are some quotes from the business case, with some key bits in bold: more
We've settled into a routine with Wordle and its clones, but some of the more radical variants are the most interesting. Our favourites are Worldle, Semantle, Heardle and Nerdle.
There are some relatively easy changes that would make cycling safer at the Plain — ones that can be implemented without engineering works.
Angle or stagger the give-way line on the Cowley Rd entry, so people on cycles don't have their view of approaching vehicles on the roundabout obscured by motor vehicles on their right. (Compare the give way lines on Iffley and Cowley Rd in the Google satellite image.) By far the largest concentration of reported collisions involve cars or cycles entering the Plain from Cowley Rd.
Two terrible deaths within a month have brought cycling safety to the fore, but the problems are not new and the Plain in particular has been a worry for a long time. Safety was the rationale behind the rebuild of the Plain in 2016 (which made things slightly worse), I used it as an example of junction design that failed to address walking and cycling safety and accessibility, and I tweeted about it just two weeks before the fatality.
Unfortunately there are no easy solutions, at the Plain or elsewhere in Oxford. Indeed I would argue that there are no significant improvements that aren't either very expensive or a long way from being Pareto (making no one worse off): witness the unhappiness about the parking removal in the Quickways and the modal filtering in the low traffic neighbourhoods. more
This an attempt to list all the low traffic neighbourhoods made permanent, or newly introduced, in 2022. It is largely based on information collected by @iambrianjones (Filter more Streets), so is probably London-centric. Let me know if I'm missing anything. more
Oxfordshire is introducing 20mph on many main roads, on rural roads where they pass through villages and on larger sections of Oxford's main roads. Here I look at what is happening - and should be happening - in Oxford.
Classics still dominate Helen's reading. Six months ago she read the remaining Anne of Green Gables books and then reread them all. And she's just reread The Lord of the Rings. Other classics include Hugh Lofting's Voyages of Dr Dolittle and The Story of Dr Dolittle (1920), Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods (1932), T.E. White's The Sword in the Stone (1938), Marguerite De Angeli's The Door in the Wall (1949), Tonke Dragt's Letter for the King (1962) and Secrets of the Wild Wood, Astrid Lindgren's Ronia the Robber's Daughter (1981), and Diana Wynne-Jones' Howl's Moving Castle (1986).
Oxfordshire is still colouring bus lanes - as this newly surfaced example from just north of Folly Bridge shows - while refusing to paint cycle lanes. This prioritises helping a few inattentive or blind drivers avoid fines over safety for people cycling.
the "bus gate" approaching St Aldates from Folly Bridge
Oxford's Magdalen Bridge is plausibly the second busiest cycle route in the United Kingdom; it is also one of the busiest bus routes in the country and a major walking route. It is probably the most critical link in the city's transport system.
Connecting Oxford is absolutely central to Oxford's transport future. The new county government had been quiet about it until recently, but has made a clear commitment to it in the last few months. It is unclear how much of the details on the old web site are still current, but some of my thoughts on how to prepare for Connecting Oxford follow.
The Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) adopted in October 2021 said:
"Work on aspects of Connecting Oxford has already started. The aim is to have the workplace parking levy and traffic filters in place from 2023."
And the lead request for funding in the Bus Services Improvement Plan (BSIP) is for the traffic filters in Connecting Oxford. more
Some changes the national government could make to improve local transport. more
The designs proposed for Woodstock Rd will be a huge improvement for walking and cycling.
The cycling provision will be taken off pavements, allowing for 2 metre wide footways. At some minor side entries there will be fully continuous pavements giving people walking unquestionable priority. Turning radii at side entries will be tightened, shortening crossing distances and slowing motor traffic. And five additional signalled crossings are planned.
If this scheme goes ahead as designed, Woodstock Rd will have the best cycling provision on any Oxford arterial route. It is not clear from the plans, but if I understand rightly the scheme involves stepped cycle tracks. These will be 2.2m wide for most of the route, will have clear priority over side entries, and will bypass bus stops, avoiding forced rejoins with the carriageway. The fundamental change is that cycling is now neither on the carriageway nor on the pavement, but given full recognition in its own right.
It's not perfect. Due to space limitations, there are places where the pavement is under 2m wide — 1.8m at the narrowest — and there's a fairly long stretch where the cycle track is only 1.7m wide. (The pavements have been prioritised here, only dropping below 2m when necessary to stop cycle tracks being narrower than 1.7m.) There are also a few "shared space" sections, due to constrained space around bus stops, to support less confident people cycling across Woodstock Rd, and (probably) to avoid having to remove trees. more
Oxford's "Quickways" schemes may make cycling some trips faster for some people, but the biggest gains from them will be making cycling safer and more accessible. I will cycle some routes more slowly if these schemes are implemented!
So "Quickways" is a misnomer — "Saferways" would be much better. My previous post about these schemes focused on technical details. Here I want to focus on the basic road safety argument for them. more
Oxfordshire County Council has proposed a range of "Quickways" measures designed to improve cycling on some of Oxford's main roads — Iffley Rd, Cowley Rd, Marston Rd, Between Towns Rd, Morrell Av, Warneford Lane, Parks Rd, Banbury Rd and St Giles — using Active Travel Fund money from the Department for Transport. These measures are limited in ambition and in many ways sub-standard, but some of them are major improvements and others are reasonable if seen as temporary measures to be put in place until funding is available for more substantial engineering, or as derogations that are unavoidable because of physical constraints.
The Oxfordshire library system has a lot of older books in storage (the "fiction reserve") - you won't find them on the shelves, but they're in the catalogue and you can reserve them for pickup. One of the nice things about these older books is that they still have stamped dates and card sleeves in their front covers. So we can see that this copy of Moonfleet was bought in 1972 for £1.50, and that it was being borrowed quite regularly between 2008 and 2010.
Coot Club and Moonfleet
the front of Moonfleet
This map shows the collisions on the north-western end of Cowley Rd (the B480) between 2005 and 2019. The purple stars are serious collisions (resulting in overnight hospital stays) and the pink ones are slight ones (that resulted in police reports).
collisions on Cowley Rd, 2005-2019
Last Monday I needed to cycle with Helen from Cheney school, where she'd had a morning summer school session, to the county library in Bonn Square. The difficulties involved doing this - and planning it - illustrate just how hostile Oxford is for people who want to cycle and aren't able or willing to share with dense traffic flows. (My challenges cycling with an 8 year old are similar to those faced by less confident adults cycling by themselves.)
the direct route (3.2km)
Much of Helen's reading has consisted of older classics: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908), Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons (1930), Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes (1936), J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937), James Thurber's The 13 Clocks (1950), Gillian Avery's The Warden's Niece (1957), Madeleine l'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (1962), Maurice Druon's Memoirs of Zeus (1964), Berlie Doherty's Children of Winter (1985), and Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy (1994). (She didn't read these in chronological order!)