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There is no cycling infrastructure in Oxford

Oxford, Transport — November 2015

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.

So we have Frideswide Square, which allocates no space at all to cycling, using the subterfuge of allowing people to cycle anywhere, on the pavements or on the carriageway. On Iffley Rd and elsewhere we have cycle lanes which, because they are merely lines painted on the road (and advisory ones at that), don't actually constrain motor traffic at all (and are often parked on too). On Warneford Lane we have cycle lanes that do no more than provide a buffer between motor traffic and parked cars, using space that motor vehicles would avoid anyway and making it easier for them to push cyclists out of the way. Anywhere where cycle lanes might require space from motor traffic, they are shunted off onto the pavement. Space that could be used to make junctions safer for people cycling instead gets used for right-hand turn lanes (while pedestrians get the bare minimum crossing time, and are sometimes forced into multi-stage, caged crossings). And then we get a five-second head start signal for bicycles at the Longwall-High St junction - which is less than the time buses used to have to wait for the pinch-point on the other side of the junction to clear anyway, and is simply ignored by many taxi drivers.

It's certainly true that people on bicycles constrain motor traffic, all the time and everywhere in Oxford, but that's entirely a bad thing. Motor traffic should be constrained by robust physical infrastructure and engineering, not by fragile people on bicycles. Using people walking and cycling as traffic calming measures is just wrong.

It seems to me that the last transport change that created a real backlash in Oxford was pedestrianising Cornmarket and restricting daytime traffic on High St - and that was fifteen years ago. When are we going to start campaigning for changes that actually require taking space (or time) from other transport modes? If there's no backlash at all, we're clearly not asking for enough.

As Andrew Gilligan puts it:

"Despite the huge numbers of cyclists using them, Oxford’s main roads and junctions are still laid out almost entirely for the benefit of the motor vehicle. They look little or no different from the roads of a typical British city where almost nobody cycles." (Running Out of Road, 2018)


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