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a big ask for Oxford cycling - Botley Rd?

Oxford, Transport — July 2017

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. I've picked this (though it's on the other side of the city from me, so I don't know it particularly well), for a number of reasons:

  • Botley Rd is clearly in need of a makeover, and must be near the top of the radial routes planned for renovation
  • the sad death of Claudia Comberti has highlighted its failings as a cycle route
  • there's an active campaign for a foot/cycle path along the B4044 from Farmoor and Eynsham, to which this could connect

Our goal should be that this route - from Botley to Carfax - be redesigned so it can be safely and comfortably be cycled by a ten year old, or an accompanied six year old. I have my own ideas about what this might require, but I largely follow "Interim Advice Note 195/16. Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network". (Botley Rd is not part of that network, but the note is directly applicable to it.) The core element of this would be cycle paths which

  • are physically separated from traffic (even if all of Botley Rd is made 20mph, it carries >10,000 motor vehicles /day, including many HGVs and buses), with a 0.5m buffer sufficient to deter parking
  • are 2.5m wide, with flush/angled kerbs and no vertical obstructions
  • are continuous, with clear priority over minor side roads and entries
  • have signaling to provide safe options for people cycling through the junctions at Frideswide Square, the A420/McDonalds, the Retail Park, and Ferry Hinksey Rd
  • have bypasses for all bus stops
  • are accompanied by pavements wide enough, and walking routes direct enough, that pedestrians don't feel the need to step into the cycle paths to overtake or pass one other

If necessary to achieve this, the council(s) should:

  • remove or relocate parking as required
  • consider modification to traffic flows (e.g. making Hythe Bridge St one-way for motor traffic)
  • remove bus lanes if necessary and use other methods of prioritising buses — or de-prioritising/restricting non-bus motor traffic
  • be prepared to accept reductions in peak hour motor vehicle throughput
  • consider purchase of private land to provide extra width at bottlenecks
  • genuinely and not just notionally put cycling and walking at the top of the transport hierarchy

We should be lobbying for this before the council starts planning, so we're not faced with the (all too common) situation where the basic assumptions of a redesign are already established before we start making tweaks to it.


  1. The Oxford Local Plan 2016-2034 has a cycle way construction or improvement along the North side of Botley Road. The colours on the map aren't good but it's purple most of the way and brown or yellow for the last bit so presumably good quality. The plan agrees that separated pedestrian and Cycleway, separated from the road is the preferred option for cycleways. You have 21 days left to comment on the plan.

    Surely CyclOx comments and is consulted about Oxford's cycle infrastructure by the City and County Councils, and has people who know how to go about lobbying. Bike North has people who sit on council cycling committees and are involved in consultation and planning. They hold meetings in each council area once a month for members to inform them and organise lobbying (though some areas look to be defunct at the moment). That seems to be the standard model.

    Comment by Pertinax — August 2017
  2. The 2034 local plan is entirely aspirational. (It also has a target of tripling the number of people cycling in Oxford, something which seems most unlikely to happen.) These goals and broad ideas are used by the councils to generate positive publicity, but as soon as they hit the actual planning process, everything that's difficult - or in any way likely to impinge negatively on motor vehicle throughput in peak hour - is silently abandoned.

    Comment by danny — August 2017
  3. Yes. But you start by CyclOx making a submission supporting those aims and the improved cycleway network laid out in section 7. Then you stress the need for Botely Road to be of high standard. As only one section of it is purple they have probably already determined that there isn't enough width on the corridor to do what you want (or it would have been a major part of the network being the only Western access to the centre of Oxford).

    But you need to get involved in consultation and lobbying as they start lobbying and designing and building the cycling network. That way you can push for what you can get. The plan supports the idea of prioritising public transport, walking and cycling over car access and parking. It recognises that separating cyclists, pedestrians and heavy vehicles and fast moving traffic is preferred by all groups. So you use that and try to hold them to it. And that starts with a submission from CyclOx, and as many individuals as you can round up backing that. Establish it as a CyclOX project and hold meetings to get cyclists in the Wards along Botley Road involved. And work with Green or DLP councillors who support cycling.

    Consulting is often just a PR exercise. But as you can't block of Botley Road to cars, rip it all up and build what you want yourself, you have to use it to get what you can. Bike North and Bicycle NSW have been doing this for decades. It improves things in increments, but it's better than no improvement.

    Comment by Pertinax — August 2017

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