In the light of government directives to reallocate space to walking and cycling, what should Oxford prioritise?
The first and foremost thing is to directly target reduced private motor-vehicle use. This will come from blocking some routes (Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, School Streets, bus gates), changing junction timings and lane allocations on arterials to favour people walking and cycling, removing parking or making it more expensive, and so forth. But all those things will be easier to do if making driving less easy a choice is seen as a goal rather than an obstacle!
The following ideas are in roughly increasing order of novelty and difficulty. But even the larger scale ones could be implemented cheaply and rapidly using temporary barriers, signage, line painting, and in some cases cameras. Harder infrastructure could wait.
- Help the bus companies restore full services between Oxford and the county as quickly as possible. Try to get local bus trips shifted to cycling. Help employers continue to use teleworking as much as is possible. (These are not directly active travel initiatives, but see above.)
- Rapidly deploy School Streets schemes. Consult about how, not whether, to implement them. Adopt an explicit goal of making it impossible, with rare exceptions, to drive within 100m of school entrances at peak times. Do this whether schools request it or not, and at private schools as well as state ones. This is necessary now to reduce transmission risks as well as road danger and air pollution and congestion.
- Remove on-street parking where it breaks up cycle tracks and reduces the effective width of footpaths, most obviously on radial routes such as Iffley Rd, Barns Rd, Cowley Rd, etc. Use temporary bollards or signs to do this fast.
- Cycle parking will need to be expanded rapidly, most obviously in key destinations such as the city centre, Cowley Rd, Headington, Summertown, and Temple Cowley.
- In residential areas, fast-track implementation of temporary Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in areas where plans are in place: Headington Quarry, Florence Park, and St Marys, among others. And work out which other neighbourhoods, in county towns as well as Oxford, would benefit most from LTN treatment.The basic modal filtering in some of these proposals could be implemented in a weekend (cf Turl St), even if Copenhagen crossings and bus gates take longer.
- To deter motor traffic, fast track the Workplace Parking Levy, or reconsider access/congestion charging.
- Consider fast-track implementation of the Connecting Oxford bus gates. This should be done in order to make driving less convenient, not despite making driving less convenient. It would also speed up bus trips and, through the more central bus gates, help to enable active travel to and through the city centre. A 24/7 bus gate on Worcester St North, for example, would allow Hythe Bridge St to be de-motorised and George St to be one-way (with buses going the other way on Beaumont St).
- Start to upgrade walking and cycling infrastructure on main roads, along the lines envisaged in Gilligan's Running out of Road, but with other measures such as pedestrian prioritisation at signalled junctions. If we need to bid for the money, it will help to have plans in place. In the absence of full funding, do as much as possible using fast, temporary infrastructure, such as lightweight bollards and signage. This will involve reallocation of space from bus lanes, so will need to be coupled with a general reduction in motor traffic.
- Make all of Oxford city centre a Restricted Parking Zone, with explicitly permitted parking only. Remove parking where the pavements are too narrow and motor vehicle movements to access parking hinder walking or cycling. It needs to be safe and easy for large numbers of people to walk or cycle on or along Broad St and St Giles while staying a distance from one another. The parking there just has to go.
- Reconsider the Phil Jones proposals for the city centre. If we're facing a future with a new bias to active travel and away from public transport, those proposals become more attractive. They could be trialled on a temporary basis.
Many things fall under several of these categories. Removing all on-street parking in the commercial areas of Cowley Rd, for example, would both deter people from driving there and provide space for safe cycling.
Addendum: inter-urban walking/cycling links should also be pushed forward, especially where (as with the B4044 Community Path) much of the planning has already been done. These are going to be slower to implement than most of the suggestions above, however.