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ideas for rapid active travel shift for Oxford

Oxford, Transport — May 2020

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.


  1. Danny,
    On the ball here!

    Comment by Graham Smith — May 2020
  2. Government Policy at present - Advice not to use Public transport- so you are suggesting restricting cars at a time when we are advised not to use Buses/trains etc? Unfortunately Oxford has the most children in out of catchment schools - maybe stop the manipulation of school places THEN encourage kids walking to school - we have children living in the centre of the city that cannot get places in schools within the city who have to be driven out to school - this might stop parents having to drive their children to schools and the council having to pay for taxis to get primary children to schools that they get allocated ? In my local school in my children years children were admitted from ups to 10 miles away - Local schools for local children No exceptions. Businesses on Cowley Road might need client s to carry on trading - unfortunately it is not just a thoroughfare for cyclists it is also a commercial centre ? Removing all parking from the city - people live there - they aren't allowed to own cars - so they are not permitted full lives simply so that cyclists can cycle down their streets passing through ? You seem to be suggesting cyclists should be directed toward main roads - this is very different from those cities in Europe where cycling is vital - cyclists are directed AWAY from main routes - normally taking shorter routes. You also have no Provision for those who cannot cycle - or are you suggesting these people are just removed from Oxford City altogether- Nazis had the same approach! Where there is a dominance of cycling as a means of transportation cyclists are expected to have liability insurance - for when cyclists cause accidents, injure pedestrians and there are severe fines for cyclists breaking the law - you do not mention these changes that also need to be introduced with the increase in cycling as a serious mode of transport. Strange you haven't considered these ? I know a cyclist in a 'cycling city' who caused an accident because he had no bike lights - he was responsible for ALL of the costs of both personal injury of the two car drivers and the damage to the cars. Police automatically took his insurance details. ( look at the laws in Holland, Denmark, Germany etc etc all countries encouraging cycling) This doesn't happen in this country. Yet you are suggesting cyclists should dominate cities - with no insurance liability ? I do cycle and I would like to be able to cycle more but cycling should be an equal form of transport with responsibilities - something that is sadly lacking amongst many fanatics.

    Comment by Carrie Turner — May 2020
  3. Reducing rates of coronavirus transmission, and keeping infection rates down to a level manageable by a track-and-trace system, means we need to avoid crowding. That means that in areas such as central Oxford and streets carrying a lot of people, space has to be taken from the least space-efficient transport mode - private cars - to enable less crowded walking and cycling and public transport. Even before coronavirus, there simply wasn't enough space in urban centres like Oxford for the number of people trying to drive into or through them.

    In cities where cycling is actually enabled, so it's an option for everyone, not just the fit and brave, that has been achieved by (among other measures) giving them space on direct routes, which means along main roads: in the Netherlands, Denmark, cities such as Seville, etc. And none of these places require liability insurance or registration for people cycling.

    Comment by danny — May 2020
  4. Danny, yes! Totally agree, and succinctly put...
    I think we are all fairly clear and agreed about the strategy: to seize the moment now to 'build back better' progressive, safer, cleaner, healthier neighbourhoods.
    However, I fear we not yet as clear or united about the tactics: how are we actually going to get this to happen? If it's Oxfordshire County Council who need to act, how can we persuade them to do so, quickly?

    Comment by Oly Shipp — May 2020
  5. There should be some Greenways constructed from the ring road into the city centre. Top of my list would be to upgrade Marston Road cycleway to Greenway quality and give this non-stop priority over the side junctions. This Greenway should be extended from the ring road into the city centre and should not have a single traffic light or any need to stop. Something that would be safe for a 5 year-old to cycle or walk.

    Comment by Brian — July 2020

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