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Oxford's Magdalen Bridge is a key transit corridor

Oxford, Transport, , — January 2022

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.

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planning Connecting Oxford

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…)

national asks for local transport

Transport, — December 2021

Some changes the national government could make to improve local transport. (more…)

Woodstock Rd rebuild

Oxford, Transport, , , — November 2021

The designs proposed for Woodstock Rd will be a huge improvement for walking and cycling.
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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…)

Saferways, not Quickways - safety and accessibility, not speed

Oxford, Transport, — October 2021

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…)

Quickways cycle schemes

Oxford, Transport — September 2021

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.

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Cowley Rd is a disaster zone for cycling

Oxford, Transport, — September 2021

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).

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collisions on Cowley Rd, 2005-2019

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the long way around: missing cycling connectivity

Oxford, Transport — September 2021

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.)

map: Cheney to the library direct (3.2km)

the direct route (3.2km)

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Uninterpretable Error: Osney Mead cycling infrastructure

Oxford, Transport — June 2021

The cycling infrastructure on Osney Mead, put in only this year (2021), is seriously dysfunctional.

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The bollards here seem almost deliberately placed to minimise usable space and create conflict between cycles, strollers, and even just ordinary pedestrians - why not one central bollard?

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Botley Rd cycle infrastructure

Oxford, Transport, — June 2021

I was pretty critical of the plans for the Botley Rd rebuild, but at least for cycling the results from the first works to be completed seem even worse than I had feared.

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The cycle track here is just 1.25m wide and the footpath 1.45m — but room has been found for four lanes of motor traffic and some central hatching

The cycle lanes/tracks are too narrow - in places even narrower than the inadequate 1.5m that was promised. This is aggravated by the use of unforgiving full-height kerbing to the carriageway, which prevents easy overtaking and creates a serious hazard if something forces a swerve. The cycle tracks are often directly adjacent to narrow 3 metre motor traffic lanes carrying 30mph traffic — a pedestrian suddenly stepping into the cycle track, debris, or anything else, and someone cycling might be straight under a car or bus. And the cycle tracks lack consistent priority over side entrances and are not flat, going up and down over driveway entrances (where keeping very occasional vehicle movements smooth has been prioritised). (more…)

modal shift in the school run

cycle rack with overflow bikes attached to edges of frame and lying on the grassModal shift in action! Seeing individual children at Larkrise taking up cycling or walking is great, but this photo gives a feel for the broader picture. I did a count and there were twenty bikes more than would fit into the school's cycle parking: this rack was eighteen over capacity and the other was two over! (Normal was fewer cycles than spaces.) And it's still happening: there are still people planning cycle training for their children, trying to buy bikes, and so forth. There are also families who have switched from driving to walking, and increasing numbers of older children being allowed to walk to school by themselves. (more…)

things that aren't alternatives to LTNs

Various things have been proposed as alternatives to LTNs. Some of the proposals are complementary to low traffic neighbourhoods rather than alternatives to them. Others rely on technology that doesn't exist, funding that doesn't exist, or are otherwise fantastic. None will achieve the core active travel and liveability goals of a low traffic neighbourhood. (more…)

the worst junction in Oxford?

Consider the junction where the B4495 (Church Cowley Rd) meets the A4158 (Henley Avenue/Rose Hill). Is this the worst junction in Oxford? (more…)

evaluating LTNs

A guest piece by Simon Munk, Senior Infrastructure Campaigner, London Cycling Campaign

Should there be baseline measurement and assessment of LTNs? Hell to the yeah. Will there be? Likely, yes. What should we assess? Overall motor traffic volumes, traffic volumes on peripheral main roads, traffic volumes in adjacent areas, ideally pollution also (but traffic volumes will likely be an incredibly close correlation if not), walking & cycling rates, resident feedback and more. But, wait.... when should we measure? This is really important. IMO measurement of the post-scheme steady state should not happen until at least six months after all schemes are in fully. (more…)

calming traffic and lowering speeds is not enough

Lower speed limits and speed limit enforcement keep cropping up as an alternative to low traffic neighbourhoods (or to city-wide action to take back space from motor trafic). Traffic calming and lower traffic speeds are an important complement to reducing motor traffic volumes, but not an alternative to doing that. (more…)

Boundary Brook parking - a hazard

I think the biggest gain from controlled parking zones is the prevention of dangerous parking. This can be illustrated by the case of Boundary Brook, in the proposed Donnington CPZ Zone of East Oxford. Vehicles parked here block routes, prevent visibility, and pose a serious risk to the children at Larkrise primary school, as well as to residents and to people who use the area as a walking or cycling route.There are four year olds who cycle to school here with their parents; there are nine year olds who walk here unaccompanied. (more…)

road speed limits

Books + Ideas, Transport — January 2021

The default speed limit in built-up areas should be lowered to 20mph. There's plenty of evidence that this does change actual speeds, even without increased enforcement, and does reduce injuries and fatalities. It also reduces air pollution.

This limit can be raised to 30mph on stretches of road where that is appropriate, after a safety audit. This should require good visibility, sufficiently frequent crossing places for pedestrians, adequate (LTN 1/20 compliant) cycling infrastructure, and the absence of schools, parks, care homes or other destinations with large numbers of vulnerable users. (more…)

Electric Vehicles

Technology, Transport — December 2020

Decarbonisation requires fewer cars and can't be achieved just by electrifying current numbers of vehicles. So we need to electrify public transport, freight, services, car club vehicles and taxis, and provide for individual car ownership where alternatives are impossible, but otherwise we need to drastically reduce the number of private motor vehicles.

A 2019 Parliamentary report "Technologies for meeting the UK's emissions reduction targets"

"In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation. The Government should not aim to achieve emissions reductions simply by replacing existing vehicles with lower-emissions versions."

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Oxford road junctions: inhibiting walking and cycling

One way to see how little consideration walking and cycling are given in Oxford is to look at the main road junctions. So stealthily and incrementally, over decades, have time and space at these been reallocated to motor traffic, at the expense of other modes, that people have become habituated to it and are mostly oblivious to how bad they are. We need all of Oxford's junctions rebuilt to prioritise walking and cycling safety and accessibility over motor traffic throughput.

The three examples I use here are chosen because I know them, but a similar analysis would hold for most of the major junctions in Oxford. (more…)

traffic calming or traffic removal? an East Oxford example

One common objection to low traffic neighbourhoods is that reducing motor traffic isn't necessary, and that all we need is traffic calming to stop speeding. But even if traffic calming measures worked perfectly in reducing speeds — which they don't — high volumes of traffic are still a huge deterrent to walking and cycling, and are especially dangerous for children and slower or frailer adults. Traffic calming measures such as chicanes also tend to induce stop-start movements, with rapid speed changes that are dangerous, and force people cycling to repeatedly merge with motor traffic.

As an East Oxford example, consider Cricket Rd and Rymers Lane, which together run 1.3km from Howard St to Between Towns Rd. There are fourteen sets of traffic calming measures here, mostly speed humps combined with chicanes but in a few places just one or the other. (more…)

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