The plans for redesigning the roundabout south of Kidlington are inconsistent with both the county's headline car-trip reduction targets, its active travel goals, and its Vision Zero commitment.
How should the planned Oxford traffic filters work: what hours should they operate, what exemptions should there be, and so forth? To understand this, we need to understand their purposes:
- to allow space and time to be reallocated to make walking and cycling safe and accessible, especially at junctions
- to stop buses being congested and delayed, to have better and more efficient bus services
- to free up space (and reduce noise and air pollution) for an improved public realm
But while the goals may be the same, the unique geography of each filter — and the very different roads they are on — means that they may need quite different implementations. This can be illustrated by Hythe Bridge St and Marston Ferry Rd. more
Based on a four day visit to York, I think its city centre should be a model for Oxford's. York has pedestrianised a huge chunk of its centre, and it's really great to walk around. After a bit it just feels entirely normal, just as it does in similarly pedestrianised European cities, and it really shows up just how horrible walking around central Oxford is.
At least during the daytime, outside loading hours, there are no cars at all, moving or parked in the core area of York. This means that one never has to think about traffic at all, or even about getting around parked cars, which makes for a completely different feel to bits of Oxford such as Catte St or Turl St or New Inn Hall St or Merton St or Pembroke St, where anyone walking is likely to encounter at least one moving motor vehicle and many parked ones. more
There are some relatively easy changes that would make cycling safer at the Plain — ones that can be implemented without engineering works.
Angle or stagger the give-way line on the Cowley Rd entry, so people on cycles don't have their view of approaching vehicles on the roundabout obscured by motor vehicles on their right. (Compare the give way lines on Iffley and Cowley Rd in the Google satellite image.) By far the largest concentration of reported collisions involve cars or cycles entering the Plain from Cowley Rd.
Two terrible deaths within a month have brought cycling safety to the fore, but the problems are not new and the Plain in particular has been a worry for a long time. Safety was the rationale behind the rebuild of the Plain in 2016 (which made things slightly worse), I used it as an example of junction design that failed to address walking and cycling safety and accessibility, and I tweeted about it just two weeks before the fatality.
Unfortunately there are no easy solutions, at the Plain or elsewhere in Oxford. Indeed I would argue that there are no significant improvements that aren't either very expensive or a long way from being Pareto (making no one worse off): witness the unhappiness about the parking removal in the Quickways and the modal filtering in the low traffic neighbourhoods. more
Oxfordshire is still colouring bus lanes - as this newly surfaced example from just north of Folly Bridge shows - while refusing to paint cycle lanes. This prioritises helping a few inattentive or blind drivers avoid fines over safety for people cycling.
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.
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.
"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
The designs proposed for Woodstock Rd will be a huge improvement for walking and cycling.
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
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
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.
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).
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.)
The cycling infrastructure on Osney Mead, put in only this year (2021), is seriously dysfunctional.
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.
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 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
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
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
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
I went to take a look at the changes to Abingdon Rd, and cycled and walked the stretch from the Weirs Lane (Donnington Bridge) junction to St Aldates, in both directions. I'm not sure cycling here is any worse than before — it was always pretty bad — but I can't see how it's the least bit better in any way. So to be honest it seems a waste of £20,000, or whatever the changes cost. more