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
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
Some changes the national government could make to improve local transport. 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
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'm not trying to reform transport in Oxford for myself. Personally, I find Oxford remarkably easy to get around, and indeed one of its attractions for me has always been that, while it has the "cultural capital" of a city many times its size, it feels like a village because getting around it is so easy. But after my first few years in Oxford, experience pushing a stroller and getting around with a toddler, and conversations with a broad range of people, I began to realise that for many things are not nearly so pleasant. more
When I was barely seven, and we lived in Sydney's Upper North Shore, I used to walk home from school not just by myself but taking my year and a half younger sister with me. more
Like most urban primary schools, Larkrise has a reasonably small catchment area (and out-of-catchment children are selected largely based on distance), so walking or cycling to school, accompanied or independently for the older children, should be an option for almost all children. But there are some serious failings with the transport infrastructure around the school, and a little investment here could make active travel to it significantly more attractive. more
After a couple of months with the activity monitoring apps on my iThing, I've averaged about 4km a day of walking and 12km of cycling. more
The recently redesigned Pembroke St is attractive, but also seems a lost opportunity.
Previously it was a fairly traditional lane, with a carriageway and pavements. The new design keeps essentially the same layout, only replacing the kerbs with gentle "gutters" or brick edging, on as far as I can tell exactly the same line, and changing the (still too narrow) footpaths to a "brick" surface. The other substantive change is that the street is now two-way for cycling (motor traffic is still allowed to enter only from St Ebbes). more