This outlines a plan for a direct, coherent east-west foot-cycle route across Oxford's city centre. That would run from the railway station across the north of Frideswide Square, along Hythe Bridge St, George St, Broad St, Holywell St, and Longwall St, ending at Magdalen Bridge.
Fixing all the problems with footways and pedestrian infrastructure across Oxfordshire would involve a huge and expensive program of works, which the county doesn't have the resources for. But we need to stop making things worse — current procedures and processes for new transport schemes and developments and ongoing maintenance are progressively destroying our footways. more
Despite the research, I had always downplayed the psychological and social gains from traffic reduction, thinking of them as secondary to health improvements from increased physical activity - and perhaps as a bit "soft" and hard to measure. But my experience with the East Oxford Low Traffic Neighbourhoods has made me rethink this. more
Deaths and serious injuries — the target of Vision Zero — are just the tip of a much larger iceberg of road danger harm. In addition to the 20 road traffic fatalities and 450 serious injuries in Oxford over the last decade, there were 2800 reported slight injuries (all of those from the STATS19 police database) and (for cycling injuries, across Oxfordshire) ten times as many hospital admissions and attendances (this includes non-collision injuries which are rarely reported to the police). And there will be many minor injuries and collisions which are neither reported to the police nor result in hospital presentations. (Following Ling Felce's death at the Plain, I heard several people make comments like "Oh yes, I've been knocked off my bike twice at the Plain" and "No, I didn't report it either time.") There are even more near-misses and other incidents perceived as threatening. more
Oxford's Lye Valley area has poor walking and cycling connectivity, making it one of the more car dependent areas inside the ring-road (looking at 2011 census commute data). Two key routes could be upgraded to improve this, to the west across Lye Valley to the Churchill Hospital and to the south west over the golf course.
1) Put a proper foot-cycle track, with a bridge, across Lye Brook to the Churchill Hospital. 2) Upgrade the track across the golf course to Barracks Lane to an all-weather foot-cycle track, with a bridge across Boundary Brook to connect to Lye valley and potentially with zig-zags on the descent to Barracks Lane. This would require a legal change from a footpath to a bridleway. The likely form of any track would be a 3 metre wide shared path, with porous surfacing and embedded stud lighting, along the lines of the ones being put in across parks and fields elsewhere (e.g. across King Georges Field).) more
I think consideration should be given to turning off the signals at the northern end of Cornmarket and having that junction operate like the Holywell junction at the other end of Broad St.
I walk and cycle through this junction regularly, and there's pretty much always:
- a stream of pedestrians crossing on red across George St, as in the photo above - if they didn't they'd pile up and block the footways;
- pedestrians crossing haphazardly across the unsignalled Magdalen St West and Broad St arms, sometimes getting caught out mid-crossing by signal changes;
- mopeds and cycles going through red lights or using the wrong side of the road to turn from Broad St into Magdalen St West; and
- significant periods when buses and taxis and cycles are waiting even though the junction is clear.
Lambeth recently released its Kerbside Strategy. This proposes a reallocation of kerbside space towards active travel, place making, climate resilience, and traffic reduction (94% of Lambeth's kerbside is currently devoted to parking or parking restrictions).
Wherever possible, space for cycle or scooter parking should be taken from car parking space or spare carriageway space, not from footways or space for pedestrians. Pedestrians are at the very top of the transport hierarchy and private cars at the very bottom.
While the county should continue to support schemes for schools that request them, having that as the only way for schemes to happen will limit the effectiveness of the program. The county should proactively plan School Streets schemes at those locations where they will have the most effect. more
The junction of Longwall St and High St, in Oxford, poses some unusual design challenges. Along with Magdalen Bridge and the Plain roundabout, it is a key bottleneck in Oxford's transport network — this segment is probably the second busiest cycle route in the UK and likely the second busiest bus route. There are huge problems with this junction as it is, but the core schemes in the forthcoming Central Oxfordshire Transport Strategy offer a chance to redesign it.
people cycling wanting to turn right into Longwall have to wait in a one metre wide lane with motor traffic on both sides
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 and the busiest bus route in the United Kingdom; it is also a major pedestrian 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.
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
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