Oxford cycle campaigners say junction redesign will "almost certainly" lead to cyclists being killed

Oxfordshire CC insists revamped Frideswide Square will provide safe shared space while ensuring traffic moves smoothly

by Simon_MacMichael   February 21, 2012  

Frideswide Square, Oxford © Simon MacMichael.jpg

Cycle campaigners in Oxford have slammed two proposals for a redesign of a key junction in the city, warning that if either is adopted, it is inevitable that cyclists will die or suffer serious injury. Oxfordshire County Council, however, insists that the shared-space scheme benefits vulnerable road users, while also smoothing traffic flow.

Local cycle campaign group Cyclox has consistently raised safety concerns during the consultation period regarding the scheme at Frideswide Square, which is adjacent to Oxford railway station and forms the main western approach to the centre of the university city.

Those concerns appear to have been ignored by the county council, which itself admitted last year that “Some pedestrians and cyclists may perceive that the improved square is less safe than it is, due to the removal of push button crossings and the introduction of roundabouts.”

Commeting on the final two designs, Cyclox member Dan Levy said: “This is a missed opportunity to create a world-class entry to the city,” reports the Oxford Mail.

“It is Cyclox’s analysis that either layout for Frideswide Square set out by the council will lead to unacceptable conflict between road users, and will almost certainly lead to injury and death to cyclists,” he added.

While the present layout of Frideswide Square, through which 32,000 vehicles pass each day, is far from satisfactory, Cyclox insists that the inclusion of mini roundabouts on both proposed schemes will create an unacceptable hazard for those on bicycles.

“Roundabouts are especially difficult for less experienced and assertive cyclists,” Mr Levy explained. “They may choose to stick to the left-hand side of the lane, even when intending to travel right.”

Cyclox also expressed concerns about buses being allowed to turn left from Botley Road into the station, as well as flared entries and exits to the junction, which it believes will cause some motorists to attempt dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

Cyclox vice-chairman Richard Mann revealed: “We were shocked when we saw the plans. We talked to the council a year ago about how the designs could be improved and it’s been ignored.

“They don’t appear to have thought through how they would make the square safer for cycling at all.

“And if we want to make cycling the normal mode of transport in Oxford, that’s not good enough.”

Mr Man’s daughter, seven-year-old Rosamund da Sousa, said: “I love cycling, and I wish I could cycle safely into town.”

Consultation on the two final schemes closed last Friday and they are due to be debated by Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet next month. Whichever is adopted, implementation is expected to cost £3.7 million.

The page devoted to Frideswide Square on the Oxford West End Partnership’s website makes several mentions of the benefits the two proposed schemes will bring to cyclists and pedestrians, claiming to give priority to them as well as to public transport users, while “allowing the necessary flow of traffic to move smoothly but slowly through the space.”

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for transport, Rodney Rose, told the Oxford Mail that the proposals sought to introduce a shared space while ensuring that traffic continued to flow smoothly.

Elsewhere, recent moths have seen Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Transport for London accused by cycle campaigners and opposition politicians of compromising the safety of vulnerable road users such as cyclists through prioritising traffic flow.

Nevertheless, Councillor Rose insists that the proposals for Frideswide Square had been drawn up after an assessment of alternative measures that could be taken.

“We have spent a long time coming up with these plans and we have looked at a lot of options,” he insisted.

“The idea is to keep the traffic flowing slowly but steadily. This system works well in other cities in the UK and it will work well here.”

Councillor Rose added: “I think my own preference right now is just to see a JCB on the site. We need to get started.”
 

13 user comments

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The phrase "smoothing traffic flow" is a euphemism for getting cars through urban areas in a shorter time. It has nothing to do with making travel safer or better for any other road users.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2062 posts]
21st February 2012 - 14:43

3 Likes

The Oxford West End Partnership web page on St Frideswide reads uncannily like the material produced by the City of London in relation to the Cheapside Area improvement scheme. That too talked of a situation which was not friendly for cyclists or pedestrians. It said that the changes would benefit cyclists (who make up as much as 40% of all traffic at certain times of day), etc etc.

The reality? A wide road, with a cycle lane either side, has lost more than 4m of width and both cycle lanes. The new lane widths are barely wide enough to accomodate a bus, and are too narrow for a car to pass a cyclist safely without crossing the white line, which is inadvisable due to the "pedestrian refuges" (kerbs & bollards)liberally sprinkled along the way. The result is frustration for all - cyclists who can't get past buses stationary at bus-stops, cars and taxis which can't overtake slower moving cyclists - and a marked increase in physical danger for cyclists.

Apparently the design consultancy responsible for Cheapside (could it be the same one?) and for Kensington High St has admitted, indeed proudly claimed, in a conference speech that they envisage cyclists as a form of traffic calming measure - "rolling speed humps" if you like.

This is not a role I have chosen. Neither apparently many others - the cycling volumes on Cheapside have nosedived since the development.

posted by Paul M [325 posts]
21st February 2012 - 15:00

3 Likes

Since when are mini-roundabouts included in "shared space" schemes? Mini-roundabouts are evil.

Oh, and Simon E already posted my other comment!

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1380 posts]
21st February 2012 - 15:00

3 Likes

Paul M wrote:
The reality? A wide road, with a cycle lane either side, has lost more than 4m of width and both cycle lanes. The new lane widths are barely wide enough to accomodate a bus, and are too narrow for a car to pass a cyclist safely without crossing the white line, which is inadvisable due to the "pedestrian refuges" (kerbs & bollards)liberally sprinkled along the way. The result is frustration for all - cyclists who can't get past buses stationary at bus-stops, cars and taxis which can't overtake slower moving cyclists - and a marked increase in physical danger for cyclists.

It clearly has nothing whatsoever to do with "shared space" if there are "pedestrian refuges".

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1380 posts]
21st February 2012 - 15:03

3 Likes

Roundabouts aren't just a problem for less experienced or assertive cyclists: I've lost count of the number of times I've seen vehicles that have just refused to give way to a cyclist with priority on a roundabout. Queue sharp braking and lots of swearing, if you're lucky.

Doesn't happen nearly as often with conventional turnings.

posted by HKCambridge [175 posts]
21st February 2012 - 15:38

2 Likes

Quote:

The phrase "smoothing traffic flow" is a euphemism for getting cars through urban areas in a shorter time. It has nothing to do with making travel safer or better for any other road users.

posted by Simon

Quote:

agree with this - believe it is why our local authority won't reduce speed limits below national or below 40 on non trunk roads used by commuters

its an easy way to fix this KPI:
(the hard way is better public transport, car sharing cycling and people walking)

The New Performance Framework
for Local Authorities & Local
Authority Partnerships:
Single Set of National Indicators

NI 167 Congestion – average journey time per mile during the morning peak
PSA 5,

antigee's picture

posted by antigee [174 posts]
21st February 2012 - 16:43

2 Likes

@Paul M
"proudly claimed, in a conference speech that they envisage cyclists as a form of traffic calming measure - "rolling speed humps" if you like."

Before I got to that statement, I was just thinking that it sounded like cyclists were being viewed as a traffic-calming measure in the same way as width restrictions, speed humps etc. Hells bells, that's scary.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3476 posts]
21st February 2012 - 16:45

3 Likes

Funnily enough, as someone who both drives &/or rides this junction twice a day I can report that on the odd occasions when the traffic lights are broken there is a marked improvement in "traffic flow" brought about by everyone (including cyclists, lorries, buses & pedestrians) slowing down and actually taking the time to look before ploughing across blindly..... just sayin' Thinking

It certainly doesn't need north of £3M wasting on it! Angry

It doesn't get easier, you just go faster.....maybe

pward's picture

posted by pward [88 posts]
21st February 2012 - 20:08

3 Likes

"Mr Man’s daughter, seven-year-old Rosamund da Sousa, said:"

Don't quote your children. They aren't experts. They know little. Children naturally and rightly echo their parents' concerns (up to a certain age). Don't do it. It's cheap even if we agree with you.

posted by Ush [437 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 0:40

2 Likes

I didn't know I was a 'rolling speed hump'. How much do you think I can charge Richmond Council for my daily traffic-calming services?

Noli porcum linguere

captain_slog's picture

posted by captain_slog [282 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 7:46

3 Likes

I already try to avoided frideswide when I'm cycling... but allowing buses to turn left onto botley road is madness.. that junction is the worst part of the layout already

posted by ALIHISGREAT [113 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 9:16

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ALIHISGREAT wrote:
I already try to avoided frideswide when I'm cycling... but allowing buses to turn left onto botley road is madness.. that junction is the worst part of the layout already

Proposals are that they turn left from Botley Road, but you're right, the approach to that junction is bad enough for cyclists entering the city centre with the narrow underpass, without having to worry about buses turning left just after it.

The current layout of Frideswide Square is that bad that it's difficult to see how it could have been made worse, but Oxford CC seem to have managed it.

I'm not sure how much of the forecourt of Said Business School extends out onto the pavement, but even if it goes all the way out to the road there is still enough space that a different approach could have been taken. Missed opportunity.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8517 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 9:39

3 Likes

"Don't quote your children"

Richard Mann didn't. His daughter was with him at the photo call. The interview with him had happened previously. The paper improvised the quotation.

Effective though, isn't it.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [195 posts]
22nd February 2012 - 22:35

3 Likes