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Oxford cycling campaign slams council approach to bike infrastructure

Consistent funding needed, not "glitzy nuggets"...

Oxford's cycling campaign group has slammed the local authority's approach to cycling provision and called for consistent funding to get people on  their bikes.

Oxford received £835,000 in the last round of Cycle City Ambition funding, but Cyclox chairman Simon Hunt says the city needs much more to fix problems with its cycling infrastructure.

He told ThisIsOxfordshire's Callum Keown: “The direct network routes within Oxford city are at present very fragmented, cobbled-together as poorly-designed afterthoughts.

“They are woefully shoddily maintained.

“They aren’t designed as they should be for inclusive cycling, that is, for all kinds of cyclists.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently announced a further £114 million for Cycle City Ambition grant recipients. If this is distributed in similar proportion to the initial £77 million, Oxford would get just £1.24 million.

It's not enough, Hunt says.

He told ThisIsOxfordshire: “Patchy funding like this is never going to get Britain cycling.

“We need consistent, long-term, dependable funding rising from an initial £10 per head per year if we are to get near Dutch and Danish levels of cycling.”

Oxford's initial Cycle City Ambition cash was granted to fund just one project, a revamp of Plain roundabout, a complicated 5-exit junction that is estimated to carry over 17,000 bikes per day.

Oxford County Council has been criticised for its plans for Plain roundabout, which blogger Liz Batty has described as "incredibly unambitious".

According to Batty, the plan consists of "some pavement" to slow down motor traffic, with "no segregation … nothing but some paint and the hope that making cars and bikes go round together will slow everything down and make everyone happy".

Despite costing a total of £965,000, the Plain roundabout scheme is intended as a 'stage 1' project. The council said "the concept of some sort of semi-segregated cycle lanes on the roundabout could be revisited at a later stage".

Simon Hunt said Cyclox's ideas for further Cycle City Ambition spending might not be the kind of “glitzy nugget” that would attract government funding.

He said: “Cyclox would strongly support better access to Old Road Campus and Churchill Hospital sites.

“We would also suggest attractive and inclusive cycle access into the planned new Oxford railway station from West Oxford, by adding walkways and cycleways on both sides of the road.”

He added that current cycling routes around Oxford needed improving.

“These routes have appalling sections," he said.

“The new money over the next two to three years would be best spent on well-surfaced, joined-up, pothole-free, mainly segregated cycle paths designed for inclusive cycling along these routes.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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matthewn5 | 9 years ago

If I were in charge of Oxford's traffic planning I'd stop all private cars from traversing the centre. The roads that enter would loop around or terminate. There's so few cars causing so much congestion, and the approach from the station is a disgrace, narrow broken wet pavements, acres of space for cars, all stuck in endless queues. There should be no short-cuts for cars inside the ring road! It's a total disgrace, begun by Thomas Sharp, who should have known better than destroying a quarter of the city centre.

Edgeley | 9 years ago

I've been involved as part of the Cyclox team dealing with the County, particularly in the plans for Frideswide Square and The Plain.

We really aren't on the verge of Dr Fegg's happy new world. The officers really care only about enduring bus and coach movement. Cyclists get in the way. And they are very happy spending cash supposedly for cycling on what are essentially improvements for buses.

Doctor Fegg | 9 years ago

Which is exactly the kind of thinking we need to get away from.  1

If people insist on preserving every ounce of motor vehicle capacity in our historic cities, we will never get cycling improvements or, more important, liveable cities. It's the Canary Wharf mentality - "you can't possibly put a Cycle Superhighway along the Embankment because it will slow down our executives being chauffeured to work".

"Every single bus and car through Oxford would have to go through the same street"? That's not true in any case - you're forgetting Oxpens Road, which also offers a route "through Oxford" - but it's also the wrong question to ask. Which is the most efficient way of moving people through Oxford, with the fewest harmful externalities? Is it by providing the maximum possible throughput (i.e. all available roads) for private cars, or is it by restricting car use to speed buses and bikes through the city?

And yes, Hythe Bridge Street is often stationary, but Park End Street isn't. More, as a local, my experience of Oxford car traffic is that a lot of it is discretionary. I still see tourists and shoppers' cars turning up at Worcester Street car park rather than using the Park & Ride, the local buses or the railway. I know people who, despite everything, choose to drive into the city every day when there are excellent public transport alternatives. That traffic will continue while the capacity exists for it. The only way the city can be made more efficient, safer and more liveable is by restricting this capacity.

Fortunately - and this month is the first time I've been able to say this in 15 years as a local resident - Oxfordshire County Council is actually starting to recognise this. I think we're on the cusp of seeing a transport policy for Oxford that isn't just about cars and buses. It's very early days yet but I am, for the first time, guardedly optimistic.

John Smith | 9 years ago

Surely the High beyond longwall street is not a problem for cyclists? You could put more stuff down there, but it would be a wast of time and money given that the only other traffic is the buses. I have never found it to be a problem, and have you seen Hythe Bridge Street in the morning? If you closed one of them it would be chaos as every single bus and car through Oxford would have to go down the one street. It was bad enough where most of the buses were going down Park End street and the cars down HBS until yesterday. The new traffic lights at the HBS/Worcester street junction were just put in because it was such a problem there, closing one of them totally would be much worse. You could probably do something between Magdalen Bridge and the High, but that would be about it, all of 50 meters.

Doctor Fegg | 9 years ago

There's plenty of room in Oxford for more cycle infrastructure. Take the High as an example - the current layout is a joke. There's a third, central lane for motor traffic all the way from Longwall Street to Magdalen Bridge, which is greatly underused. Meanwhile, bikes have to mix it with buses, and pedestrians are corralled into a woefully narrow pavement.

Then look at the High beyond Longwall Street. What is all that street furniture actually doing in the middle of the road, other than wasting space? Do (whisper it) buses really need to idle on the side of the road for so long - or, perhaps, could you free up space by getting the Oxford Bus Company to move their driver changeover point to somewhere where space is less contested?

The other thing Oxford has is parallel roads - lots of them. It's crazy that both Park End Street and Hythe Bridge Street are open to motor traffic when they get you between the two same places. Give one over to pedestrians and cyclists, creating a genuinely high-quality route between the station and the city centre, and keep the other for buses and the very few motorists who actually need to drive into Oxford.

John Smith | 9 years ago

It's really not a cycling problem, it's an Oxford problem. Unfortunately the whole city is made for the horse and cart. Segregation would be nice, but there is simply no room in Oxford on most road. Too many places have inappropriate cycle lanes as it is. I would settle for filling pot holes, more dealing with the idiots that cause us all problems whatever mode of transport, repainting junctions (seeing the boxes is a pain both cycling and driving on some of them they are so faded) and the council regularly clearing the dumped and broken bikes that fill the cycle parking in the city. Oh, and more enforcement of the 20 limit in Summertown and St Giles. Too many angry aggressive drivers when I know I am doing 20 cycling through both of them and keeping in a safe road position.

Cyclox unfortunately have a big voice but don't represent most of the cyclists in the city.

mrmo | 9 years ago

Not really a cycling problem, just a general one, government never invests with any coherence, a bit here a bit there. Look at the splurge of roads announced recently, rather than according to some master plan ( which you can argue whether it is valid or not) it is about getting re elected and vested interests.

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