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Council admits new Oxford junction DID make cyclists 'vulnerable'

Frideswide Square redevelopment has already seen two cyclists injured

A safety report on the major redevelopment of one of Oxford’s busiest junctions has been published, following concerns about cyclist safety in the area.

Frideswide Square, next to the railway station, has been under development since February at a cost of £5.8m.

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But two cyclists have been injured at the roundabouts, now at either end of the square, since work began.

Following a Freedom of Information request from the Oxford Mail, the county council released the safety report.

The paper reported that: “Problems picked up by the audit included the short link between the roundabouts on the eastern side of the square, making cyclists “vulnerable” as they weaved between slow-moving vehicles, and vegetation blocking sight lines.”

Chairman of campaign group Cyclox Simon Hunt said: “These safety reports should be subject to public scrutiny.

“We will now have a close look at the report and there may be aspects we want to follow up as a result.”

He added: “At the moment it is nerve-wracking when you cycle through the square because when traffic is congested it is quite close to you.

“As part of the new design there will be shared space for pedestrians and cyclists away from the main carriageway.

“Non-confident cyclists will need help to access that shared space – we don’t think that has been thought through properly.”

The county council’s strategic manager for project delivery Richard Warren said: “Where it has not been possible to ‘design out’ the risk entirely measures have been taken to reduce the risk as far as practicable.

“For instance, the whole design principle is based on an average smooth, continual vehicle flow of between 10 and 15mph – ie ensuring the 20mph speed is adhered to.”

Oxford Pedestrians’ Association chairman Sushila Dhall, also a keen cyclist, said: “When I am on my bike, I have found the square easier to negotiate since work started, but we don’t know yet how the shared space will work.”

The scheme to redesign the square is due to finish in December.

Since the beginning of the redesign there have been concerns from cyclists about its safety.

Back in 2012 we reported that campaigners in Oxford slammed two proposals for the redesign, warning that if either is adopted, it is inevitable that cyclists will die or suffer serious injury. Oxfordshire County Council, however, insisted 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.

The county council itself admitted 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.”

Cyclox member Dan Levy said: “This is a missed opportunity to create a world-class entry to the city.

“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 previous 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.

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