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Oxford cyclists criticise proposed overhaul at key junction

Frideswide Square proposals risk creating "hostile environment" for cyclists...

Cycle campaigners in Oxford have hit out at proposals to redevelop the city’s Frideswide Square which could see traffic lights replaced with roundabouts, claiming that the measure could result in a “hostile environment” for cyclists.

The present layout of the ‘square’ – in reality, a mish-mash of a junction, with exits at the eastern end heading towards the city centre, and those to the west heading into the railway station forecourt and under the Botley road bridge – has long attracted criticism due to its layout which can easily catch out the unwary.

But according to the Oxford Mail, plans to introduce mini-roundabouts to ease congestion, which has been recommended by Oxfordshire City Council after it examined four separate proposals, would create an extra hazard for cyclists.

The council claims that by changing the layout of the junction to create narrow lanes for traffic and mini-roundabouts would improve traffic flow while reducing the speed of vehicles, and also provide additional room for cyclists and pedestrians, with seating and a café in the centre of the square possibly being incorporated into the plan.

According to the council’s consultation document, “ “The layout would be simple and easy to navigate for all users, removing the need for visually intrusive road markings and directional signing.”

However, the council acknowledges 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.”

Local cycle campaign group Cyclox says that the proposals afford too little provision for cyclists, with vice-chairman Richard Mann saying: “What they are proposing is for roads to be narrowed. We will see the situation that we now have under the railway bridge, where cyclists experience real discomfort and hostility as they try to find a position between cars, repeated on all the approach roads.”

The road under the bridge, which forms the main approach to the city centre from the west, has previously been criticised by Cyclox as “the worst place for cycling in the city."

Mr Mann continued: “There is a big risk that a hostile environment is being created for unconfident cyclists. If you let more traffic into the square it will just move somewhere else.”

Urban design consultant Graham Smith, who previously taught at Oxford Brookes University, said that cyclists risked becoming “disadvantaged,” and that pedestrians would also encounter problems as they tried to negotiate the square.

“There is a dearth of cycle provision,” he explained. “Greater cycling and walking measures are needed. I have to say the landscape designs in the option favoured by the council leave me cold.”

A council spokesman told the newspaper that the proposed scheme would result in less of a requirement for “formal cycle facilities” applicable on roads with higher traffic speeds.

He added: “Nothing is set in stone. There’s a long way to go before we reach a finalised proposal. The county council currently has its entire capital programme under review. This scheme will cost several millions. But funding generally will be difficult to come by because Government grants will be cut.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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