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.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc 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.