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"Their priorities seem all wrong": Calls for cycling ban to be lifted on key shopping street for "great boost to struggling high street"

Some councillors have spoken out against the proposal, claiming they are "totally opposed" to allowing cycling on the pedestrianised route due to safety concerns...

The Chair of a cycling group in Bicester has urged the council to at least run a trial allowing cyclists access to a currently pedestrianised key shopping street in the town, arguing that it would be a "great boost to the struggling high street", and pointing out that those who have objected on safety grounds "seem almost completely unconcerned" by heavy goods vehicles, vans and car drivers regularly using the route for deliveries.

Oxfordshire County Council is considering opening up Sheep Street to cyclists, a route that has been pedestrianised for three decades, however, as we reported on our live blog earlier in the week, some councillors have come out as "totally opposed" to the proposal due to pedestrian safety concerns.

However, speaking to, the Chair of Bicester Bike Users Group, Catherine Hickman, extolled the potential benefits of allowing cycling access, adding that a lack of enforcement means "the least responsible cyclists" cycle along Sheep Street regardless.

"Sheep Street in Bicester is the main shopping street, as well as the only safe and direct route between the north and south of the town and the two railway stations," she explained. "It's really wide and spacious with a delineated central 'road' area and ample wide pavements. Almost all week the footfall is very light. Guidance and research indicates that it would be the ideal place for combining walking and cycling, so we'd really like to see the current cycling ban lifted, at least on a trial basis.

Sheep Street, Bicester, Oxfordshire (Google Maps)

"If we don't give it a go, it's hard to know how well it will work. It would be a great boost to the struggling high street, as well as encouraging healthy and sustainable travel choices.

"The current situation is unworkable because the current blanket prohibition is not enforced anyway. This means that the least responsible cyclists cycle regardless, causing aggravation and resentment towards cyclists.

"More responsible cyclists either have to lock their bikes out of sight at either end of the street as there is no provision for cycle parking along the street, push their bikes the whole way, or leave their bikes at home and choose to access the town centre by car instead.

Sheep Street, Bicester (Google Maps)

"For some disabled cyclists, pushing a bike is very difficult or not possible. It's therefore really frustrating that some of the local councillors say they are 'totally opposed' even to a trial."

Conservative county councillors Donna Ford and Michael Waine have been two voices expressing opposition to the proposal and have asked the council, a local authority run by a Liberal Democrat/Green Party alliance, to hold a full consultation before beginning a trial.

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"I am totally opposed to the proposal to allow two-way cycling in Sheep Street 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Waine told the Oxford Mail. "Sheep Street has been a pedestrianised area for 30 years or more and has become an area used for markets, street cafes, exhibitions, and other events. If the scheme goes ahead I do not believe that the county council would be able to safeguard pedestrians and other users, especially on busy days when the street is full of people."

However, Hickman points out that "those who cite safety seem almost completely unconcerned about big trucks, vans, and cars regularly driving along the street, even on market day".

HGV on Sheep Street in Bicester (Catherine Hickman, Bicester Bike Users Group)
HGV on Sheep Street in Bicester (Catherine Hickman, Bicester Bike Users Group)

"The bollards at the ends of the street that are supposed to prevent vehicles have been broken for years without the councillors ensuring they get fixed," she continued. 

"Their priorities seem all wrong. Cycling responsibly along the street would be relatively low risk, particularly as there is space, and it would provide a safe route given that there are no alternative routes that actually have safe cycle provision. It's also worth mentioning that Sheep Street is part of NCN route 51."

Chris Pruden, a Liberal Democrat councillor, has echoed some of the campaign's sentiment, and said on the current lack of enforcement that "effectively, it's not like there's a ban" as things are.

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The council is carrying out an initial consultation with stakeholders to "inform a formal decision about whether to implement an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) to allow for two-way cycling on Sheep Street."

"Should Oxfordshire County Council decide to progress with the ETO, the views of everyone will be gathered during an initial six-month period once the experiment is in place," a spokesperson explained.

"The information received from this public consultation will be used to help decide whether the scheme is made permanent or not after the 18-month trial period has ended. Additionally, it should be noted that the scheme can be amended at any time during its operation and even ended early should officers feel that necessary."

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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kingleo | 4 months ago

Kingston-upon-Thames is one of the most prosperous shopping towns in the country. The ancient and the modern parts are pedestrianized - a proper cycle lane goes through the busy pedestrianized ancient part of the town. From my experience over many years, I've noticed that apart from the town idiots, cyclists automatically ride slowly through the busy pedestrianized part of the town, I've never seen a cyclist/pedestrian collision there. 



Rendel Harris replied to kingleo | 4 months ago

I don't live there anymore but I was born and went to school there and often cycle through it on my way elsewhere and I couldn't agree more, it's an outstanding example of the way cyclists and pedestrians can peacefully co-exist with a little thought from planners and a bit of give-and-take from both sides.

pturner | 4 months ago

Thanks for highlighting this problem. Some of our councillors seem determined to keep people away from the high street.

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