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Cyclists concerned by "too long and too dangerous" diversion as cycle path closed

Oxfordshire County Council says it had "no choice" but to close the route for bridge repairs, but some have questioned why a "safe" diversion has not been directed through University Parks, with it instead visiting a notoriously dangerous roundabout...

Cyclists in Oxford have raised safety concerns about a diversion that directs riders to a notoriously dangerous roundabout while a cycle path in the city is closed for 10 weeks for repairs.

The cycle route between Marston and Oxford city centre will be closed for an estimated 10 weeks from 14 August, Oxfordshire County Council saying it is "carrying out essential refurbishment work" to two bridges.

However, the diversion sends riders to their destination via the Plain roundabout, a junction where last March a University of Oxford researcher, Dr Ling Felce, was killed when she was run over by an unlicensed, uninsured and drugged lorry driver who was jailed in September for eight years.

The council and campaigners welcomed subsequent safety improvements to the roundabout, however questions about the diversion's routing remain with a local cycling campaign group calling for the alternative route to instead pass through University Parks, something that has not yet been agreed between the relevant authorities.

"This is a vital cycle route for people cycling in from the east and north east of Oxford, providing a safe way into town avoiding the Plain roundabout," Dr Allison Hill, the chair of Cyclox, told the Oxford Mail.

> Oxfordshire cyclist calls for urgent safety improvements after crash on shared-use path along busy road

"We weren't alerted to this closure and are very concerned about the implications for people cycling as the county council acknowledges that the route via the Plain is not safe, and the route via Marston Ferry Road adds nearly three miles.

"It is important the bridges are upgraded and made safe, but we are saddened that an alternative route through the University Parks has not been agreed. Pushing bikes over the rainbow bridge and then south along the Cherwell to the Marston Meadow path seems a simple time-limited ask, that saves time and reduces the risk."

The University of Oxford has since said it is working with Oxfordshire County Council on a solution, but Oxford City Council's Mary Clarkson has also criticised the lack of route through the University Parks, saying it has left her "very disappointed", especially with the new school year looming.

"I'm very disappointed that, after six weeks of discussions with the university, county council and local residents we have been unable to find a safe alternative route across Marston Meadows," she said.

"This is a very busy and well used route into Oxford, linking the hospitals and Oxford Brookes with the city centre and the University. It is also an important route for school children.

> No cycles whether ridden or not: "Ridiculous and petty" sign banning bikes in Oxford University Parks slammed

"At the beginning of the new school year there is a danger that pupils who might otherwise cycle will be driven to school as the alternatives are seen as too long or too dangerous."

Oxfordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Highway Management, Andrew Gant, announced the works saying it was the "last thing" the council wanted to do, "but we have no choice in this case".

"Full refurbishment of the bridge is required to avoid the risk of emergency closures in the future and to safeguard the use of the cycle path for many years to come," he explained.

"We appreciate how inconvenient this will be for users so both bridges will be refurbished at the same time to reduce the length of the closure, and we will reopen the cycle path as soon as possible if the work is completed sooner than anticipated."

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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Rendel Harris | 11 months ago

Can't actually blame the council for this, the Parks belongs to the University and they refuse even to allow people to push bicycles through the area, let alone ride them. One would have hoped that the thought that it will mainly be their own staff and students being put at risk would engender a little flexibility for a few weeks, but if it doesn't hard to see what the council can do.

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