Works to make a roundabout in Oxford safer for cyclists following the death of a bike rider there earlier this year are due to start in a fortnight’s time and will be completed by the end of the month, says Oxfordshire County Council.
Safety features being urgently introduced by the local authority follow the death there in March of University of Oxford researcher Dr Ling Felce, killed when she was run over by an unlicensed, uninsured and drugged lorry driver who was jailed in September for eight years.
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Used by 12,000 bike riders each day, the council says that the roundabout is the busiest in Oxfordshire in terms of flow of cyclists, and one of the most used in the country.
It is located where three key routes from south and east Oxford, where most of the city’s population lives, meet with those roads – St Clement’s Street, Cowley Road and Iffley Road – then funnelled towards Magdalen Bridge and the city centre.
A number of the city’s bus services pass through the roundabout, as do coach services to and from London and other destinations.
The county council – control of which passed last year from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats, supported by Labour and Green councillors – has pledged to a Vision Zero strategy to eliminate all road deaths by 2050.
It says that work, due to take place overnight from 8pm to 5am to minimise disruption, will start on Monday 21 November and is scheduled for completion by Friday 25 November.
Planned changes include amendments to road markings and traffic signs, installation of road studs, bollards and cycle stands, installing light cycle lane segregation units, and vegetation clearance.
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “We have spent a considerable amount of time investigating ways of improving safety at The Plain roundabout.
“These changes were drawn up in collaboration with cycling groups and we are grateful for their help in this process.
“Our commitment to Vision Zero means we will continue to work with local cycling groups to help ensure new cycling infrastructure is designed and delivered to maximise safety.
“We want people to feel safe and secure when travelling around the city and county by bike and it’s clear that we need to continue to improve.”
Despite being remodelled within the past decade as part of a £1.35 million scheme partly financed by an £835,000 Cycle City Ambition Grant awarded by the Department for Transport in 2013, campaigners have continued to lobby for further safety measures to be taken there.
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Local cycling campaign group Cyclox, with the backing of Cycling UK, had warned that the overhaul of the junction would not encourage less confident or novice cyclists to get in the saddle, and also called for segregated lanes to be put in place.
Calls to make the junction safer intensified after Dr Felce’s death in March, with Dr Alison Hill, chair of Cyclox, saying: “We all should be calling for a ‘vision zero’ which is about total intolerance of any road user death because it is just awful for any road user to lose their life.
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“There is this local consultation out called the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, and I know we should be using that opportunity to call for urgent action faster and sooner to make our roads safer.
“That involves a large number of different actions. It involves things like reducing speed and reducing traffic volume, which is utterly crucial because people see the huge number of cars and just feel too intimidated to get on their bikes.
“It involves making safe, segregated cycle routes that are separated from traffic because that is the only way people will feel safe.”
Councillor Susan Brown, the Labour leader of Oxford City Council, urged the county council to carry out an urgent review of the roundabout.
“While it is too soon to know if this incident is related to the junction design, the city council will be writing to Oxfordshire County Council, asking them to urgently review the safety of The Plain roundabout,” she said.
“It is a key route into and out of the city centre, and despite the redesign which the county undertook a few years ago, we are still seeing accidents and fatalities.
"We believe that there is an urgent need to look at what can be done to improve safety, and to ensure that we involve cyclists and cycling groups as part of this review.”
She added: “We welcome the work the county council is currently developing on cycle quickways and quietways, but major changes are needed in order to create a safe road network for everyone – for cyclists, for pedestrians, and for drivers.
“In order to achieve this, road space should be reallocated to create safe and segregated cycle lanes,” she added.
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