Cycling in the Other Place

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 27.

Donnington Bridge, south of the city centre. This is an another alternative route to the High Street for motor traffic. Here, road space has been reallocated to cyclists in a the most direct way possible, by laying a line of paving stones along the road to create a two-way cycle track on what was formerly part of the main carriageway. There’s also a cycle lane on the other side of the road.

Do they do things better in Oxford? That was the question we wanted to answer in this autumn’s ‘fact-finding’ weekend. In 1997 we visited Groningen in the Netherlands, to find out what it was like for cyclists there. Last year we went to York. This year we decided to go to Oxford, a city which has many similarities with Cambridge (most obviously, many thousands of cyclists). We met campaigners from the local Friends of the Earth group who showed us round and gave us an update on how transport and cycle issues are developing there.

There’s a lot happening in Oxford, we discovered. The big idea over there at the moment is the ‘Oxford Transport Strategy’, whose aim is ‘to achieve significant environmental improvements in Oxford city centre, whilst allowing continued growth of the city centre economy.’ It’s not unlike our own Core Traffic Scheme, not least in its emphasis on further city centre traffic restrictions. We did notice an interesting difference, however. In both Oxford and Cambridge, the closure of roads in the city centre has increased the traffic on alternative routes. In Oxford, however, the council has taken steps to mitigate the effect on cyclists of this extra traffic, by reallocating road space to cyclists on these alternative routes. This contrasts with the situation in Cambridge, where our pleas for improvements for cyclists in Victoria Road, Mitcham’s Corner, Maid’s Causeway and East Road have been mostly ignored.

We also heard much about the new County Cycling Strategy. Here, Oxfordshire is ahead of Cambridgeshire, which is only just starting consultation on a new cycling strategy. Oxfordshire’s County Cycling Strategy is an impressive 100-page document, and we will be looking at it closely.

Oxford High Street. The daytime closure of this road to all traffic except buses, taxis and cycles is a key element of Oxford’s Transport Strategy. The council decided that installing rising bollards here would cause too much delay to buses, so the restriction is currently enforced only by signs and by regular police checks. Enforcement cameras will, however, be introduced soon. St Cross Road, just north of the city centre. This is the most obvious alternative to the High Street for motor vehicles. Oxfordshire has introduced traffic calming (mainly speed cushions) and on-carriageway cycle lanes along the whole length of this route. In places, the cycle lanes are reinforced by the use of raised rubber strips.

Marston Road. A cycle track with priority over side roads! Apparently this was done quite a few years ago. The use of colour made the cycle track very clear. We tried it out, and it worked – a car waited for us.

Botley Road Bridge, on the main route into the city from the west. This narrow bridge has been widened by adding separate pedestrian bridges (not shown) on either side, and converting the original pavement into a cycle lane. Because there are lots of services underneath, a raised kerb has been installed to prevent cars encroaching onto the cycle lane. We were impressed by the way that this scheme provided physical segregation in what was essentially an on-road cycle facility.

Nigel Deakin