Image: Enjoy Waltham Forest

submitted by Oxfordshire Liveable Streets
contact Danny Yee <danny@oxlivsts.org.uk>

The changes to the original proposals for Botley Rd introduce some small improvements and some regressions. In the light of Connecting Oxford and the urgent need to reduce motor traffic volumes, we urge consideration of bigger changes.

Comments on the changes

We support the extension of the 20mph zone westwards. It would be better if it were extended further, perhaps to the Seacourt Park and Ride, but extension to Binsey Lane does cover the worst pinch points and the narrowest section of roadway.

The new plans appear to remove sections of cycle track that were in the original consultation. In particular there no longer appears to be an eastbound cycle track across the Eynsham Rd junction.

The parking changes seem good. Parking needs to be removed anywhere it would block the footpaths or cycle lanes, or where it would result in the latter being in the “door zone”. (Note that Highways England’s “CD 195: Designing for cycle traffic” requires an extra 0.5m of width for cycle lanes or tracks adjacent to obstacles higher than 60cm.) It also needs to be clear to drivers that parking on the off-carriageway cycle tracks (or footpaths) is not allowed, and this needs to be enforceable. Given the state of parking enforcement elsewhere in Oxford, our preference would be for this to be done using bollards or other physical infrastructure wherever possible.

The pedestrian crossings have been improved slightly, but are still too few. Unsignalised crossings that require pedestrians to cross four lanes of motor traffic are dangerous — or simply inaccessible — to a range of people.

We are unhappy that the “minor side road entry” design in the original consultation appears to have been abandoned. If the new design follows the design of the red-brick raised humps elsewhere in Oxford, these offer a kind of “confused priority”, with the risk of some people walking thinking they have priority and some people driving thinking they have priority… We urge reconsideration of fully blended/Copenhagen crossings on all the smaller side-roads on Botley Rd. It is also essential that people cycling have clear priority over motor traffic at entries such as Poplar Rd, where they do not appear to on the current plans.

The problems with the original design remain

The scheme remains predicated on motor traffic volumes which are unsustainable: it doesn’t seem to take the effects of Connecting Oxford into account, or the climate emergency, or the pressing need to reduce air pollution.

The design still prioritises private motor traffic and buses over walking and cycling, most notably in the allocation of space. There needs to be a commitment, through Connecting Oxford or otherwise, to reducing motor traffic volumes enough to make the bus lanes unnecessary, freeing up space for adequate width footpaths and cycle tracks, bus stops, and loading access, and avoiding pedestrians having to cross four lanes of motor traffic.

There is still no commitment to colouring the cycle tracks, which would be the biggest single cycling safely improvement. We reiterate that if road colouring is too expensive to do both, the cycle lanes and tracks should be coloured and the bus lanes left uncoloured: to reverse that is to prioritise helping drivers avoid fines over the safety of people cycling and people walking.

The cycle tracks remain too narrow, at 1.5m in width. It is unsafe to have such narrow tracks directly adjacent to motor traffic, especially if that is in narrow 3 metre lanes. This is a problem even for some of the sections of “off-carriageway segregated cycle route”, as much of this appears to have no actual separation from the carriageway other than a short kerb.

There are still significant sections of “shared space” at bus stop bypasses and crossings, which are the locations most likely to see conflicts between people walking and cycling. This should be avoided wherever possible, if necessary by using short stretches of under-width cycle track (potentially as narrow as 1.2 metres, if well away from motor traffic).

It is hard to know how pedestrian-friendly the major junctions will be without knowing the light timings (though precedent suggests these will be optimised for motor traffic throughput rather than pedestrian safety or convenience). But these junctions as designed are likely to be quite terrifying for people cycling. Bicycles should never be turning alongside motor traffic at 30mph. The worst problems could be avoided by incorporating separate cycling times into the signalling, or by using a Dutch-style roundabout design with cycle traffic crossing motor traffic at right angles.

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