1 June 2020
Yvonne Constance OBE
Cabinet Member for Environment
Oxfordshire County Council
Re: Emergency Active Travel Funding
Dear Councillor Constance,
The undersigned organisations – Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, Oxford Friends of the Earth and Oxford Civic Society – are delighted to see that the funding allocation made to Oxfordshire by the Department for Transport (DfT) recognises the particular challenges faced by Oxfordshire with its dependence on public transport. And we support the initiatives already suggested by the council, such as extending 20mph speed limits, installing new cycle parking, and implementing School Streets schemes. But these initiatives do not go far enough to meet the guidelines from DfT for the funding. So we would like to offer some suggestions as to how Oxford City’s share of the funding could be best used.
The DfT letter of 27 May announcing the Emergency Active Travel Funding Indicative Allocations explicitly recommends: “closing roads to through traffic and installing segregated cycle lanes and widening pavements”, “reallocation of road space on strategic corridors”, and “point closures”. It urges local authorities to “act now to embed walking and cycling as part of new long-term commuting habits”. But there is also the constraint that work needs to be started within four weeks and completed within eight weeks; there is a recommendation that local authorities implement “schemes already planned in Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans” (LCWIPs).
We hope the planning already under way is integrated and strategic, and support interventions being coordinated in a few larger projects. Individual point closures may have little effect or even be counterproductive, so they should be done as part of coherent low traffic neighbourhood areas or circulation schemes. Similarly, upgrades to short, isolated stretches of cycle routes are unlikely to have much effect in enabling cycling, so we recommend focus on one major route.
We therefore suggest the following:
- Implementation of at least one Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), as specifically recommended by DfT (“Point closures can also be used to create low-traffic filtered neighbourhoods”) and already included in the county’s LCWIP for Oxford (pdf).
- Reallocation of space along one key Oxford arterial from motor traffic to walking and cycling to create a continuous, high quality and high capacity cycling route and better conditions for people walking, in line with the DfT recommendation of “reallocating space on a strategic corridor”.
- Within the city centre, reallocation of space from parking and carriageway to pavements and cycle tracks.
These interventions can be made at low cost on a temporary basis. If they prove successful, they would form the basis for applications for “tranche 2” funding to both make them permanent and to replicate them in other neighbourhoods and on other arterial routes.
There are detailed plans in existence for LTNs for the Florence Park and St Marys areas of East Oxford, and less formal plans for Headington Quarry, Church Cowley and Jericho. While these plans involve additional measures that would take longer to implement and cost more, their key point closures (modal filters) could be implemented using the cheap temporary measures the DfT guidelines envisage, and more fully implemented if made permanent later.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods would support “short and local journeys which can now be walked or cycled” but may also, depending on the location, help to improve strategic cycle routes and thus enable some longer-distance cycle trips. City Cycle Route 5 runs through the Florence Park, St Marys and Jericho areas, and Route 3a through Headington Quarry.
We urge that you push forward at least one LTN proposal for emergency implementation.
Improving walking and cycling on arterials would enable park-and-cycle, perhaps accompanying expanded bike hire schemes, and potentially park-and-walk to replace some park-and-ride trips, as well as enabling more local trips to be walked or cycled.
Given the DfT insistence on “full or light segregation”, implementation of a continuous cycle route on an arterial will involve such measures as:
- Dedicating entire roads to walking and cycling, where parallel routes exist.
- Removal of on-street parking.
- Repurposing bus lanes as dedicated cycle tracks.
- Reallocating other carriageway space, such as turning lanes.
- Shifting cycle tracks off pavements and reducing reliance on shared walking-cycling space, freeing up space for people walking and reducing conflicts between walking and cycling.
- Reworking junction signalling to favour pedestrians and to enable safe cycling movements.
- At pinch points, using temporary traffic signals to alternate the direction of motor traffic flows (as is done during roadworks) and/or prioritise people cycling.
But these need to be part of a coherent overall scheme.
The route into the city from the West (the Botley Rd) might be a candidate for this. It lacks any alternative cycle routes and is the shortest of the major arterials — short enough that walking from Seacourt Park&Ride into the city is feasible. Motor traffic can be removed from Hythe Bridge Street, thanks to the availability of the parallel Park End St. And work is due to start soon on a Botley Rd upgrade; resources for that could be redeployed to emergency measures now, which could then either be undone or made permanent as part of the full upgrade.
Within the city centre there is an urgent need for a general reallocation of space from parking and carriageway to footpaths and where appropriate cycle tracks. This could be done on an emergency basis by:
- Removing general parking from within the centre proper, from Broad St, Beaumont St, St Giles, High St, and so forth.
- Using space freed up by that to provide alternative locations for bus stops and buses to wait, freeing up space in areas such as Magdalen Sts East and West and George St.
- Using the freed space to significantly widen footpaths, using cones or other temporary barriers.
- Where there are significant motor traffic flows, such as on St Giles and Beaumont St, creating proper cycle tracks, lightly segregated using wands or other such measures.
- Changing junction timings to favour pedestrians, to avoid crowds accumulating on busy corners, and to enable safe cycle movements.
With additional funding, these changes could where effective be made permanent, alongside broader public realm improvements.
We hope that you will view these proposals as serious and constructive, keeping in mind the DfT statement that “Anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded”. We hope to stay in communication with you and work together to take advantage of this opportunity. This funding will allow us to reap the benefits that active travel, encouraged by safer routes to schools, shops, workplaces, and schools, brings to our beautiful city. We all want to see reduced congestion, better air quality, a pleasant street scene, liveable neighbourhoods, and most importantly improved health and wellbeing for everyone who uses the city streets.
Oxfordshire Liveable Streets
Oxford Friends of the Earth
Oxford Civic Society