The OLS Plan

“Go Dutch” scenario from the Propensity to Cycle Tool.

Oxfordshire Liveable Streets is building a plan for safe, active travel and smoother-flowing car movement across the county. This is a blueprint where everyone wins, taking cues from forty-plus years of Dutch experience. Not only does Dutch design emphasise cyclist safety, the Netherlands is the world’s top-ranked country for driver satisfaction.[1] The OLS Plan brings about a dramatic improvement in Oxfordshire’s connectivity and a new way of thinking about transport and the goals of any transportation system.

The OLS Plan is guided by five tenets:

  1. Roads are to move people
  2. Neighbourhoods are for living
  3. Cities are destinations
  4. Towns are for people
  5. Countryside connection

1. Roads are to move people

The main roads into and out of a town or city centre need to facilitate transport by the most efficient means possible. A 3.5-metre width of roadway dedicated to cycles can accommodate 14,000 bicycles per hour, while each lane for cars can accommodate 2,000 cars.[2] This means that arterial road layouts must be changed to allow segregated, safe space for cycling. The current UK paradigm is to fit cycling in around the edges of private-car accommodation, usually by painted demarcation of cycle lanes.[3]  

To provide for safe cycling space, road circulation in many cases must be changed, reducing the car’s road-usage from two lanes to one or four lanes to two. In Oxford, The OLS Plan circulates traffic in one-way patterns on the main arterial routes to and from the city, with the exception of Botley Road, which remains two way. The payoff is a large expanse of roadway dedicated to the cyclist, providing a step-change in safety and enjoyability. Cycling on these roads is two-way. Bus travel on these roads observes the required one-way circulation pattern.[4]

2. Neighbourhoods are for living

The second tenet of The OLS Plan is the segmentation of residential areas into quiet neighbourhoods not passable to through-transit of cars. This is a well-proven technique in the Netherlands which requires changes such as bollarding or re-circulation of routes such that through-travel is impossible. In The OLS Plan, residential areas are delineated into ‘zones’ that are entered and exited by cars at the same junction or at nearby junctions. The point is to ensure that through-travel occurs on streets designated for through-travel: distributor routes. Neighbourhoods become quieter places that welcome through-travel by bicycle and foot. Residents reclaim the space and enjoy more time on the streets interacting with neighbours. Pavement parking becomes less common as people feel less need to leave generous on-street space for traffic.

3. Cities are destinations

The third tenet of The OLS Plan is preservation of city life and streetscape through reclaiming the space for people. This returns historic Oxfordshire streets such as those in the medieval centre of Oxford closer to their roots. To do this, arterial routes reach the city but do not cross it. Bus-permeable barriers segment the city centre. As with all features of The OLS Plan, almost no address becomes un-reachable by car. The only change is that cars are limited to an access-only function, with through-travel impossible. This returns a state of peace to the city, makes walking safer, and enables safe cycling without unsightly separation of cycles and cars.

4. Towns are for people

Oxfordshire is home to a range of towns with important economic centres and connections both within and beyond the county. The OLS Plan provides for the restoration of walking and cycling both within these towns and to-and-from them. In the main, it does this by dividing towns into semi-permeable cells along the lines of the “Neighbourhoods are for living” tenet. This also encompasses the protected-centre features of the “Cities are destinations” tenet. Generally, town centres — or areas just off the centre — remain reachable by car but not traversable by them. In many cases, this is accommodated by existing high-volume routes that skirt centres. The charm and aesthetic that was originally a hallmark of most town centres is restored.

5. Countryside connection

The car will remain a key mode of transport between Oxford’s towns and from many parts of Oxfordshire to Oxford. However, The OLS Plan recognises that travel between towns by bicycle is not only achievable — especially with eBikes — but desirable for its own qualities. The blueprint outlines a step-change in connectivity for the towns within cycling distance of Oxford, by designating a number of Cycle-Superhighway routes, often through countryside. Cycling routes between towns and villages follow the Strategic Cycle Network designed by Oxfordshire Cycling Network.

[1] Waze, “Driver Satisfaction Index” (2016)

[2] European Commission, “Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities” (1999).

[3] Oxfordshire County Council design guidance already requires that for new developments, “Stepped cycle tracks as described in 3.2 or completely segregated cycle lanes are to be provided, not cycle lanes consisting only of painted lines.” See Oxfordshire County Council, “Oxfordshire Cycling Design Standards: A Guide for Developers, Planners and Engineers” (2017)

[4] Buses also serve to ensure that road users observe the 20 mph speed limit. The payoff is traffic evaporation, better circulation and a significant reduction in collisions — all helping motorised journeys (including for bus riders) become more predictable and reliable.

“E Bike” scenario from the Propensity to Cycle Tool.