Despite recent improvements to The Plain roundabout for cyclists, cycling between the centre and the Cowley Rd area has seen relatively limited increases. The roundabout is intimidating for many cyclists, and collisions have occurred on the High St nearby.1
Cycling on the road also carries health risks associated with air pollution, which is exceptionally high in Oxford. Boosting rates of cycling would improve health across the city, saving money for the desperately overstretched NHS.2
Drivers (especially bus drivers) are often unhappy about cyclists wobbling past them on the High St. Cyclists and drivers alike continue to suffer from high congestion.3
A solution: provide an alternative route away from the road between the centre and the Cowley Road area.
But where? Through Christ Church Meadow.
I would like to see a cycling link between St Aldates and Iffley Rd, with access at Merton St and Rose Ln, and possibly at Folly Bridge.
This could go around the edge of the meadow (set just inside the existing footpath), or could split the meadow down the middle.
Fully segregated bike paths have many benefits, especially for accessibility for people with disabilities. The main dangers with fully segregated bike lanes lie in the increased risk of collision at intersections. It would be vital to carefully plan the intersections, both at roads and at footpaths, to maximise safety at these points.4
This would require an agreement between the local authorities and the University, particularly Christ Church, which owns and controls the meadow, and particularly the bridge which currently leads to a gate only accessible to members of Christ Church College (which would be a vital part of the path's reach to Iffley Rd). But I argue that the University and its colleges have a moral responsibility towards the residence of the city (many, but not all, of whom are its students and employees).
A quarter of children in Oxford live in poverty. Meanwhile, Christ Church is the second wealthiest Oxford college, with funds approaching half a billion pounds. Providing the space to more easily and safely connect South East Oxford (home of some of the most deprived areas of the city) to the centre, alleviating congestion and pollution, and improving health across the city, reducing the strain on the overstretched NHS, is the least the college could do to give back to the city.5
There is some precedent to an idea like this - over 50 years ago a plan to put a road through the meadow was stopped at the last minute. That plan was rightfully seen as putting cars over the people of Oxford and was opposed. A bike lane in the same place would do the opposite.
See the above embedded map to see what the route might look like, or follow the link if the embedded version isn't working.
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the idea!
See e.g. ↩
- On low usage and cyclist response to recent changes: http://road.cc/content/news/205265-oxford-campaigners-say-cycling-improvements-key-junction-arent-working
- An example of a collision between a cyclist and a bus on the route:
See e.g. ↩
- On the risks associated with air pollution: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2014/feb/20/air-pollution-cyclists-bike-blog
- On Oxford's air pollution problems: http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/14883114.Air_pollution_is_getting_worse_in_some_parts_of_Oxford/
- On potential savings to the NHS of increased cycling: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/feb/10/cycling-save-nhs-250m-year-report
See e.g. ↩
- On congestion in Oxfordshire http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/14639676.SPECIAL_REPORT__Traffic_jams_worse_than_ever_in_Oxfordshire_as_businesses_count_cost_of_congestion/
See e.g. ↩
- On the benefits of fully segregated cycle paths: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/default/files/file_content_type/phil_jones_associates_report_-_september_2011.pdf
- On the increased risks at intersections from fully segregated paths: http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/digest/research.html
See e.g. ↩
- Information on poverty in Oxford: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20131/population/497/povertyanddeprivation
- Information on the wealth of Oxford colleges: https://whoownsengland.org/2016/09/25/what-do-the-oxford-colleges-own/