Consultation, Cyclox response

Frideswide-pictureIn September 2014, Cyclox submitted a formal objection to the county council’s plans for Frideswide Square, as follows:


This scheme is intended to improve travel from and to the west for those using buses, their feet, and bicycles.  This scheme worsens conditions for cyclists, from the current unsatisfactory position to one which is dangerous and inconvenient, which will tend to bring cyclists into conflict with other users of the Frideswide Square, and which will strongly discourage cycling in Oxford (and which in turn means that fewer people will cycle, and hence congestion will be increased).

Reasons for objecting:

  1. There is no cycle provision at each end of Frideswide Square, so through travel not catered for.  In particular, it isn’t clear how cyclists are meant legally to enter and exit the shared space which has been suggested
  2. The design is unattractive and dangerous to cyclists, so – intended or not – there will be an increase in illegal on foot way cycling at the ends of the square.
  3. Roundabouts are rarely attractive to cyclists.   The roundabouts here are particularly dangerous because a) they are too small for the long vehicles, primarily buses, which will be using them to turn, and b) because of the large volume of traffic which will be using the roundabouts. The roundabout outside the station does not accord with any international best practice for busy junctions.
  4. While we welcome the principle of attempts to slow motor traffic through the square, it isn’t clear that narrowing the lanes will in practice prevent drivers from attempting to overtake cyclists in the square.  Many drivers will be frustrated after queuing to get into the area in the rush hours, and are unlikely to show the patience on which the safety of the scheme appears to rely.

In short, we believe that the scheme as set out will be dangerous (and we fully expect serious casualties) and will diminish the attractiveness of non-polluting travel into Oxford.

More specifically:
The proposed shared use areas do not connect with the ends of the Frideswide Square (i.e., connect with Botley Road, Hythe Bridge St, Park End St and Hollywell Row). Thus cyclists are still required to use the roundabouts. To enable cycling through the square to be made acceptable, the following links need to be provided:-

  • Connect Botley Road to the proposed shared use areas on both sides of the square. When the station is rebuilt, the shared use areas need to link up with the proposed segregated cycle lanes planned to go under both sides of the rebuilt railway bridge.
  • Connect the proposed shared use areas with both sides of Hythe Bridge Street, Park End Street, Hollybush Row.

Without the above links, the proposed shared use areas with in the square will be near useless, as they do not connect to anywhere.  The only results will be to invalidate the actions of cyclists who quite legally opt to remain on the main carriageway, create conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, and slow the journeys of cyclists.  For the avoidance of doubt, Cyclox is in favour of shared space generally in the urban environment, but only when it is introduced properly.

Cyclox commented on the previous consultation in 2012 and made it clear that cyclists using the proposed roundabouts was unacceptable. In the Oxford Mail (21st February 2012) the same point was reiterated publicly. Nothing has been improved from that consultation, other than the suggestion of an inadequate and badly designed area of shared use.

The scheme remains dangerous to cyclists, off-putting to all except the most confident “vehicular” cyclist, and a wasted opportunity for a key entrance to the city.

Specific details

At the east end of Frideswide Square (with the Hotel)

What’s needed:
1. A shared cycle/pedestrian use area across the front of the hotel (restaurant Coco entrance).
2. Crossing points on each of the 2 arms of the road outside the Royal Oxford Hotel, plus a means of crossing the end of Hollybush Row where it enters the square. Moving the Hollybush Row roundabout north a bit should allow enough space for a crossing across the end of Hollybush Row.
In this regard, a crossing could probably be a conspicuous* but informal crossing. (*Use of colour/texture/levels)

At the west end of Frideswide Square (station end)
For east bound journeys (into town)
A link from the existing road/proposed segregated cycle track to the shared use area outside the Said Business School.
What’s needed.
To continue the current east bound on road (no cycle lane)/proposed segregated under bridge cycle track across the current station entrance to the proposed shared use area outside the Said Business School, leaving the road before reaching the roundabout.

For west bound cyclists (to Botley).
A link from the proposed south side shared use area to the existing on road cycle lane/proposed segregated cycle lane under the railway bridge, crossing the end of Becket St where it enters the Square. A crossing of Becket Street will be more important given the extra number of buses and Becket St traffic that will be using Becket St. The crossing could be informal, as suggested above for outside the Hotel.
What’s needed
A crossing across the entrance to Becket St, to join up with the existing on road west bound cycle lane/proposed segregated cycle track.
If there is deemed not enough foot way space at the station end of Frideswide Sq, I expect at least 1 of the retaining walls (holding the raised soil back) will need to be rebuild further back to accommodate the wider 3 lanes + 2 segregated foot/cycle lanes under the new bridge, so scope for adjustment here.

The roundabout outside the station.
The diameter of the roundabout outside the station is approximately 20m. The “drawn” circulation carriageway is about 4m, which wouldn’t be wide enough for a bus, so the centre must be over-run. It is entirely unclear what the surface will be, but it won’t last long unless it’s tarmac, so all and sundry are likely to drive over it.
The minimum size for a “cycle-friendly” roundabout is 24m, with a physical island (about 8m minimum). The alternative is a peripheral cycle track linked to crossings that are set back a few metres.It doesn’t accord with any international best practice for busy junctions.  Given the use of the roundabout by long vehicles, we would expect significantly more than the minimum diameter.  The danger of the small diameter is that buses and other vehicles will be required either to swing wide to turn or else go over the centre of the roundabout, and will be likely to trap vulnerable road users in the process.
Alternatively, and preferably, we would suggest that the County go back to basics, and redesigns the whole of Frideswide Square without the roundabouts.  Given that the area will be part of a major revamp when the station is rebuilt, and will now include a replacement of the railway bridge, there is the opportunity to create something which works for all users of the Square, and which creates an entry to Oxford which is something about which the city can boast.