A Christmas list for Oxford’s cycle riders

Photo: Oxford’s High St, Christmas morning 2019. Little did we know what we’d be facing in 2020.

By Alison Hill

Like all good Christmas dinners, bikes also need some extra trimmings. May your Christmas stockings be bursting with bike lights, tool kits, bells, distance trackers, and clothing warm enough to keep you cycling throughout this long, and very strange winter.  

If you get out on your bike on Christmas day, you will experience what it is like to cycle on virtually traffic-free roads, similar to what we experienced during lockdown earlier this year. Oxford city centre will be a joy to cycle around – no vehicle drivers trying to squeeze past you, no buses queued bumper to bumper, no deafening traffic noise, and wonderful clean air.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if the city could be like this every day of the year? Without the need for a national bank holiday, or the social distancing required to impede the spread of a global pandemic? Can you imagine how many more people would choose to ride bikes if roads were quieter? This is the vision that Cyclox has for the city’s future. This Christmas, with an additional £2.9m in their collective ‘active travel’ purse, our wish list is addressed to Oxfordshire County and Oxford City Councils, not Santa:

Wish #1. We want fewer motor vehicles in the city. This wish could come true if the proposals made in the successful Emergency Active Travel Fund bid and the proposals for ‘Connecting Oxford’ are implemented. We are supporting the councils to encourage them to hold their nerves to make these plans a reality.

Wish #2. We want permanent, segregated cycle paths, not just a bit of white paint. These must be compliant with the impressive Cycle Design Standards published by the Department for Transport in July (LTN1/20), wide enough for all types of cycles, continuous and with a lovely smooth surface that is regularly swept and maintained. 

Wish #3. We want those permanent, segregated cycle paths to continue safely across junctions.  Cycle riders need to be consulted by transport planners on what is (and feels) safe, as standard, and before any work is carried out.   

Wish #4. We want to see the creation of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), like those in Waltham Forest, which the Cyclox committee have visited to admire and envy. These are residential areas which stop through-traffic, creating quiet and attractive streets that encourage more walking and cycling. If our first wish in this list comes true, we’ll soon see 3 new LTNs trialled in Cowley, with more to follow.

Wish #5. We want to see more quality cycle parking all over the city – much more! We need secure, convenient cycle parking that is close to shops, leisure centres, and parks, so people aren’t deterred from cycling to their chosen destinations for fear of bike theft, or damage to their property.

This Christmas wish list may sound idealistic, but the pandemic and climate change are strengthening the resolve of decision makers. Could we be at a tipping point? We will know by next Christmas!

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