Woodstock Road Improvements

By Alison Hill

The Woodstock Road in Oxford is a beautiful long road with fine old Victorian houses on the southern end, and shaded by trees lining the roadside and overhanging from gardens and playing fields. But as with all our main roads into the city, it is blighted by long traffic queues morning and evening, creating jams, rat-running through residential streets, pollution and noise. Cycling along the road is not a pleasant experience. Going south you have to share the road with buses and other motor traffic. Going north there is a cycle track but it involves dodging big trees and poles, bumping over tree roots, avoiding pedestrians, constantly stopping at junctions and driveways. 

With the new developments in Lower Wolvercote and in Oxford North the problem will only be exacerbated without getting more people to walk, cycle and use public transport. So we welcome the proposals to redesign the road.

These are radical when compared to how other arterial roads have been designed; Access to Headington and Botley Road improvements being notable examples. New guidance from the Department for Transport requires roads to be designed according to a hierarchy of road users, which in priority order (from highest to lowest) is: people with physical disabilities, walkers, cyclists, bus users, and motor vehicle drivers. Oxford has experienced a sorrowful history when it comes to road re-designs; the main objective has been to maintain traffic flow at the expense of all other road users, resulting in no extra space for walking and cycling. 

Plans for Woodstock Road offered up for consultation show an intention to reallocate space from the main carriageway to create wide pavements and segregated cycle paths on both sides of the road, and the removal of bus lanes so that buses share the road with general traffic. This is a bold step that is being welcomed by Cyclox and we have put in a response showing our support for this.

The one big caveat though is that the plans are dependent on traffic reduction overall otherwise bus journey times will be adversely affected and jams will be even worse. So the success of the plans are dependent on the implementation of Connecting Oxford, the scheme to stop through-traffic in the city centre through the use of traffic filters, like those already in place in the High Street and Magdalen Street East. 

The other radical approach that the county council took in getting to this stage of consultation is that they instituted a “co-production” process. Co-production is a way of getting service users involved early on in the planning, rather than taking the traditional approach of coming up with a plan and consulting users once the professionals have decided what is best for them. Typically this has been for health and social care issues but can be equally applied to transport.

For Woodstock and Banbury Road, this involved bringing together active travel groups and the bus companies to agree on the principles behind the design and to forge a way forward that inevitably requires some compromise. While the process had its difficulties––in particular not being able to share the developing plans with our wider infrastructure volunteer group––it sets out a way forward for involving those road users that have not had a voice in the past.  

In many ways, these plans are a major departure from the old way of doing things and we look forward to greater involvement in the future.

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