Cycling along Oxford’s Quickways

By Alison Hill

Alison is Chair of Cyclox

On Friday 12 August Morrell Avenue became a Quickway. Overnight, double yellow lines were painted on both sides of the road, removing on-road car parking, and a cycle lane has been painted on the uphill side of the road. Whereas in the past you had to weave your way round parked cars and take care to avoid colliding with vehicles sharing the narrow carriageway, it has instantly become much more pleasant to ride up and down this road. (Although, on my very first ride up, there was the inevitable big white van parked on the roadside straddling the new cycle lane.)

Within the last month Iffley Road and Warneford Lane have also turned into Quickways. Cowley Rd/Oxford Road and Marston Road will also get the Quickways makeover very soon.

A separated cycle lane

Warneford Lane has had an even more radical treatment. Where there were originally two lanes in each direction for all vehicles, there is now just one lane for motor traffic each side of the central reservation, and a full-width carriageway for bikes. This is protected from motor traffic by posts (also called ‘wands’). Prior to this change the cycle path was just right of the door zone for parked cars, which created the risk of being ‘doored’ by a driver throwing their door open. Those people anxious not to be doored chose to ride in the main carriageway, generating the usual abuse from impatient drivers who couldn’t nip past. It was an unpleasant scary ride, dicing with either doors or drivers.

The Quickways scheme, which is paid for by the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund, aims to make cycling along the city’s main roads safer, speedier and more attractive.

Iffley Road with double yellow lanes and a cycle lane newly painted

The changes involve removing parking from these roads, creating cycle paths (mandatory or advisory depending on the amount of road available), improving pedestrian crossings, and reducing speed limits to 20 mph. Five-hundred car parking spaces have been removed so far. Creating safer space for cyclists should encourage more people out on to their bikes. And drivers benefit too by not sharing the carriageways with bikes.

Katherine Miles uses Warneford Lane to cycle her children to nursery. Before the changes she was faced with aggressive encounters and significant risks to herself and her children on a daily basis. She either risked being close-passed or car-doored if she cycled in the advisory cycle lane, or being honked at and verbally abused by drivers tailgating her if she chose the safer position of the main carriageway. Her journey is now much safer. She says:

the segregated cycle lane with wands has removed the stress and anxiety of the nursery run and made it possible for my older daughter to independently cycle alongside me

She adds that these changes will revolutionise the journeys of those living in the East Oxford Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) who will now be able to cycle safely all the way to Cheney School.

Joining it up

The Quickways are only as good as their weakest link. Much more needs to be done to ensure continuity across the city’s cycle network. The government funding didn’t go far enough to tackle junctions, which are where most serious collisions occur. Improvements to junctions will be a major part of Cyclox’s campaign for Vision Zero (the eradication of any serious collisions) in the coming years.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, and now Quickways, mean journeys by bike around East Oxford have been made much easier and more pleasant. Congratulations Oxfordshire County Council for taking this radical action to make our roads that bit safer. There is still much more to be done but these changes show that the council is committed to change. Success will have been achieved when families are happy to cycle with their 8-year-olds along any of the main roads in Oxford.

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