Active travel and the Oxpens development

Active travel and the Oxpens development

By Alison Hill

Alison is Chair of Cyclox

On 20 January the Oxford Mail reported on the new multi-million pound plan for apartments, student accommodation, office space and a hotel at the currently dowdy, unloved, unattractive Oxpens site. OXWED, the joint venture between Nuffield College and Oxford City Council, submitted outline planning application for the site in January, and the consultation closed this week.

The site has been designed as a car-free development, with good public transport, and cycling and walking access. We are grateful to OXWED, which has involved Cyclox from the start of the project, asking our views about access to the site for people on bikes. We contributed ideas as the scheme evolved.

This week we submitted our comments on the transport planning aspects of the development to the City Council planning department.

Prioritising active travel

So, what are our comments? The first thing to say is that we are delighted that OXWED, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have all prioritised walking, wheeling and cycling in the site’s transport plan. The proposals include:

  • wide cycle lanes and a narrowing of the main carriageway along the Oxpens Road
  • a new zebra crossing between the mini-roundabout at Osney Lane and the Westgate car park entrance
  • a new mini-roundabout design at Osney Lane
  • a junction redesign at the Westgate car-park junction

The designs can’t yet consider changes to traffic flows arising from the implementation of the Central Oxfordshire Travel Plan. Particularly relevant is the introduction of traffic filters, which is significantly delayed by Network Rail’s plans for the Botley Road railway bridge. For now our comments assume the current traffic flows continue. But they also assume that, with a suggested 3,000 employees on site, there will be many people accessing Oxpens on foot and by bike at morning rush hour.

What we have asked for

Junction of Hollybush Row and Oxpens Road with Osney Lane. White lines and cars
  • Given that there will be a lot of mixing of pedestrians and cyclists with motor traffic, one of the most important changes must be to the speed of motor vehicles. We have asked for the speed limit to be reduced to a maximum of 20 mph. We’ve also asked for traffic-calming measures along the route, so it feels safe to cross the road along its length.
  • We like the wide cycle lanes, but it may surprise you that we have asked for them to be narrower than the planned 3-metre width. This is because we feel the central carriageway, at 4.5 metres, is so narrow that motorists will encroach into the cycle lanes.
  • The zebra crossing in the middle section of the road needs to be on a raised table, level with footways. It also needs to be much wider than the standard zebra crossings around Oxford. An example of a wide crossing is the one outside County Hall at the top of Norfolk Street and this one could be even wider.
  • We don’t think the mini-roundabout is safe for people cycling. Our test is whether a parent would take an 8-year-old round that roundabout. We think they wouldn’t. Instead, we are suggesting that Oxpens Road merges directly into Hollybush Row, and Osney Lane reverts to a side road. There should be a continuous footpath and cycle lane across the entrance to Osney Lane, and zebra crossings on either side of the junction.
  • The design of the junction with the Westgate car park also fails our 8-year-old cyclist test. We are suggesting instead a ‘simultaneous green’ junction. This gives people cycling and walking a combined dedicated green phase of the lights, while motor traffic is stopped in all directions. It allows people walking and cycling to cross the junction in any direction, all at the same time. This would be a first for Oxford.

This isn’t the last word. There will be more opportunities to give your views, and Cyclox will continue to check whether the proposals pass the 8-year-old-with-parent test.


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