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Another Oxford junction savaged

Tuesday 29 April Oxford
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Another set of proposals for roundabouts in Oxford has got the thumbs-down from local cyclists, not long after plans for the Plain were roundly criticised.

This time, it’s Frideswide Square, outside the railway station, which is the focus of cyclists’ ire. The current design is generally agreed to be confusing and over-complicated, with a “forest of traffic lights” governing separate flows for cars and buses – while cyclists do the best they can. Oxfordshire County Council is now planning a simpler boulevard-style layout with roundabouts at each end, but campaign group Cyclox is not impressed.

In a letter to Councillor David Nimmo-Smith, in charge of transport at the council, Cyclox’s Dan Levy says that roundabouts are not the answer – and warns that cyclists could be trapped on the inside of buses and lorries.

“In general, UK roundabouts are appalling for cyclists. This one is likely to be worse than most because of the topography, the angles for long vehicles, and the frustration of drivers after queuing. Roundabouts are particularly scary for less confident cyclists – the very people that you need to get to use bicycles and leave their cars behind.
“The Frideswide proposals will lead to two main problems. Drivers of motor vehicles are likely to try to overtake on and between the roundabouts where there is no room, and long vehicles are likely to endeavour to turn to the left after pulling to the right (and vice versa), which will lead to cyclists getting trapped on the inside of such vehicles.”

The plans envisage that less confident cyclists will be allowed to use the pavements outside the Said Business School. The Oxford Pedestrians Association has expressed opposition to this, while Cyclox says that it is no substitute for “taking the same direct route as motorised vehicles”. Cyclox’s own preferred solution would see car traffic diverted away from the square on a southerly route, with through passage reserved for buses and cycles.

Oxfordshire County Council says that it is building “a square that can better handle the tens of thousands of journeys that use it every day, with traffic flowing slowly but steadily – creating a safe, efficient and attractive environment for all road users”. But Dan Levy disagrees:

“Major projects such as the Plain, Frideswide Square, Westgate and Wootton Roundabout [Abingdon] have been pushed through against expert advice, often using cycling safety money when cyclist safety won’t be improved, and are likely to fail to achieve any of their objectives other than maintaining motor vehicle flow.”

Work on the new layout is due to start this autumn and will cost £5.5m. It will be complete by winter 2015.

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