The National Infrastructure Commission’s Running Out Of Road report has called for investment in cycling in Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford. Having recently joint-hosted a discussion on the importance of cycling in an urbanising world, Paul Basham Associates welcomed the recommendation for £150 million to be spent on improving cycling infrastructure in Oxford.
Focusing particularly on Oxford and Cambridge, the report argues that a greater focus should be apportioned to cycling as a focus for investment, rather than the current plans for rapid transport routes such as bus travel or metro systems. Cycling already accounts for around 27 percent of all commuter journeys in Oxford, and 43 percent of journeys in Cambridge, increasing this modal share further could be a relatively quick and affordable way to relieve congestion. The historic and compact centres of both Oxford and Cambridge present unique challenges when modifying the existing road network whereas improvements to cycling infrastructure can be a relatively unobtrusive way of reducing vehicle trips by encouraging sustainable travel behaviour.
Despite the relatively large number of cyclists, Oxford’s main roads and junctions are still predominantly designed for motorised vehicles. The route from the station to the city centre is highlighted in the report as being inadequate, which is of key importance given the potential for combined cycle/train journeys to replace longer distance car trips. Other issues identified include a lack of funding available for improvements to cycling infrastructure, the failure of planning policies to make development cycle friendly and a general lack of public cycle parking provision.
Whilst the lack of cycle parking in Oxford is evidenced by the sight of bikes being chained to a variety of street furniture, the recent implementation of dockless cycle hire schemes has also seen cycles parked in a range of unexpected places. Improvements to cycling infrastructure would logically result in greater use of these hire schemes, given that substandard infrastructure is likely to be particularly off-putting for casual cyclists.
Recommendations for Oxford include creating new links, improving existing ones and making existing junctions safer. Five high-quality protected cycle routes totalling 17 miles are suggested, including Botley Road, Banbury Road, Eastern Arc, Iffley Road/East Oxford and the Marston cycle path. Certain routes are suggested to be further extended out of the city boundary to Eynsham, Kidlington and Wheatley to make commuting into Oxford a viable option from these locations.
Other relatively short-term improvements are also suggested, such as allowing cyclists to use Queen Street and increasing the provision of cycle parking. In combination with meaningful traffic reduction measures, the proposed investment in cycling infrastructure has the potential to encourage a substantial shift away from use of the private car, as well as other benefits for public health. With the prospect of 13,000 more daily commuter trips in Oxford per day over the next 13 years, any initiative to reduce congestion is to be welcomed but cycling improvements will need to form part of a balanced approach to bring benefits to all road users and achieve public support.
The full report by the National Infrastructure Commission can be read here.