Longer-term plans for permanent increases in cycleways are set to lead to a step-change in Oxfordshire’s cycling infrastructure.
A series of plans by Oxfordshire County Council, combined with a £2.9 million two-stage Government grant, will transform residents’ experience of cycling as part of a move to support active and healthy travel combined with a firm commitment to cutting carbon emissions and air pollution.
The popularity of cycling has soared since lockdown began in March. The council said it is determined to build on this trend and to ensure that the related reduction in air pollution (which is down by as much as 64% in some parts of the county) is sustained in the future.
Research by market research firm Mintel found that, at the beginning of the year, a third of adults in Britain who didn’t currently cycle said they would consider doing so in the future. The active travel fund will allow Oxfordshire to address some of the key factors that deter people from cycling and encourage more journeys by bike. Current measures include prioritising road space for bikes to improve road safety, improving signage and road markings for cycle lanes, and creating more cycle parking in all market towns and Oxford. The next stage of the funding will include more 20mph zones to improve road safety where residents want them.
The first phase of the funding is being concentrated over an eight-week period. The steps taken include:
– More purpose-built cycle parking areas, particularly in market town squares, close to rural bus stops, and at park and rides
– More priority given to cycles, from changes to traffic light timings to prioritise people travelling by bike to adapting the road network to allow more space for bikes
– An upgraded maintenance scheme for cycle paths and cycle routes, with improved signage and route markings
The County Council is also working on a programme of structural improvements to support cycling and walking well beyond the active travel fund. As part of the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, the county is working with the district and city councils on a series of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs). Didcot, Bicester and Oxford will be the first locations in the county to benefit from them.
The LCWIPs will mean a cycle network for each town, with numbered cycle routes, including links to villages and towns within easy cycling distance. They will also include measures to improve pedestrian access to the main shopping centres (as well as local centres in Oxford).
Planning work is also well underway for a three-mile cycle path along the B4044 between Botley and Eynsham, while construction of the ‘Icknield Greenway’ has now begun – the cycle route linking Wantage to Harwell business park. Work started on the Icknield Greenway on 26 May and is due to be completed on 16th October. The route is one of six key corridors linking Harwell Campus, Milton Park and Culham Science Centre with Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage, and is part of the Science Vale Cycle Network Project. This major scheme is designed to provide improved facilities for journeys by bike and on foot and to encourage sustainable travel across the area.
Councillor Yvonne Constance, cabinet member for environment, said: “The active travel grant will help us get the county back to work, school and leisure. But it is just one part of an ambitious programme of activity to increase cycling, walking and active travel overall.
“Our focus on supporting active transport options through a major upgrade in our cycling infrastructure will improve people’s health and wellbeing whilst helping us as a county attain our goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It is part of our commitment to creating a sustainable and resilient future for Oxfordshire as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis. We will build Oxfordshire back better.”
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