by Peter Lister, local resident
Some years ago when I lived in North Oxford, it was decided to tweak the Woodstock Road bus lane. I had a look at the plans, and it was obvious that the change would disrupt an existing cycle route across Woodstock Road. A couple of days later, I met a dad whose 12 year old son cycled to school that way. This man was very unhappy – his son would have to either negotiate the Woodstock Road bus lane at rush hour – or cycle along the pavement illegally – or get off his bike and walk for 100m or so. What really annoyed us both was the fact that a cycle lane could have been added along a (very wide) pavement with only a line of white paint and a couple of signs.
At the consultation, I met an engineer who designed the road layout. Did he realise, I asked, that the cycle route across Woodstock road was affected? Er, came the reply, did it? Did he realise that there was a simple solution, in that a cycle lane could easily be added along the pavement? On no, that wasn’t relevant, this consultation was about the road, not the pavement! Warming to my task, I then asked whether, if a planned cycle lane improvement inadvertently obstructed a road to vehicles, it would ever get as far as a consultation? Well, said the engineer – not happy by now – clearly not. When I asked if there were any regular cycle commuters in his office, the engineer muttered that he thought that one of the secretaries may cycle. I’m sure he could see my next question coming. So, I said, you consult her on all your designs? No, certainly not, she’s not qualified… She may not have a certificate, I said, but she is more qualified than you to comment on cycle routes.
So, when I saw the original Doric design for West Way, I immediately looked to see whether cycle routes across the site were affected. Sure enough, I saw no through routes and so I asked the relevant person at the exhibition what provision there was for cycling across the site from Arthray Road to Elms Road for Botley school and access to the Wytham cycle path (avoiding the goods entrance). I was told (a) that the lack of a through route must be a mistake on the plan and when I pointed out that the two halves of the site were separated by a flight of steps, that (b) the through cycle route involved using a lift – which someone else tried to persuade me was perfectly normal in Amsterdam. Oh really? Don’t try that on with me, I’ve cycled in the Netherlands. No lifts.
Very occasionally, on a warm summer evening, we like to ride our tandem down Elms Rise, and on to Wytham for a cream tea – on low traffic routes. Let’s all be thankful that first proposal for West Way is dead and gone – it failed the Wytham cream tea test. Now we have the new Mace design – which seems to provide a through route, though apparently with little idea of where cyclists actually go. On the plans we saw at the Mace’s last exhibition, there were lots of arrows helpfully pointing out motor traffic on all the roads (yes, thanks, we’ve all worked that out) and a few different coloured arrows which were supposed to represent cycle routes – none along the Wytham bike route, I noticed.
I think that any development, be it bus lane, shopping centre or airport should be required to enhance cycling provision – and provide hard evidence that it does so. My bus lane gripe achieved little (except annoying that engineer). But the many objections about the first West Way design should have had an effect on Mace’s current proposal. I hope so – because our cream tea route is also the route to Botley school.
So if you cycle, even occasionally, in Botley, please think about what routes you use now – and what routes you’d like to use if a good development would let you. You can comment on Mace’s new proposal: will it enhance cycling for you? Not just going to the shops, but all the other things that you want or might want. Think about it – and have your say. Cycle routes are important: let’s make sure that we don’t lose them by accident.