MeetingsFebruary 24 2009 > Transform Oxford response

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‘Transform Oxford’ proposals.

  Response to Initial Consultation

Oxford Pedestrians Association [OxPA] welcomes the 'Transform Oxford' intention to improve conditions for people on foot in central Oxford. We have the following observations to make on the preliminary proposals:


1.  Definition of pedestrianization

The term pedestrianisation is widely used in the proposals documents and needs clarification. Full pedestrianisation, i.e. space dedicated for use by people on foot and not by others, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, will not be appropriate in many parts of the city centre. The proposals need to make clearer what controls are intended, and where.

2.  The proposals should seek to remove traffic signals and other traffic controls rendered inappropriate by a 20mph speed restriction for the city

Transform Oxford should take full advantage of the safer conditions created by 20mph traffic speed limits, to make pedestrian activity more attractive by removing unnecessary controls, e.g. at the eastern end of Broad Street and the Cornmarket/George Street junction.

3.  Pedestrian priority will need to be emphasised wherever pedestrians and vehicles (including cycles) share space in the city centre

The treatment of street surfaces will need to reflect the degree of pedestrianisation introduced in any one street. A ‘one treatment’ approach to all streets will not be sufficient. Whereas single surfaces without kerbs may well be suitable for streets in which pedestrian activity is predominant, there will exist in all streets where space is to be shared, the need to protect those too young or otherwise unable to determine what the ‘rules’ are, as well as to emphasise the priority status of people on foot.

Wherever single surfaces without kerbs are introduced, adequate navigation aids will be needed to enable people with disabilities to go about confidently on foot. Such treatment should be designed to ensure that even in streets where full pedestrianisation is not appropriate, people on foot will not be fearful or at a disadvantage when sharing street space with bicycles and other permitted vehicles.

To ensure that removing bus stops from Queen Street has no detrimental consequences, a speed limit of not more than 4 miles per hour needs to be introduced and needs to be enforced. The bus companies and the police must participate in ensuring that pedestrian safety in Queen Street is made better, not worse, by removal of bus stops from Queen Street.

4.  Pedestrians and cyclists

Whilst cyclists’ needs are not specifically discussed in the proposals it is assumed their needs will also be considered as part of ‘Transform Oxford’.

Pavements divided into separate cycle lanes and footways are not acceptable because pedestrians do not use surfaces only for walking, but for window shopping, stopping to talk or for other reasons, for resting etc. As discussed above, many people on foot are too young or for other reasons unable to appreciate that their activities have to be constrained when their space is shared with vehicle users. Shared use, as by Bonn Square, can work only where people on cycles do not dominate. A truly walkable city centre will need to embrace that when considerationis given to the needs of people on cycles.

OxPA suggests that where space is to be shared between people on foot and on cycles, it is made clear that the most vulnerable road users [wheelchair users and people on foot] have priority. Therefore cyclists in shared use areas should expect either to dismount or to cycle at a pace and in a way which gives pedestrians priority both in terms of their actual and their perceived safety.

It is essential that there are effective defined routes across the city to ensure bicycle journeys can be made efficiently. Otherwise people with cycles will seek their own routes. The opportunity should be taken to review the line of the existing National Cycle Network route, which at present traverses New Inn Hall Street and crosses Queen Street (to be pedestrianised) by Bonn Square.

5.  Traffic restraint should be considered for Worcester Street

Oxford’s air quality has been shown to be unsatisfactory: making things better for people out of doors on foot must embrace measures to improve air quality. Transform Oxford proposals are likely to result in increased pedestrian traffic to/from the railway station, between Gloucester Green coach station and Worcester Street, and at the Beaumont Street/St Giles junction. This will mean greater competition for road space and more exposure of people on foot to air pollution, due to growing traffic queues along the St Giles/Beaumont/Hythe Bridge axis.

A study should be undertaken of non-bus vehicle flows along that axis, with a view to reducing or re-routeing them This study should also consider pedestrianisation of Little Clarendon Street, to enhance the shopping environment there and to prevent its use as a rat run, by-passing the traffic signals at Beaumont Street/ St Giles. Without that, air pollution in residential Walton Street will be worsened by lengthened queues of motor vehicles there.


6.  Access to public transport needs to be improved, not eroded

Public transport and walking go hand in hand. Increasing walk distances to/from public transport worsens the combined experience, especially for shoppers and those with luggage, and makes coming to the city centre by public transport less attractive, not more so. There is already an unacceptable gap in bus services because buses to/from the north of the city do not proceed south of Magdalen Street. Transform Oxford should aim to eliminate this ‘Cornmarket gap’, but the proposals to relocate Queen Street bus stops to Speedwell Street and to turn St Giles buses north of Beaumont Street would make walk distances longer and considerably worsen the existing undesirable situation.

Similar disincentives to bus travel could arise if the proposal for a bus interchange at The Plain is implemented without very careful compensatory measures. People leaving the city centre for eastern destinations will need to have confidence that their connection will be available at The Plain. Without this assurance, the proposals for a bus interchange at The Plain will mean fewer people, not more, coming in to spend time in central Oxford on foot despite the investment in a walkable environment. Travel to/from the centre by bus in the evenings and at other times when bus services are fewer will become less attractive.

The proposals should also seek to eliminate poor conditions for walking to/from the railway station, especially given the continuing growth expected in numbers travelling to and from Oxford by rail.

7.  The proposals should anticipate changes to bus services after the Westgate development as well as take advantage of powers under the Local Transport Act

Transform Oxford should be implemented not as a stand-alone project, but as one of a series of changes to occur in central Oxford, and should anticipate and be a formative part of proposals for changes to bus services that should accompany other central Oxford developments.

8.  A range of bus routeing options should be considered for journeys between the Randolph Hotel and Frideswide Square

Travel options for bus users, including better bus access between north Oxford and the railway station, should include a range of routes involving Beaumont Street and/or George Street; and Park End Street and/or Hythe Bridge Street. In options studies, the re-opening of Gloucester Street as a through route for motor vehicles also needs to be assessed. Strong emphasis should also be placed on eliminating the ‘Cornmarket gap’.

9.  Consider bus interchange proposals for each class of bus service – not just as a homogenous group. Develop Park and Ride services to non-central destinations

Buses and coaches service a number of largely separate markets, broadly:

‘Local’ bus services for Oxford City                       ‘Country’ bus services to/from nearby settlements

‘Long distance’ scheduled coach services            Tourist coaches

Sightseeing buses

When considering ways to reduce bus or coach traffic in central Oxford, these different service groups need to be assessed individually as well as the interaction between them, to ensure that any changes do bring about improvements to the service currently provided.

Consideration should be given to ways in which cross-city public transport journeys might be made without the need to travel via the city centre [hence contributing to reduced demand for buses or coaches in the centre] including development of a wider variety of services at the Park & Ride sites.

Oxford Pedestrians Association

February 2009