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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Oxfordshire authorities set up cycling safety group amid calls for “fundamental change”

Daniel Thomas reports.

In the wake of three cyclist deaths across the city in six months, Oxfordshire County Council has set up a working group to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. 

With a mandate to “prevent any recurrence of the recent tragic accidents involving cyclists”, the group’s remit is set to focus on “locations of concern” – sites associated with road fatalities and other accidents – and consider both immediate and longer-term measures to guarantee safe road access for cyclists. 

The group brings together elected officials from county, city, district, and parish councils, including Cllr. Jemima Hunt, Oxford City Council’s Cycling Champion, along with representatives of civil society, such as leading members of cycling and active travel groups. 

Three locations in particular have come under scrutiny; The Plain, Oxford Parkway, and the junction of Headley Way and London Road, each associated with a fatal collision. Dr. Ling Felce, a postdoctoral researcher at Nuffield College, was killed in a lorry collision on The Plain on 1 March, while Ellen Moilanen died near Oxford Parkway in February, and Jennifer Wong was killed at the Headley junction in September 2021. 

Specific measures to be implemented as soon as possible include lowering speed limits, vehicle capacity reduction, and additional signage to improve road safety. Longer-term changes currently under discussion might include barriers to effectively segregate cyclists from vehicle traffic, along with wholesale redesigns of particularly dangerous sections to guarantee pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

The working group also intends for a broader review of cyclist provisions at junctions across its jurisdiction. The council’s move follows a petition by the campaign group Cyclox, which advocates for better cycling infrastructure, safer pavements and junctions, traffic-reducing measures, and more effective enforcement. 

“Any death on our city’s roads is one too many”, said Cyclox chair Alison Hill, who delivered the petition, pointing out that a disproportionate number of the recent fatalities have been women. 

A “fundamental change” in road design and planning priorities is needed, the campaign group argues, including an explicit commitment towards zero road deaths and greater consideration for “people who walk and cycle”, while retaining existing targets for a zero-carbon transport network. 

A consultation on the County Council’s Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, which closed on the 16th of May, has led to the adoption of such a commitment by cabinet members, the Vision Zero principle, to praise from the council’s working group. 

Oxford University itself has become involved in this push towards change, lobbying with local authorities for greater investment in roundabout safety following the death of Dr. Felce. And the matter has reached the attention of Oxford’s parliamentary representatives, as well. Layla Moran raised the subject in a meeting with Transport officials, pushing for greater investment in road safety, and Cyclox has met with Shadow Cabinet member Anneliese Dodds to push for greater and immediate action. 

Vigils for the dead cyclists have been held across Oxford throughout the past six months.

Image credit: Waldemar Brandt via Unsplash

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