Balancing the tensions between city navigators

The Oxford Times: Simon Hunt, left, is taking over from James Styring, right, as the chairman of Oxford cyclists’ campaign group Cyclox Buy this photo » Simon Hunt, left, is taking over from James Styring, right, as the chairman of Oxford cyclists’ campaign group Cyclox

NOW that James Styring has stepped down as chairman of Cyclox, he is able to look back and assess the past decade for cyclists in Oxford.

And he counts the 2009 introduction of 20mph limits in the city centre, new cycle stands and improvements to The Plain, among his biggest achievements.

Not that it’s been easy, given the city’s often acrimonious relationship between vehicles and cycles as both attempt to share its winding, packed streets.

The East Oxford resident, 46, moved to Oxford from teaching in Spain in his mid-20s and soon fell under the spell of two wheels, helping to form Cyclox in 2003.

He said: “Buying a car was expensive and there was all sorts of congestion and I realised cycling was going to be my best option.

“I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 15 or 14.

“Like a lot of people I hadn’t cycled for an awful long time.

“I was looking at my options and realised it was cheaper.”

Mr Styring said he “became quite militant about it” but admits he has “calmed down a lot”.

Mr Styring, whose group holds free monthly meetings, said: “It seems the British are more wedded to their cars and habits than I ever realised and it has been a slow burn.”

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Oxfordshire County Council, which is responsible for the bulk of roads, “hasn’t always in the past made it easy”, he says, but it has come to realise that “for some people in the city, it really makes sense”.

One of the group’s most eye-catching activities brought in under Mr Styring were Top Gear-style challenges between cycles and other modes of transport.

In 2006, we reported how then-Lord Mayor of Oxford Jim Campbell took 21 minutes to cycle four miles from the Water Eaton park-and-ride to Cornmarket Street, compared to 30 minutes for a car.

And a 2011 challenge saw 10 cyclists beat buses and cars in a race from Eynsham to Radcliffe Square, Oxford.

The fastest cyclist was 21 minutes with the first car in at 44 minutes.

Mr Styring said: “We wanted to raise awareness with the public about cycling and how easy it is to get around on a bike.”

“That was all fine and we got older and some of that campaigning faded off and we have become more involved in talking to the councils.”

Cyclox is now “more partner than problem” as the group recognised the will to make changes such as the controversial introduction of 20mph limits.

This is the “single most important” achievement of his 10 years, he said because, although many cars were found to be going above 20mph, it still cut speeds.

He said: “It has really raised awareness, speeds have come down.

“Previously, people were doing 32, 33mph in side streets, now they are doing something like 22, 23mph.”

The Plain – a notorious cycling blackspot at the intersection of St Clement’s and Cowley and Iffley Roads and The High – is set for a £835,000 improvement through the narrowing of lanes and widening of pavements.

Other plans include wider cycle lanes on Cowley Road and Oxford Road between Magdalen Road and Oxford Business Park High Street, to allow cyclists to go both ways at the eastern end of High Street and over Magdalen Bridge.

A redesign of Frideswide Square, by the city’s train station, will see new provisions for cyclists along with three roundabouts, one by the station and two at Hythe Bridge Street and Park End Street.

And plan to introduce cycle lanes to Iffley Road, completed in June last year, highlighted the ever present tension between residents and drivers and cyclists.

While most Iffley Road residents backed the 700m lane – between The Plain and Bullingdon Road – many opposed the loss of 47 parking spaces.

Mr Styring’s successor is Simon Hunt, 68, a retired immunology lecturer at Keble College, who also helped found Cyclox ten years ago.

He said: “James’ energy and commitment to cycling advocacy as leader of Cyclox have materially helped to ensure that Oxford compares pretty well as a cycling city in UK terms.”

20's plenty campaign a huge success

Campaigned successfully, in conjunction with Oxford Pedestrians’ Association, for 20mph on most city roads – makes cycling feel safer

Hundreds of new cycle stands in Broad Street and the city centre

Six widely-reported ‘commuter challenges’ proving it’s quickest to cycle to the city centre from all the park-and-rides, and from as far away as Witney

Creating a cycle map of Oxford (transportparadise.co.uk/cyclemap).

Long-asked-for improvements at The Plain – £1m project under way – but Botley Road railway bridge still a problem

Requesting Iffley Road and Donnington Bridge Road cycle lanes

Removal of cycle barriers at Donnington Bridge, Parks Road, and North Hinksey Lane

Toucan crossings, notably at both ends of Jack Straw’s Lane, Headington

Lobbying for better cycle provision in major projects including Cowley Road, London Road Headington, and St Aldate’s

Arguing for ‘shared-space’ arrangements in New Inn Hall St and Queen Street

‘We want anyone in region to feel safe’

NEW Cyclox chairman Simon Hunt said his key ambition is to extend its activities outside the city boundary.

He said: “We want to enable anyone in the Oxford city region to feel safe cycling here, using proper joined-up bicycle infrastructure.

“This includes the five miles reach-out beyond the ring road in every direction, taking in Abingdon, Eynsham, Woodstock, Kidlington, Islip and Wheatley.

“Cyclox’s mission is to persuade the councils to turn our aspirations of cycletopia in the Oxford city region into reality.

He said cyclists still “face big discouragements”, adding: “There are actually some high-quality, if intermittent, bike routes in and around the city but every cyclist has their own long list of pot-holed, traffic-choked and disconnected cycle routes.”

He said: “A cycling city like Oxford deserves much better.”

Its work to set up a “dual network” for proficient cyclists on main roads and a “quieter, backstreet network for less confident cyclists” is falling into place he said.

Simon’s wishlist

Issues on Mr Hunt’s wishlist include:

Improve the present network around the Oxford city region, to cater for and attract both more-confident and less experienced cyclists

Optimise access by walkers and cyclists, especially noting the needs of families and the disabled, to and within the Frideswide Square/New Westgate/Science Oxford cluster. This has to include a good solution to the Botley Road Railway Bridge problem

Include a bike hub and plentiful cycle parking as an integral part of the Covered Market/Turl Street future opportunities

Incorporate improvements to cycling infrastructure at little or no extra cost as part of the regular road and pavement maintenance programme

Promote responsible cycling, and the thank-you culture for shared space

Highlight, especially to transport authorities, how street-space can be a first-class community resource in addition to its role in moving people and goods. This applies equally to ordinary residential streets as to the grander historical legacies that Oxford enjoys

Ensure physical infrastructure will welcome families and the disabled. Tandems and tagalongs, tricycles, bikes with trailers, cargo bikes and so forth should all be able to pass through unobstructed, as well as conventional two-wheelers

When someone starts a new job or moves into new accommodation, or a child starts a new school or patients and visitors work out their routes to healthcare sites, provide brief one-to-one advice how to make their journeys sustainably

Celebrate Oxford as a premier cycling and walking city by public artworks, of all kinds

Expand and dynamise Cyclox to beat Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Comments (8)

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9:26pm Mon 2 Dec 13

EMBOX2 says...

“Previously, people were doing 32, 33mph in side streets, now they are doing something like 22, 23mph.”

...and car drivers are doing a similar speed too ;-)
“Previously, people were doing 32, 33mph in side streets, now they are doing something like 22, 23mph.” ...and car drivers are doing a similar speed too ;-) EMBOX2

8:00am Tue 3 Dec 13

Geoff Roberts says...

Sorry, this is going to be harsh, I think it needs to be:

The 20 MPH campaign is a failure.

The campaign's only real success is to have money spent on signs. There has never been any real enforcement of the law, the police said from the start they wouldn't be able to enforce it.

Using Hollow Way as an example, despite having no speed camera I certain that most vehicles travelling along that road every day are breaking the speed limit.
Sorry, this is going to be harsh, I think it needs to be: The 20 MPH campaign is a failure. The campaign's only real success is to have money spent on signs. There has never been any real enforcement of the law, the police said from the start they wouldn't be able to enforce it. Using Hollow Way as an example, despite having no speed camera I certain that most vehicles travelling along that road every day are breaking the speed limit. Geoff Roberts

8:06am Tue 3 Dec 13

Geoff Roberts says...

Oxford is anti social towards everyone. Car drivers (on the basis that people are forced into dependency on cars), cyclists (the proportion of cyclists who are scared or impatient and as a result are selfish and push problems onto pedestrians, is startling) and pedestrians in retaliation for being put upon by both drivers and cyclists. Oxford should not be celebrated, the way we behave in this city is shameful and it'll get worse, partly because of stupid planning decisions and struggling small businesses and facilities that are disappearing from our local communities. These issues are forcing what should be unnecessary migration between communities and squeezing the infrastructure to a stand still. It's a disgrace.
Oxford is anti social towards everyone. Car drivers (on the basis that people are forced into dependency on cars), cyclists (the proportion of cyclists who are scared or impatient and as a result are selfish and push problems onto pedestrians, is startling) and pedestrians in retaliation for being put upon by both drivers and cyclists. Oxford should not be celebrated, the way we behave in this city is shameful and it'll get worse, partly because of stupid planning decisions and struggling small businesses and facilities that are disappearing from our local communities. These issues are forcing what should be unnecessary migration between communities and squeezing the infrastructure to a stand still. It's a disgrace. Geoff Roberts

8:17am Tue 3 Dec 13

Geoff Roberts says...

If cars are slowing down as a result of the 20 MPH limit (which I see no evidence of) or slowing down as a result of more cars on the road (which I see plenty of evidence of), I am sure that the majority of cyclists (I witness) will not sit in traffic and wait like the other road users. So the feeling of being unsafe shifts to a feeling of impatient. Cyclists will often use safety as an excuse still though.

Pavement cyclist: "I'm avoiding the traffic".
Me: "You are the traffic"

Pavement cyclist "It's not safe"
Me: "Right so that's why the little old lady uses the road perfectly safely every morning turning from Crescent Road onto Hollow way"

Ask yourselves this: When you're elderly or disabled, how would you feel about living along a road where you step outside your front door and find yourself faced with a cyclist who expects you to get out of the way on the pavement? Or worse, a car? It happens every day, constantly. This is a very, very real issue, Oxford's roads and road users are on the whole selfish. They see a road as being their means of getting from a to b, not a place where people have to live.
If cars are slowing down as a result of the 20 MPH limit (which I see no evidence of) or slowing down as a result of more cars on the road (which I see plenty of evidence of), I am sure that the majority of cyclists (I witness) will not sit in traffic and wait like the other road users. So the feeling of being unsafe shifts to a feeling of impatient. Cyclists will often use safety as an excuse still though. Pavement cyclist: "I'm avoiding the traffic". Me: "You are the traffic" Pavement cyclist "It's not safe" Me: "Right so that's why the little old lady uses the road perfectly safely every morning turning from Crescent Road onto Hollow way" Ask yourselves this: When you're elderly or disabled, how would you feel about living along a road where you step outside your front door and find yourself faced with a cyclist who expects you to get out of the way on the pavement? Or worse, a car? It happens every day, constantly. This is a very, very real issue, Oxford's roads and road users are on the whole selfish. They see a road as being their means of getting from a to b, not a place where people have to live. Geoff Roberts

12:53pm Tue 3 Dec 13

Geoff Roberts says...

"This is the “single most important” achievement of his 10 years, he said because, although many cars were found to be going above 20mph, it still cut speeds."

This is meaningless because the perception and the real problems people face, remain the same. I live in a 20 MPH zone where it's common for people to do at least double that speed. Those drivers that got away with speeding before, still get away with speeding now. No signs will stop them and they have no conscience about it either. Yes of course those that obeyed the previous speed limit obey the current one and yes if someone is hit at 20 MPH it's likely to be less severe than 30 MPH but this doesn't deal with the overall problem. Statistics probably won't help either because of the way they are gathered, not enough data and so on. We need to deal with perception and risk here. If a community perceives there to be a problem, then there is a problem.

Statistically there may be few deaths or injuries on the road by drivers travelling at 70 MPH in a 20 MPH zone, but then some roads are so anti social that people simply try not to be on them for too long. That doesn't mean there isn't a problem, there is, people are being forced out of their own space and are virtually prisoners in their own homes due to other people's behaviour ad the vicious circle that creates.

Other night there was a lot of shouting, as usual outside the Panda House. Then a car turned up going very, very fast and skidded to a halt outside the take away, then someone gets out, then leans over and beeps the horn through the window instead of just going and getting whoever they were waiting for. They a group pile into the car and speed off wheels screeching. What am I supposed to report here? Some unknown car, can't see the reg plate, unknown people, speeding and being anti social in a place that the police already know about but do nothing about. Even if I do report it, nothing will happen. An elderly gentlemen nearly ploughed me down on a crossing showing safe to cross, I was so shaken I forgot to get his number, I called the police, they did nothing, I called the county council who wouldn't release CCTV footage unless asked by the police.
"This is the “single most important” achievement of his 10 years, he said because, although many cars were found to be going above 20mph, it still cut speeds." This is meaningless because the perception and the real problems people face, remain the same. I live in a 20 MPH zone where it's common for people to do at least double that speed. Those drivers that got away with speeding before, still get away with speeding now. No signs will stop them and they have no conscience about it either. Yes of course those that obeyed the previous speed limit obey the current one and yes if someone is hit at 20 MPH it's likely to be less severe than 30 MPH but this doesn't deal with the overall problem. Statistics probably won't help either because of the way they are gathered, not enough data and so on. We need to deal with perception and risk here. If a community perceives there to be a problem, then there is a problem. Statistically there may be few deaths or injuries on the road by drivers travelling at 70 MPH in a 20 MPH zone, but then some roads are so anti social that people simply try not to be on them for too long. That doesn't mean there isn't a problem, there is, people are being forced out of their own space and are virtually prisoners in their own homes due to other people's behaviour ad the vicious circle that creates. Other night there was a lot of shouting, as usual outside the Panda House. Then a car turned up going very, very fast and skidded to a halt outside the take away, then someone gets out, then leans over and beeps the horn through the window instead of just going and getting whoever they were waiting for. They a group pile into the car and speed off wheels screeching. What am I supposed to report here? Some unknown car, can't see the reg plate, unknown people, speeding and being anti social in a place that the police already know about but do nothing about. Even if I do report it, nothing will happen. An elderly gentlemen nearly ploughed me down on a crossing showing safe to cross, I was so shaken I forgot to get his number, I called the police, they did nothing, I called the county council who wouldn't release CCTV footage unless asked by the police. Geoff Roberts

12:56pm Tue 3 Dec 13

Geoff Roberts says...

Off on a tangent but if the police really want to keep the peace then all they need to do is stand in certain places on certain evenings. Job done.
Off on a tangent but if the police really want to keep the peace then all they need to do is stand in certain places on certain evenings. Job done. Geoff Roberts

1:09pm Tue 3 Dec 13

King Joke says...

Geoff Roberts wrote:
If cars are slowing down as a result of the 20 MPH limit (which I see no evidence of) or slowing down as a result of more cars on the road (which I see plenty of evidence of), I am sure that the majority of cyclists (I witness) will not sit in traffic and wait like the other road users. So the feeling of being unsafe shifts to a feeling of impatient. Cyclists will often use safety as an excuse still though. Pavement cyclist: "I'm avoiding the traffic". Me: "You are the traffic" Pavement cyclist "It's not safe" Me: "Right so that's why the little old lady uses the road perfectly safely every morning turning from Crescent Road onto Hollow way" Ask yourselves this: When you're elderly or disabled, how would you feel about living along a road where you step outside your front door and find yourself faced with a cyclist who expects you to get out of the way on the pavement? Or worse, a car? It happens every day, constantly. This is a very, very real issue, Oxford's roads and road users are on the whole selfish. They see a road as being their means of getting from a to b, not a place where people have to live.
Geoff, if all traffic is doing 20 mph queues are less likely, not more, as trafiic will bunch up less at traffic lights and other obstructions. THis will be better for cyclists. Only a cyclist doing over 20 mph would be made impatient by 20 mph limits. All Oxford's main roads are 30 mph, so there is only one road I can think of in the whole city where are reasonably fit cyclist could exceed 20 mph in a 20 mph limit, and that is Morrell Ave westbound.
[quote][p][bold]Geoff Roberts[/bold] wrote: If cars are slowing down as a result of the 20 MPH limit (which I see no evidence of) or slowing down as a result of more cars on the road (which I see plenty of evidence of), I am sure that the majority of cyclists (I witness) will not sit in traffic and wait like the other road users. So the feeling of being unsafe shifts to a feeling of impatient. Cyclists will often use safety as an excuse still though. Pavement cyclist: "I'm avoiding the traffic". Me: "You are the traffic" Pavement cyclist "It's not safe" Me: "Right so that's why the little old lady uses the road perfectly safely every morning turning from Crescent Road onto Hollow way" Ask yourselves this: When you're elderly or disabled, how would you feel about living along a road where you step outside your front door and find yourself faced with a cyclist who expects you to get out of the way on the pavement? Or worse, a car? It happens every day, constantly. This is a very, very real issue, Oxford's roads and road users are on the whole selfish. They see a road as being their means of getting from a to b, not a place where people have to live.[/p][/quote]Geoff, if all traffic is doing 20 mph queues are less likely, not more, as trafiic will bunch up less at traffic lights and other obstructions. THis will be better for cyclists. Only a cyclist doing over 20 mph would be made impatient by 20 mph limits. All Oxford's main roads are 30 mph, so there is only one road I can think of in the whole city where are reasonably fit cyclist could exceed 20 mph in a 20 mph limit, and that is Morrell Ave westbound. King Joke

6:22pm Tue 3 Dec 13

Wanchai says...

Geoff Roberts wrote:
If cars are slowing down as a result of the 20 MPH limit (which I see no evidence of) or slowing down as a result of more cars on the road (which I see plenty of evidence of), I am sure that the majority of cyclists (I witness) will not sit in traffic and wait like the other road users. So the feeling of being unsafe shifts to a feeling of impatient. Cyclists will often use safety as an excuse still though.

Pavement cyclist: "I'm avoiding the traffic".
Me: "You are the traffic"

Pavement cyclist "It's not safe"
Me: "Right so that's why the little old lady uses the road perfectly safely every morning turning from Crescent Road onto Hollow way"

Ask yourselves this: When you're elderly or disabled, how would you feel about living along a road where you step outside your front door and find yourself faced with a cyclist who expects you to get out of the way on the pavement? Or worse, a car? It happens every day, constantly. This is a very, very real issue, Oxford's roads and road users are on the whole selfish. They see a road as being their means of getting from a to b, not a place where people have to live.
I think your point that road users are on the whole selfish is a good one. And that includes car, bus and taxi drivers.
[quote][p][bold]Geoff Roberts[/bold] wrote: If cars are slowing down as a result of the 20 MPH limit (which I see no evidence of) or slowing down as a result of more cars on the road (which I see plenty of evidence of), I am sure that the majority of cyclists (I witness) will not sit in traffic and wait like the other road users. So the feeling of being unsafe shifts to a feeling of impatient. Cyclists will often use safety as an excuse still though. Pavement cyclist: "I'm avoiding the traffic". Me: "You are the traffic" Pavement cyclist "It's not safe" Me: "Right so that's why the little old lady uses the road perfectly safely every morning turning from Crescent Road onto Hollow way" Ask yourselves this: When you're elderly or disabled, how would you feel about living along a road where you step outside your front door and find yourself faced with a cyclist who expects you to get out of the way on the pavement? Or worse, a car? It happens every day, constantly. This is a very, very real issue, Oxford's roads and road users are on the whole selfish. They see a road as being their means of getting from a to b, not a place where people have to live.[/p][/quote]I think your point that road users are on the whole selfish is a good one. And that includes car, bus and taxi drivers. Wanchai

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