Town Centre plans, suppressed demand and unlocking cycling in Bicester

The following email was sent on the 19th December 2020 following the Stakeholder Meeting held by Oxfordshire County Council to discuss Emergency Active Travel Fund plans for Bicester Town Centre. Cllr Michael Waine represents Bicester Town Division, where most of EATF plans are proposed.

To: “Michael Waine” <michael.waine@oxfordshire.gov.uk>

Cc: “Paul Troop” <paul@bicesterbug.org>, “Rick Hughes” <rick@bicesterbug.org>

Dear Cllr Waine, 

Good to meet you and have a productive discussion about the EATF plans for Bicester last week.

During the meeting you posited a theory about the lack of cycling in Elmsbrook, and I promised to provide you with data to support my view that cycling was indeed significant and on the increase. Below is the measured bike journeys at the entrance/exit to Elmsbrook, as monitored through Mode Transport, the transport coordinator working with A2Dominion.

There are a few points I would like to make on the back of this data.
1. There is a steady increase in cycling year on year.
2. the lockdown saw a significant increase in cycling activity, this was mirrored across the county and the country. The drastic reduction in traffic has a major role in this increase.
3. The significant volumes of people using a bike to and from Elmsbrook is despite of the poor connectivity of the site to other parts of Bicester, notably the town centre.

Points 2 and 3 are important in that they illustrate the concept of suppressed demand, a common phenomenon in travel habits. Clearly the demand for cycling is higher than the level in 2019 alone would indicate, peoples choice to cycle is being suppressed by the levels of traffic on the roads around Bicester.  Roads which they are forced to share with traffic because the cycle network is not cohesive and connected (for example riding from Elmsbrook to the town centre is not possible without joining busy roads).  A similar reduction in walking would be seen if we removed half the pavements in the town, a move which would make the walking network as disjointed and confusing as the current bike network.  It is often said that you cant judge the need for a bridge by how many people swim the river, that is valid for cycling. We at BicesterBUG are working for those who do not yet cycle, the ones you will not see on a bike currently, the ones on the bank of the river, not confident enough to swim  across.

We have a number of residents in Elmsbrook who have gone through the process of learning to get around by bike in Bicester, two of whom do not drive and have little other choice.  They have been grown in confidence enough to swim the river, but they should not have to, we have the policies and tools to build the bridges.  This speaks directly to your theme of balance, travel in Bicester is currently far out of balance to the detriment of the town as a whole.  Their experiences of fear of traffic and confusion at the network are valuable lessons going forward, I would gladly put you in contact with them if you wish to understand the issues better. Sadly for each one who braves cycling in Bicester there are plenty who do not but support measures to make it easier, as born out by the data in the LCWIP (e.g. section 7).

We look forward to engaging with you further on this important topic, especially with the critical EATF funding.

Regards, 

George Bennett

Chair of Bicester Bike Users’ Group

Published by George Bennett

Chair of BicesterBUG

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