How do you solve a problem like London Road?

The London Road level crossing in Bicester is on its way to be closed most of the time when the next phase of East West Rail (EWR) from Bicester to Bletchley and beyond becomes active.  The company responsible for the development of the line therefore wants to find alternatives to the level crossing.  So far EWR have considered a number of options, only one of which focuses on pedestrians, cyclists, mobility scooters and all the other plethora of non motorised traffic that crosses the railway at present. The sole option proposed for pedestrians and cyclists is a footbridge like that next to Garth Park (pictured below)

Best they can offer?

Footbridge connecting Launton Road to Langford over the railway by Garth Park

We feel this proposal from EWR, if implemented, would prove to be hugely problematic to foot and cycle access and simply block many elderly and less mobile residents from accessing the town centre. Multiple switchbacks and a height gain equivalent of 3 storeys is the opposite of accessible but there could be a better way.

Viable, sustainable and inclusive

Inspired by the multitude of active travel underpasses used in other countries and by considering the needs of all ages and abilities of walking, cycling and scooting across the railway we put together a solution which prioritises exactly those residents overlooked by EWR and captures aspects ignored in the other proposed options.  By integrating bus, car, taxi access with simple and easy underpass for residents this is a solution that delivers for Bicester.  Below is a birds eye view of the concept in the context of the existing buildings and infrastructure.

Bird’s eye view of a pedestrian and cyclist underpass with taxi rank, parking and bus stops

When viewed from the Langford/East side of the railway (see below) the gentle slope and modest depth of the underpass can be seen next to an extended parking area and bus turning area. The path segregates pedestrians from cyclists to avoid conflict and allow both to proceed at their own pace.

View of underpass from east/Langford side, expanded parking on the left and new bus and taxi area on the right

On the town side the path exits the wide and airy underpass and rises into the existing bar parking avoiding impacting the existing heritage buildings at the current level crossing. From here it is a short walk cycle or scoot to Market Square and beyond.

View on underpass from the town centre side

What now?

We are calling on EWR and the authorities to consider a serious pedestrian/cyclist option for the London Road Level crossing taking account of the obvious drawbacks of their budget footbridge option and the clear benefits of the vision we have outlined.  The people of Bicester deserve it.

Chance to be involved in Active Travel Research


Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) have recently made changes to improve cycling and walking in Bicester and Witney. These include improved infrastructure (walking and cycling routes) and projects to help encourage people to try walking and cycling (e.g. bike loans, guided walks). Researchers from the University of Bristol will be conducting some research into this throughout 2022.

The study will look at how two groups of people might be encouraged to walk or cycle more instead of using the car. These groups are

a) people who commute to work

b) older adults between 65 and 75 years.

The research study will collect data throughout 2022 by conducting group discussions and individual interviews with residents of Witney and Bicester.

We are looking for up to six members of the public to work with the research team to advise on how the research is conducted.

Who can get involved?

Individuals who

  • Are interested in research
  • Live in Bicester or Witney
  • Either a) commute to work at least three days a week OR b) are aged between 65-75 years

What is required?

The role of lay panel members is to use their local knowledge and expertise to help design research tools, including recruitment notices, information sheets, and questions the research team will ask during the study.

These materials will be drafted by the research team for lay panel members to comment on. They will be sent these materials by post or email, and invited to comment and advise on how they can be improved during two  online meetings in January/February 2022.

You don’t have to be an expert on research. You will have local knowledge of Witney and Bicester, and what it is like to live there, that will help ensure the research tools are accessible and relevant.

The online meetings will last around one hour and may take place during the day, or early evening depending on  lay panel members’ preference.

The work will take around 3-4 hours in total in January/early February 2022. There will also be an opportunity for some lay panel members to remain involved with the Study Management Group throughout 2022 (though this is optional).

What reward is offered for taking part?

Lay panel members will have the opportunity to shape the research that takes place in their communities.

The University of Bristol will offer payment of £25 per hour. Payment can be by vouchers for those in receipt of state benefits (For those in receipt of state benefit confidential advice is available via the Benefits Advice Service for Involvement)

What do I do if I want to be involved?

You can find out more, or register your interest in taking part, by contacting Tricia Jessiman, the lead researcher for the study. Email

Cherwell Local Plan Review 2021

What is the local plan and why is it important? Short answer, very! The local plan lay out the principles of what development can take place in Cherwell, what standards it should be built to and where can be developed. This is key for cycling since the location and nature of transport connectivity will shape whether cycling is prioritised or not. Link to the review form is below

We have laid out our response to the Review of the Cherwell Local Plan review, we have submitted this to the council and are making it public so others can utilise the responses in their own submission. Links to the documents in pdf and word format are below. Documents are structured in the same way as the online form to help make the process easier.

Oxfordshire’s Celebration of Cycling

This September, Bicester BUG took part in Oxfordshire’s Celebration of Cycling along with other cycling organisations in the county. If you came along to any of our events, we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did.

Our events calendar kicked off with a screening of Motherload held at Coles Bookshop. The documentary followed the journey of people around the globe replacing their cars with cargo bikes, and provided food for thought on how we can replace more car journeys and transport larger loads by bike. This was followed shortly after by two more screenings of Why We Cycle and Together We Cycle at the Eco Business Centre in Elmsbrook. The two films explore Dutch cycling culture, charting the events of a country seemingly ruled by the car to the inspiring images of the cycling society we see today, and led to discussions about where the UK’s cycling infrastructure is in comparison and how we might like to see it develop.

We held our Market Stall at the Bicester Friday Market at the beginning of October, speaking with residents about what they enjoy about cycling in Bicester and what they would like to see improved; common themes of safer cycle routes and more bike parking emerged. To rest our tired legs, we headed off to the Wriggly Monkey for our first Bicester BUG regular social meeting where we had a night of great food and great company. We will be holding these on the first Friday evening of every month, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for location details as the weather changes. We’d love to meet more current and prospective members, so please come along for like-minded talk and good beer.

The celebration culminated in the start of the Women’s Tour where we saw fifty female riders from the local community ride out ahead of the start of the race. It was a fantastic day, and uplifting to see the enthusiasm the town had for the event. We hope that Bicester will make the most of this momentum and make active travel the basis for getting around the town.  

Thank you to everyone who came along to make our Celebration of Cycling events such a success, watch this space for our next plans!

Why I got on a bike

As a kid I used to bike everywhere. To see my friends, to go to school, to the basketball court on the other side of Oxford, and anywhere else I needed or wanted to be.

It started in the late 80s with an Oxford United themed kids bike (yellow with a blue saddle), which was later followed by up a silver Peugeot BMX and a series of mountain bikes (before full suspension was the norm) before returning to another BMX = because it was cool, although not very fast… Then something happened and I stopped cycling. I got my driving license at 18 years old and started driving instead – getting behind the wheel of my parents British Racing Green, Rover 400. I went off to university and could walk everywhere, only getting on a bike when I absolutely had to before dropping it almost completely.

Getting in a car was easy and convenient. It was more comfortable and quicker than public transport, and certainly involved less effort than cycling or walking. Then when I moved out of Oxford to a village and began to commute in, it seemed like the only option. Public transport from where I lived involved a number of buses and an awful lot of time.

Then, having worked at Brookes for a few years by this point, the “Access to Headington” roadworks kicked in…

As time went by I got faster, fitter, and more confident… and most importantly, the stress I had was fading away

A 40 minute journey suddenly turned into a 90 minute journey – the vast majority of which took place in that short distance from the Oxford ring road into Headington itself. During rush hour or the school run, this extended to well over two hours, and all it did was serve to make me late, angry, and by taking up such a large part of my waking day, largely inactive. Both my physical and mental health suffered. Sitting down and being in a general state of rage for hours each day will do that to you… Something had to change.

I got in touch with a friend who repairs old bikes, and he just so happened to have an 80s steel framed Claud Butler in a fetching shade of metallic blue with the odd patch of rust here and there. It may not have been the most advanced machine, but for what I needed, it would do the job – even if the brakes did make going downhill a little bit terrifying. My commute was going to be 25km to work and 25km back home, which given how unfit I’d become, seemed daunting to say the least and would require a bit of practice.

My first ride was a short and slow 2.5k around the village. So far, so good… followed up by a longer 10k ride the following evening. Again, this was very slow, and I learnt that going uphill was going to take a lot more effort than I remembered – but still, so far, so good…

My first actual commute didn’t take place until 2 weeks later, and at that time was my longest ever ride as an adult. Even then, I only rode home having driven to work with my bike in the boot, leaving my car overnight – not yet confident enough to commit to the 50km roundtrip. It took me an hour and quarter (still quicker than the drive would have taken at the time). Of course, I then had to ride back to work in the morning, but am pleased to report I immediately knocked 5 minutes off.

As time went by I got faster, fitter, and more confident. I had the bike professionally serviced at the fantastic Cyclogical Shop in Deddington – and most importantly, that stress that I had was fading away. A month in, and I even managed a 65km ride for fun (yes, fun!).

But most importantly, I was enjoying my commute – which was now less than an hour and involved zipping past stationary traffic – I was taking a car off the road, I was getting fitter and lighter, and I had found the passion I’d given up in my teens.

Mark at the London Road level crossing, which he uses on one of his routes to and from Oxford.

My daughter and me: Catherine’s introduction to bike riding with kids

I’ve loved cycling ever since I can remember. Over the years, the reasons I cycle have changed; sometimes commuting, at other times adrenaline seeking, and lately it’s been a lot less long distance in Lycra and more getting to as many places as possible powered by pedals. I recently made a pledge to cycle (or walk) all sub-5 mile journeys, including in my job as a community physiotherapist.

Growing up, we lived and breathed bikes all year round. My dad is disabled and cycling was always an activity that we could enjoy together and still do; cycling keeps me connected to my roots. It was this love of bikes that he instilled in me that meant when I had my daughter two years ago I did not hesitate to introduce her to cycling. That’s not to say I didn’t consider the implications of carrying my most precious cargo on two wheels, I think it would cross the mind of any bike user with any amount of experience. But it’s important to me that she sees active travel as the norm and carries this into adulthood. I’m also passionate about cycling being accessible to everyone, it should not be an exclusive choice.

I’ve always admired the Dutch style of cycling with infants, so after some research I purchased a front mounted bike seat, with a windshield to stay protected from the elements. It soon became clear why this is such a popular option on the continent; we share the same view of the scenery, talk about what we see, sing songs (even uphill), and it’s the perfect position to meet the constant stream of demands for snacks. Stability and turning is not affected, and I can still carry a set of fully loaded panniers on the back. One of the best things is being able to exercise and entertain a small person at the same time, sometimes managing to fit in the shopping and a trip to the park as well. It’s also a great excuse to eat cake! It’s worth pointing out that the height of the rider does have an effect on longevity of use; this will be our last summer using this seat as with the next growth spurt I simply won’t be able to see over her head anymore!

Given this is Britain, I should probably mention rain here. Not one to be deterred by a bit of water, we manage this by using any adult rain coat turned upside down so that arm holes become leg holes, and also cover shoes, and zipped up at the back of the seat (see picture). We keep it up during the winter using the usual winter clothing we’d use for a walk, as the wind shield provides a lot of protection from the wind chill factor.

I also have a child trailer that I sometimes use in torrential rain or for longer journeys where a nap might be had more comfortably in there. This option also offers greater versatility in carrying more than one child, or carrying infants from a much younger age with the right set up; front or back mounted seats require them to have a certain amount of head control before use.

My top tips would be to carry a child carrier for non mobile infants in a bike bag for the other end, and to have panniers with a shoulder strap or back pack inside to keep hands as free as possible once off the bike. Otherwise, it’s really no different to a trip out with the pushchair, it just has the added option of travelling a bit further and exploring new places. So whether you’re an old hand, a budding enthusiast or considering having a go, there are so many blogs and websites dedicated to cycling with children, with a wealth of information to help find solutions for every rider. I’m still learning new things with every ride, and can highly recommend taking the plunge.