Chance to be involved in Active Travel Research

Background

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 Tricia.Jessiman@bristol.ac.uk

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.

Consultation Response: Banbury Road roundabout

Below you can find our official response to the proposals and download a pdf copy of the document:

Submissions On Design of Banbury Road Roundabout, Bicester

1. Summary

Bicester Bike Users’ Group (‘Bicester BUG’) supports the Option 3 ‘CYCLOPS’ roundabout design proposal, though improvements could also be made to that design.

BBUG has real concerns about the other options, particularly given that the performance of the large roundabouts approved in Bicester to date has been abysmal.

2. Comments on Options

Option 1: Large Roundabout

Option 1 makes poor provision for non-motor vehicle users. The crossing points are a long distance from desire lines, making navigation slow and inconvenient. The crossings are poor, being either shared or uncontrolled. These are likely to discriminate against users with disabilities, leading to these users being unable to navigate them at all.

The design prioritises motor vehicle capacity at the expense of safety, health, active travel, and environmental considerations. We query the criteria that will be used to assess the performance of the junction and note that the software default of 0.85 ratio of capacity to flow at peak times has previously been relaxed by OCC at other junctions in Bicester so as to accommodate other considerations than motor vehicles. We would urge OCC to do so here.

Technically, one of the most concerning aspects of the design are the numerous areas of shared provision. Shared use facilities can create particular difficulties for visually impaired and other disabled people. Interactions between people moving at different speeds can be perceived to be unsafe and inaccessible, particularly by vulnerable pedestrians. This negatively affects comfort and directness and may amount to a breach of the public sector equality duty contained in the Equality Act 2010. The DFT strongly advises against shared use footways (DFT 2020, 1.6.1, 6.5.4 & 9.4.1). The DFT requires that at crossings and junctions, cyclists should not share the space with pedestrians, but should be provided with a separate, parallel, route (DFT 2020, 1.6.1). The local, Oxfordshire, county guidance also requires that off-carriageway facilities for pedestrians and cyclists should be fully segregated (OCC 2017, 2.1.3, 2.2.8, 3.4.6). The OCC Cycle Design Standards state that shared use facilities must not be provided along spine roads such as the present proposed road (OCC 2017 2.2.8).

Another concerning aspect is the lack of priority for cyclists over minor roads. The design of the shared path requires cycle users to stop and give way at the Fringford Road. This approach is no longer recommended because it conflicts with the overarching principles of directness, safety, and comfort (DFT 2020, 1.5.2). Because of the effort required to stop at every minor road (equivalent to cycling an additional 100m for each stop, see CROW, 2017, p.133), cycle users will be encouraged to cycle in the main highway, which is less safe (DFT 2020, 4.2.7 and Figure 1.1).

Current guidance deprecates layouts which make cyclists stop or slow down unnecessarily (DFT 2020, 4.2.7 and Tables 4-1 and 10–11). As the DFT points out: ‘In urban areas, where protected space separate from the carriageway is provided for cycling, it is important to design priority junctions so that wherever possible cyclists can cross the minor arms of junctions in a safe manner without losing priority. This enables cyclists to maintain momentum safely, meeting the core design outcomes of safety, directness and comfort (DFT 2020, 10.5.7). The local Oxfordshire county guidelines echoes this point stating: ‘Good design including adequate space and priority for cycle users is needed to ensure cycle users feel safe and cycle journeys are direct and convenient.’ (OCC 2017, 2.2.5) and ‘Priority for cycle users at side road junctions is critical.’ (OCC 2017, 2.2.8).

The Bicester Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure plan, now in force, also requires that priority is given to a cycle path where it crosses a road (OCC 2020, 20).

The pedestrian and cycle crossing points of the minor roads should be redesigned. As noted in the previous section, the two categories of users should remain segregated to reflect their different needs. The cycle paths should continue with priority across the minor roads.  To further support active travel, the pedestrian and cycle paths that cross minor roads should be placed on raised tables (DFT 2020, 10.4.6).

It is unlikely that such a junction would be sufficient to permit the attainment of a tripling of cycling and a 50% increase in walking as committed to in the 2020 Local Walking and Cycling Plan (‘LCWIP’) for Bicester. Rather such a junction would actively supress active travel.

Overall, Option 1 fails to comply with numerous national and local standards and policy aspirations.

Other roundabouts recently constructed in Bicester (Vendee Drive, Bicester Village, and Rodney House) have performed extremely poorly. Traffic speeds are high, there are frequent losses of motor vehicle control with significant deaths and serious injury, damage to the infrastructure, and they are inconvenient and intimidating to use. The Graven Hill community has effectively been isolated by the Rodney House/Graven Hill roundabout because it is intimidating, slow, and unsafe to try to access by foot or cycle. One significant issue is that large roundabouts are significantly in excess of capacity for the majority of the day. This leads to high speeds, wide crossings, and an unpleasant environment for all users. As the US Department for Transport (2013) point out: ‘Over-designing an intersection should be avoided due to negative impacts to all users associated with wider street crossings, the potential for speeding, land use impacts, and cost.’

Option 2: Signalised Junction

Option 2 is equally poor as Option 1 for many of the same reasons. Much of the provision is shared, contrary to local and national guidance, and the public sector equality duty. Few of the crossings are conducive to active travel or with desire lines. Again, there is no priority for cyclists across the minor Fringford Road.

Option 3: Unidirectional ‘Cyclops’ Style Roundabout

The Cyclops style junction is significantly better than the other options and is the only design likely to encourage the ambitious level of active travel that have been set as policy objectives in Bicester.

Much of the provision is segregated, which will support walking, cycling, and disabled users of both forms of transport.

One notable issue with the design is the unidirectional nature of the circulatory carriageway for cyclists. This inevitably leads to delay for both cyclists and motor vehicle users and thereby reduces capacity as cyclists will need to travel across more limbs of the junction than pedestrians. However, unidirectional movements are not an essential element of Cyclops style junctions. Bidirectional movements are possible on such junctions such as in the Netherlands, and one of the designers of the UK variant of Cyclops junctions Richard Butler, the Engineering Manager for Transport for Greater Manchester has confirmed that the Cyclops design supports bi-directional travel (personal correspondence, 2021). In the Netherlands, similar junctions support bi-directional cycle travel. One issue is managing the priorities at conflict points, but this could be achieved on a 4-arm intersection with 4 simple give way points (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Bidirectional Cyclops Design showing give way markings at points of potential conflict.

A more minor matter that could be included as part of the design development would be safe transitions from the highway onto the cycle path.

3. General comments on all options

The Bridleway between Banbury Road and Fringford Road should be made fully accessible as part of the scheme as it is within the Site Boundary (Board 6).  The bus stop on the east side of the B4100 north of the Toucan crossing needs to be linked to these active travel paths, it is currently on a grass verge inaccessible to most users.

4. References

Butler, Richard (2021) personal correspondence to BBUG

Department for Transport (2018), NTS0308: Average Number of Trips by Trip Length and Main Mode: England, July 2018

Department for Transport (2020), Local Transport Note 1/20

CROW (2017), Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic

Oxfordshire County Council (2020), Local Walking and Cycling Plan for Bicester

Oxfordshire County Council (2017), Cycle Design Standards

US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. (2013). Signalized Intersections Informational Guide (2nd Edition).