Witney Active Travel Corridor

Oxfordshire County Council are consulting on a collection of measures to improve cycling and walking between Madley Park and Tower Hill. The consultation is open until February 11th.

Parts of the scheme are not what we were expecting, but to be honest it was never clear what the County had submitted in its bid. What we do know is that the bid to government for the Oxfordshire schemes was not entirely successful, however funding has been found via the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership to cover the shortfall. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the funding comes with a condition: “OxLEP have stipulated the Local Growth Funding needs to be spent or substantially committed by 31 March 2021, and as far as possible works completed. Whereas the DfT have stipulated consultation must commence before March 2021 and must be implemented by March 2022.”

With the detail design work yet to be finished, and less than 9 weeks rather than 13 months to do it, let alone implement it, we’re told any substantial changes to junctions are not possible. It sounds like an impossible task so perhaps there is some wriggle room within the accountant’s books, but modifying Fiveways roundabout to make on carriageway cycling safer is no longer part of this scheme.

This is a huge blow.

People whose journey includes Curbridge Road, Tower Hill (beyond the crossing leading to Smiths Estate), and Welch Way, will still have to cycle on the carriageway at Fiveways roundabout. Windrush Bike Project have personal experience of people being knocked off of their bikes at this roundabout – it is a known hazard.

If you have an experience to share about Fiveways roundabout we would like to hear it (admin at windrushbikeproject dot uk).

If this affects you and you want a junction at Fiveways which is safer to travel through we suggest you consider writing to your Councillor and perhaps to the Cabinet Member for Environment . Nobody seems to know why the County chose not to use any government funding in Witney given the negative impact it is having on the scheme. You can use our template letter here  if it helps.

On the plus side, there are a lot of positive measures in this scheme such as area wide 20mph speed limits, signage to improve wayfinding and improvements to cycle parking.

We are in favour of the proposed 20mph speed limits: the whole of Madley Park including Woodbank; Church Lane; Langdale Gate; Church Green and down to Station Lane including The Leys; Upper High Street; Welch Way from the High Street to Woodford Way; Corn Street and all its side roads. This is a good first step.

Counting back down through the County’s consultation markers, leaving Fiveways till the end, in at number sixteen we have:

16. Woodbank to Wood Green School Entrance:

The southern half of this section is very rough and needs improving to make it smooth to ride on up to where it meets the shared path leading to Cedar Drive. Barriers currently prevent access for larger cycles and mobility scooters to the shared path alongside Madley Brook and Springfield School leading to Cedar Drive. We suggest these barriers are removed.

Photo of barrier

15. Woodbank:

We suggest the barriers at the western end of Woodbank are rearranged so larger cycles and mobility scooters can pass without having to run on the grass. A gap of 1.5m would be ideal but 1.3m would suffice.

Picture of bollards14. Woodbank to footbridge over Madley Brook:

We support upgrading the path with lighting for shared use.

13. Park View Court to Woodbank (path to Madley Park):

We support resurfacing and upgrading path with lighting.

12. Courts Garden to Park View Court (path to Madley Park):

There is a significant hump that has appeared across the path alongside the allotments in this section and users would benefit from ‘smoothing’ this out. We support route lighting.

11. Oxford Hill to Courts Gardens (path to Madley Park):

The dogleg leading to the bridge across Madley Brook is difficult to negotiate. Negotiating the lip onto the bridge at such an acute angle has caused people to fall in wet conditions. Given that and the narrow gap leading to Oxford Hill it’s not clear why the track from Woodbank can’t be upgraded all the way to Oxford Hill to help reduce congestion along this section.

10. Oxford Hill junction with Church Lane:

We support upgrading the crossing.

9. Church Lane:

Nothing to add.

8. Langel Common from Witan Way to Church Lane:

This section of path already gets congested. We suggest increasing the width by at least 1m to make walking more relaxed. This includes widening the bridges when they reach the end of their service life.

Now we come to Witan Way roundabout which is another junction that can’t be changed in any significant way because of the restrictive timescale. The existing informal shared crossing is the only option available.

7. Witan Way Roundabout:

As well as widening and deepening the refuge island we suggest removing 4-5m of hedging next to the wall of the carpark and resurfacing it to create more space for people.

Also a cycling connection to the leisure centre is needed.

Because no significant changes can be made to the junction where Langdale Gate meets Witan Way we feel the arrangement where people cycle along Crown Lane should be allowed to continue as it has for decades.

In his book Witney History Tour, local historian Stanley C. Jenkins writes, “Until the untimely demise of the Crown Hotel, Crown Lane had provided a pedestrian link between Market Square, Langal Common and Cogges. The aperture between Keates’ shop and the Crown was exceedingly narrow, but the path was nevertheless well used by pedestrians and cyclists.”

The Crown Hotel was demolished in 1981 and Langdale Gate developed during the early ’80s.

6. Langdale Gate:

The cycle route should be signed along Crown Lane to avoid confusion about legality. It is a footpath with a history of use as a cycle route rather than a footway. We suggest the cycle route rejoins the carriageway at the entrance to Langdale Hall carpark – can the giveway lines be modified to keep it clear?

Although the pavement from the carpark to Market Square is wide, people walking and cycling are unsighted at the corner by the zebra crossing so we do not think that shared use is appropriate there.

It’s not clear how advisory cycle lanes will remain useful where there is currently a bus stop and disabled parking on the double yellow lines.

If used the width of advisory cycle lanes must meet the current standards given in LTN 1/20 to be inclusive.

There is a desire line for people crossing the road by the toilets. We suggest a zebra crossing here would help people to cross and help reduce speeds.

5. Market Square:

Nothing to add.

4. Corn Street (from Holloway Road to Market Square):

Subject to the views of residents in the Corn Street area we support the change to one-way except bus and cycle.

We support the zebra crossing by Marlborough Lane.

We are concerned that removing the build-outs will increase speeds with one-way traffic. If the build-outs are removed the bike parking in that section of Corn Street will be lost and needs replacing. Also a zebra crossing will be required at the Market Place end to allow people to cross there easily.

If the build-outs remain we suggest changing the current priorities so that buses and cycles going against the one-way flow have priority.

We are disappointed that there is not time to adequately investigate creating cycle tracks between Marlborough Lane and The Crofts and Holloway Road. The wide pavements are likely to be used for eating out and children attending Batts School would be more likely to use those tracks than an advisory cycle lane on the road.

We note that Corn Street has been closed to traffic at Market Square for the last week because of emergency sewer repairs. That should give residents a good idea of how making it one-way there will affect them.

3. Corn Street (from Five Ways roundabout to Holloway Road):

Advisory cycle lanes must meet the current standards given in LTN 1/20 to be inclusive. It is not clear how advisory cycle lanes will work with the bus stops.

Now we come to the crucial junction in this scheme, Fiveways roundabout.

The quickest and cheapest way to achieve a cycle route people will be happy to use is to reduce traffic to a tolerable level with point road closures. Adequate consultation aside, this has been proven during the first round of Emergency Active Travel schemes in many parts of the country.

Designing for cycling that is a mix of off-road and on-road with high volumes of traffic is complicated and difficult. And that takes time too.

We don’t have any detailed drawings for how this part of the route will look, only the descriptions which suggest that the existing crossings on Corn Street and Welch Way will be used. We have ridden the existing crossings and we are particularly concerned about the crossing on Corn Street. To keep things short the problem revolves around point A in this diagram.

Diagram of Fiveways roundabout and the western end of Corn Street.Cycling and walking differ in that walkers can turn around on the spot in a way which someone sat on a cycle cannot. Someone cycling from point A who wants to join the carriageway and continue along Corn Street cannot adequately see the traffic approaching from Welch Way because it’s approaching from behind them. A solution is to cycle along the pavement and rejoin at point B.

However, the same applies to someone who wants to continue along Ducklington Lane via the existing cycle path at point C.

We believe a solution is to move the crossing to a position where people can better see the traffic approaching when sat on a cycle facing the crossing. Moving the crossing means there is no longer room for a ‘refuge’ in the centre of the road so we suggest using a new type of zebra crossing that allows both cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road – a Parallel Crossing.

Diagram of a Parallel CrossingSince this is a scheme to prioritise active travel, we suggest, rather than dash to a ‘refuge’ on Welch Way, a Parallel Crossing should be installed there as well.

2. Five Ways roundabout:

The crossing on Corn Street is not suitable for cycling. The road layout and the position of the crossing mean people cycling are denied the information they need to decide if it is safe to cross. We suggest moving the crossing further from the roundabout and making it a Parallel Crossing.

We suggest improving the service to active travellers by installing a Parallel Crossing on Welch Way as well. Where possible make the approach to the crossings perpendicular to the road to improve visibility of approaching traffic.

LTN 1/20 section 10.4.12 states “Parallel crossings can be used on links and on the arms of priority-controlled and roundabout junctions.”

We suggest that the southern side of Corn Street near Fiveways is made shared use with a dropped kerb access to allow people cycling to avoid the buses parked in the bus stop awaiting a driver changeover.

1. Tower Hill:

We are concerned about how wide the pavement can be made approaching the crossing.

Cycling into town people have the choice to cycle on the road and rejoin the path at Beech Road, however, cycling uphill, with shopping, reaching the button at the far side of the stop and turning to cycle across could be a difficult manoeuvre for some.

The barriers alongside the cemetery leading to Fettiplace road need to be removed to allow access for larger cycles and mobility scooters.

Picture of barriers

One of the most positive parts of the scheme will the monitoring of travel, along with ‘activation’ initiatives to encourage people to use it. However, before we could encourage people to use all of it, we would have to be satisfied that it is objectively safe to do so.

Also the route needs to live up to its billing. Is creating some shared use pavements and widening some refuges in the middle of the road prioritising active travel? We think not.

We very much hope a way can be found to rectify the situation and get closer to the expectations of the people who the County want to use this route. Please respond to the consultation.

Extra resources:

Template letter to your local councillor: Witney Active Travel Edited

Consultation responses for your reference: Witney Active Travel Corridor Consultation Response Feb 2021

Cycling Between Witney and Carterton

Cycling between Witney and Carterton is often an unpleasant experience because no safe cycle route connects them. Whichever way you go involves a long section of busy road with motor vehicles travelling at 50mph or more. Is there a solution?

In its document detailing Local Transport Plan Area Strategies, the County Council have a ‘cycle premium route’ pencilled in along the B4477 from the roundabout at the northern end of Brize Norton to the A40 at the southern end of Minster Lovell – the pink line on the map.

This will likely be a shared path which will connect Brize and Carterton with: Minster Lovell, the Sustrans NCN57 route out along the Windrush Valley to Burford, and the cycle path into Witney. It is probably dependant on funding from the developer of the beige area on the map, and I’m not sure when it will be built, but I would guess it’s 2-3 years away at best.

There is another solution that could be implemented within weeks rather than years, and it’s been made possible by the building of the Downs Road – A40 roundabout. With the new junction there are now two parallel travel routes between Brize and Curbridge. By closing one to motorised traffic except for access it creates a direct, low traffic route for cycling at a very low cost.

One of the down sides is a longer journey time for motorised traffic, Google Maps says 4 minutes rather 3 minutes, which may affect the bus timetables, but to put that in context it’s minor compared to the future detour bikes will be expected to take via Minster Lovell when the ‘cycle premium route’ is built.

That’s not to say the route between Carterton/Brize and Minster Lovell isn’t required to connect them together and to the Windrush Valley, it’s just not the direct route that’s needed to make cycling between Witney and Carterton a realistic option for most people beyond leisure cycling.

This direct route between the centres of Witney and Carterton via Witney Road is 5.7 miles, compared to 6.7 miles via the future route through Minster Lovell, and because it lies on the S1/S2 bus route provides a realistic alternative to public transport during the current crisis for those who want to cycle.

If this were implemented it would also require the cycling infrastructure promised by the Windrush Place development to be built, to make the route from West Witney into the town centre safe for cycling.

Reopening Witney’s High Street

The changes to the town centre being introduced by the District Council this coming Monday are funded from a different pot of money to that paying for Oxfordshire’s Travel Recovery Plans.

The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund shares out £50m from the European Regional Development Fund to local authorities based on population. The scope of the funding includes “Temporary public realm changes to ensure that reopening of local economies can be managed successfully and safely.” The annex at the end of the document lists the allocation to each local authority:

Cherwell………………………… £133,843
Oxford…………………………… £134,950
South Oxfordshire…………… £125,160
Vale of White Horse…………. £121,938
West Oxfordshire…………….. £97,972

Although separate to Oxfordshire’s Travel Recovery Plans they will be complementary – the District has to liaise with the County to restrict access to a road and to suspend parking along it.

Not surprisingly, the changes being made by WODC are focused along the High Street and in particular where it joins Welch Way.

They differ from our proposals for the High Street, but that’s fine, there’s more than one way to maintain access while discouraging through traffic. The main differences are:

  • We proposed a road closure in Langdale Gate by the Buttercross – WODC have one in Welch Way (3).
  • We proposed a one-way restriction except buses and cycles in Corn Street and in the High Street at the junction with Witan Way – WODC have a two-way(?) restriction except buses, cycles and taxis in the High Street by the Buttercross (7).
  • We proposed shared use through Marriotts – WODC have ‘segregated footways’ which will likely make social distancing with people on bikes too difficult anyway. Incidently, one-way footways are being introduced in Oxford.
  • We had banned right turns into Woodford Way from Welch Way, and into Witan Way from the High Street – WODC have neither which means no cycle lane at the Witan Way lights heading out of town, but with the road closure (3) and traffic restriction (7) that may not be a problem.

20mph has been a long time coming, removing non-disabled parking along the High Street is welcome, and point 11 gives us hope that Corn Street will be shown some love: “Possible traffic restriction on Corn Street to allow additional space for pedestrians.”

Because these changes can be introduced very quickly, it follows that they can be refined quickly too, which is a good thing. Along with the changes being planned by the County this is a chance to experiment and find a healthier, cleaner compromise to all the competing claims on our public space. And for relatively little cost.

Let us know how you find the new layout.

Oxfordshire’s Travel Recovery Plans

Yesterday, Oxfordshire County Council submitted its bid for an initial £600,000 of funding:

“…to improve cycling infrastructure, parts of the roadwork network and footpaths as the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It’s part of a package of measures announced by the government on 9th May aimed at preventing gridlock because social distancing has reduced the capacity of public transport.

“Fast-tracked statutory guidance, published today and effective immediately, will tell councils to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. In towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only while others remain available for motorists. More side streets could be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access for vehicles.”

In the forward to the new guidance the Secretary of State for Transport says:

“The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel. I’m pleased to see that many authorities have already begun to do this, and I urge you all to consider how you can begin to make use of the tools in this guidance, to make sure you do what is necessary to ensure transport networks support recovery from the COVID-19 emergency and provide a lasting legacy of greener, safer transport.”

So what will that mean for Witney and West Oxfordshire? What could be introduced within a few weeks to give more space to people cycling and walking? Based on the government’s guidance we have put forward a package of significant changes for Witney that we believe will help people maintain the level of cycling and walking they’ve become accustomed to during the lockdown.

Arguably, the most constrained place in Witney for walking is the eastern end of Corn Street. With narrow pavements and two-way traffic flow it’s not possible to maintain social distancing safely. By making it one-way except for buses and cycles it creates some space to place cones so people can step into the road safely.

Closing the western end of Langdale Gate will help reduce traffic in this narrow section of Corn Street further. It will also reduce traffic in Langdale Gate and help reduce it in the southern end of the High Street, which apart from access, will be mostly a one-way flow of motor vehicles except for buses.

Fiveways roundabout at the western end of Corn Street is a major barrier to Cycling. The number of arms coupled with the width of the road means motor vehicles can traverse the roundabout at speed making it unpleasant, and dangerous, for people cycling there.

Closing Tower Hill and Curbridge Road to motor traffic will will make those Roads cycle friendly and reducing the amount of asphalt available around the roundabout with wands will reduce speeds. We’ve drawn up two versions, the one above with wands which reduce the time people cycling to and from Corn Street spend in the vehicle lane, and the simpler one below using cones around the centre to achieve the reduction in speed.

Restricting traffic entering the High Street from the junction with Witan Way reduces traffic in the High Street, and removing a section of parking at the narrowest point and banning the right turn frees up space for a cycle lane for people cycling out of town towards Bridge Street. It is currently impossible to safely pass queuing traffic in the afternoon and this will make cycling far more attractive there.

We’ve added cones where the pavement is at its narrowest and we believe there’s also space to permanently widen the pavement there in future. We’ll check on that.

That reduces the volume of traffic in the town centre while maintaining access to it and its car parks. Taking out more of the on street parking would help reduce it further and create more space for pedestrians, but disabled parking should remain.

There’s not a lot we can do with Bridge Street at the moment – there’s a reason it’s an Air Quality Management Area – but there is space for an outbound bus stop there which will be necessary for the changes we propose for Woodstock Road and Newland.

There just isn’t enough room for cycling and queuing traffic on Woodstock Road and Newland so we propose making sections of them one way except cycles where they meet Bridge Street. This would also reduce the amount of two way traffic along Oxford Hill and the rest of the Woodstock Road and create space for cycle lanes without centre lines.

The down side is that it means the S1, S2, S7 and 233 bus services are affected but without something signicant changing people who live on these roads won’t cycle and it won’t encourage people to go in and out of town via Bridge Street. Why is that important? Because the alternative routes across Woodford Mill and Langle Common are getting congested and it’s difficult to maintain social distancing.

Both those alternative routes have problems where they encounter roundabouts. There’s very little space for people on bikes and walkers where the path meets the roundabout on Witan Way. There is also no exit for people cycling towards Cogges from Langdale Gate. We propose formalising an exit/entry for cycles along with cones to reduce vehicle speeds.

Again, there’s no exit from the roundabout on Hailey Road for people cycling and wanting to access the Woodford Mill path. We propose moving the West End give way line.

We’ve proposed a few more road closures to motor traffic to make cycling in local neighbourhoods less scarey – Farmers Close is one which also helps reduce traffic on New Yatt Road where it meets Woodgreen. We’re also proposing that the many barriers in Witney be removed or eased for families, trike riders and mobility scooter users. And we’re proposing that some places where cycling is currently not allowed are made shared use, such as Marriott’s Walk which became a deadend for cycling when it opened in 2009.

As a package this would finally deliver a direct cross-town cycle route from Oxford Hill to the top of Deer Park Road, joining Sustrans’ NCN 57 with the A40 cycle path to Eynsham and Oxford. This should be signed along with the rest of the network when the second round of funding becomes available.

The other major change we have proposed is a direct cycle route between Witney and Carterton but we’ll cover that in a separate post.



We are recruiting…..

Would you like to join our award winning social enterprise?

We are recruiting a bike mechanic trainer to work 2 days per week teaching vulnerable young people and adults. We are looking for a competent bike mechanic, and an excellent communicator, with a passion for working with people from all walks of life.

If you would like to apply, please read the job description, and then send us your CV plus a covering letter stating why you feel you have the skills for the job.

Please send applications by email, or post to Windrush Bike Project, 152b Corn Street, Witney. OX28 6BY.

Closing date: Friday 24th January

Interviews week commencing: 3rd February


Got a Light Guv?

With the clocks going back this weekend now is the time to make sure you and your bike are prepared for winter. First thing to check is that you have a set of working lights. If not, we have a selection of front and rear lights to ensure you can see and be seen.

Over the past two months we’ve been testing what we believe to be the best affordable light we can get to illuminate your way in and around Witney and West Oxfordshire – the Union rechargeable LED headlight.

Our wish list:

  • Rechargeable
  • Powerful enough to be able to see your way on an unlit lane
  • Not too powerful so that it has a reasonable runtime
  • Does not blind people riding towards you
  • Solid handlebar mount
  • Battery low indicator
  • Less than £25

The Union Rechargeable LED Headlight:

  • Li-ion battery charged via a USB cable
  • Rated light output of 30 Lux on its highest setting with a runtime of more than 4 hours
  • Has a 50% setting to prolong battery life in urban areas
  • Optics designed to cut off the beam (like dipped headlights)
  • Mounting bracket fits all handlebars and adjusts horizontally as well as vertically
  • Red warning LED to say it’s time to recharge
  • £19 between now and Christmas or while stocks last

Our tests:

  • Continuous runtime on the 100% light output setting was 5h53m
  • Battery low indicator came on after 4h28m giving over an hour of warning
  • Bright enough to see the way across Woodford Mill meadow in the dark
  • Easy to slide on and off mounting bracket (make sure release clip is engaged when sliding it on)
  • Battery low indicator glows green when charging and turns off when fully charged

To extend the battery life we recommend using the 50% setting when that’s sufficient and not recharging until the red warning LED comes on.

Get ’em while stocks last!

Health Warning: As well as the 100% and 50% settings there is also a flash setting which we don’t recommend you use unless you’re trying to attract the attention of a mountain rescue crew. With more people cycling, flashing lights will become increasingly more iritating to other cyclists and can cause problems for some people with conditions such as autism.