Cycling in Yorkshire & Beyond

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Oxfordshire Active Travel Strategy

Graphic from Oxfordshire's ATS
Graphic from Oxfordshire’s ATS

Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) has produced an Active Travel Strategy (ATS) to support its Local Transport and Connectivity Plan. There’s lots of good stuff in the ATS, some of which is highlighted here.

The Summary describes the ATS as a ‘roadmap for mainstreaming walking and cycling’. OCC wants to make active travel the safe, convenient and obvious transport choice.

The rest of the document is:

  1. Foreword and Introduction
  2. Vision and Targets
  3. Priorities and
  4. Actions

1) Foreword and Introduction

OCC’s administration set out nine priorities when it took power in 2021. They include:

  • improving public health
  • addressing the climate emergency and
  • delivering sustainable transport

In the Foreword, Active Travel Champion Councillor Dan Levy says that active travel is an integral part of delivering the priorities. This will mean investing in facilities to prioritise walking and cycling, and embedding active travel in new developments.

The Introduction says that walking, wheeling and cycling will be central to the vision for travel set out in the LTCP.

It identifies that traffic management techniques are integral to successfully promoting walking and cycling. These techniques include:

  • speed reduction
  • parking management and
  • Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

2) Vision and Targets

OCC's Vision for Cycling
OCC’s Vision for Cycling

The ATS has a Vision for Walking and a Vision for Cycling (above). OCC want Oxford to become a world-class cycling city.

There is an overall target for the number of cycling trips per week in the county to increase from 600,000 to 1 million by 2031. There are also targets for specific areas within Oxfordshire.

3) Priorities

OCC’s aim is to create ‘a culture where active travel is the natural way of moving around’.

It recognises that an increase in walking and cycling:

‘…depends on a number of key policies and practices working together – a jigsaw where all policies and practices work together to complete the picture’.

priorities section of the ats

The council has identified five key priorities:

  • Commitment and governance
  • Walkable communities
  • Inclusive cycle networks
  • Managing motor traffic and
  • Building the cultural norm

a) Commitment and Governance

‘The actions that local authorities take are key to whether active travel is successfully supported and increased. The evidence is that where a council is serious about walking and cycling, and willing to take bold decisions to promote sustainable transport and manage car use over a timeframe of around 10 years, an increase in walking and cycling will result’.

commitment and governance priority

OCC talks about ‘mainstreaming active travel within the council’. This means making it central to council policies, funding decisions, scheme design and implementation.

As part of this, the council has created a dedicated active travel policy team, and generally increased the number of officers focused on active travel. It also has a Councillor who is Cycling Champion.

The ATS contains a very interesting and useful Commitment to Active Travel scale in table form. It focuses on cycling.

Commitment to Active Travel scale, cycling
Commitment to Active Travel scale, cycling

One key point is that depending on the council’s commitment and the measures it takes, different outcomes and mode shares can be expected.

The ATS says that working with walking and cycling groups has great benefits, and that they should be brought into discussions at an early stage.

‘All of these groups can help to identify new routes, suggest improvements, critique designs and publicise surveys and new routes. A good working relationship with local stakeholders brings many benefits to both sides’.

benefits of working with walking and cycling groups

b) Walkable Communities

In terms of walking, the document identifies:

  • low levels of physical activity in deprived areas and among residents with health problems and older people, and
  • gaps in the walking environment in villages

Some of the areas of focus are:

  • 20 minute neighbourhoods, where key facilities are within a short travel time of where people live
  • walking in towns where there is typically a comprehensive network of pavements, but there may be obstructions such as poles, utilities and pavement parking
  • Quality Pedestrian Corridors, which should be wide enough and have priority over side roads and adequate shade and places to sit
  • good conditions for pedestrians in town centres
  • improved pedestrian access to rail stations, retail and business parks, supermarkets and other key destinations
  • villages and the rural network
  • minimising delay and diversion at crossings of main roads, with zebra crossings the default option in urban areas
  • extending footways across side roads, setting Give Way lines behind the footway, and tightening kerb radii
  • supporting enforcement against pavement parking

c) Inclusive Cycle Networks

The ATS identifies a ‘travel gap’ of trips between 1 and 5 miles in length – a distance which is ideal for cycling, but is mostly filled by car travel.

To change that, OCC wants to develop comprehensive, inclusive and attractive cycling networks.

Cycles can be used as mobility aids, and therefore all cycle routes should be inclusive, i.e. accessible to most types of cycle. Barriers should leave a clear space of 1.5m

Oxfordshire’s design standards are to be updated to include the five Core Design Principles from LTN 1/20.

Network prioritisation is crucial to achieving targets. OCC’s approach is to prioritise network improvements to a ‘good enough’ standard, rather than building individual sections to a very high standard. This should enable a complete cycle network to be created in a shorter time and at a lower cost.

A high-quality and dense cycle network is needed in urban areas, so that every neighbourhood is linked to the town centre and other key destinations.

Cycle streets, with low volumes of motor vehicles travelling at low speeds, are part of a cycle network. Modal filters and other design features will be used to create them.

The Strategic Active Travel Network (SATN) is another interesting concept. This is a network of routes primarily for utility cycling from villages to towns, employment centres and public transport connections.

As part of the SATN, modal filters could be used on minor roads to stop unsuitable rat-running.

There needs to be cycle parking at home locations and destinations, and guidance will be developed.

Maintenance of cycle routes is needed, and road maintenance can be an opportunity to improve on-road cycle routes.

d) Managing Motor Traffic

‘To promote cycling, it is essential that cycling is given a realistic competitive advantage over car use…The policy behind this strategy is for a fairer distribution of benefits, so that cycling replaces the car as the usual way of linking residents to urban facilities – such as shopping, visiting town centres, seeing friends and such like.

There are strong and compelling reasons why it is necessary that individuals must change travel behaviour, but on the positive side, the evidence is also that such changes will ultimately and increasingly be beneficial to everyone’.

managing motor traffic

The ATS lists the disadvantages of not managing motor traffic – among them obesity, congestion, traffic casualties, traffic noise and greenhouse gas emissions.

There is another Commitment to Active Travel scale, this one focused on managing motor traffic.

Commitment to Active Travel scale, managing motor traffic
Commitment to Active Travel scale, managing motor traffic

LTNs will be part of managing motor traffic. They give cycling an advantage over driving by making cycle trips more direct and quicker.

Other elements of managing motor traffic include 20mph limits and reducing and restricting car parking.

e) Building the Cultural Norm

The ATS discusses how to increase cycle trips. It concludes that encouraging existing cyclists to make more trips is very important to meeting targets.

For those who do not already cycle, providing good routes may not be enough to get them on bikes. ‘Cycling activation measures’ may be needed. This means working with local community groups, creating cycle network maps, opening bike libraries, and more.

It is about overcoming social norms which say that cycling is not an acceptable mode of travel for some, and that cyclists are an ‘out’ group whereas car users are ‘in’.

There can be triggers for a change in behaviour, for example moving house.

OCC intends to work to encourage more children to cycle to school, with measures such as LTNs and School Streets.

4) Actions

The ATS contains 79 actions, and I won’t list them all. They come under the following headings:

  1. Council transformation
  2. Collaboration and engagement
  3. Data
  4. Design guidance
  5. Network development, including LCWIPs and a pipeline of schemes, and a list of potential greenways
  6. Traffic management
  7. Maintenance and road operations
  8. Accessiblity and public realm (including removing access control barriers)
  9. Cycle parking
  10. Shared micro-mobility
  11. Activation and outreach
  12. Travel information
  13. Road safety
Oxfordshire Active Travel Strategy

2 thoughts on “Oxfordshire Active Travel Strategy

  • 1 February 2024 at 12:01 pm

    This is amazing. I love the Commitment to Active Travel scales. These could be useful to North Yorkshire in their future transport planning.

    • 1 February 2024 at 12:14 pm

      Yes the CAT scales are great.

      If North Yorkshire would engage with the scales, it might give them an accurate picture of their current attitude to active travel.

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