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A bridge too far? Oxford campaigners say Cycle City Ambition cash being "misspent"

Meanwhile, Cambridge Cycling Campaign welcomes funding - but says more needed

Oxford and Cambridge, which have the highest levels of cycling in the UK, have together been awarded £9 million in Cycle City Ambition funding this week. But cycling campaigners in Cambridge, which has been given £6 million, say more money is needed, while those in Oxford say the £3.3 million it is receiving is being “misspent” on “low priority stuff.”

In particular, they say a planned bridge across the Thames for pedestrians and cyclists, spanning the river south of the city centre, just below the university college boathouses, is not needed.

It will link the Abingdon Road and Iffley Road areas and also provide a route from east to west Oxford that avoids much of the city centre.

Currently, there is no way of crossing the river between Folly Bridge to the north and Donnington Bridge to the south, a distance of around a mile.

Other planned works include a smaller bridge at Oxpens, close to the city’s railway station, and improvements to the Thames Towpath.

David Nimmo Smith, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for transport, told the Oxford Mail: “It’s excellent news. There’s a lot of government funding around and we are delighted that our scheme has ticked all the boxes.

“It will go a long way to help sorting out joined-up cycling networks and provide a route from Iffley Road into the centre.”

But Simon Hunt, chair of cycling campaign group Cyclox, insisted the money could have been put to better use. “It’s not well spent at all, it’s very bizarre,” he said. I don’t understand how this has come about.

“It’s not how we would have spent £3 million, it’s pretty low priority stuff. That doesn’t mean we don’t welcome the funding but we think it’s been misspent.”

He continued: “We need a joined-up network of main routes in the city, along the Botley Road, the Woodstock Road and the Banbury Road – it’s common sense to all cyclists.

“With that £3 million they could have improved those main routes for existing cyclists and with semi-segregated routes in both directions it’s the sort of thing that would bring new cyclists to the roads.I doubt this scheme will generate many more cyclists.”

Mr Nimmo Smith said: “I’m aware some cycling lobbyists don’t think this is the best use of the money but it’s not the end of the story. There will be future allocations that we will be going for.

“We want to end up with joined-up cycle routes inside and outside the city to make it safer and easier for cyclists,” he added.

Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire County Council’s cycling champion, Noel Kavanagh, said that a decision on how to spend the £6 million it has been awarded in the latest wave of Cycle City Ambition funding would be taken at a meeting of the council’s economy and environment committee next Tuesday.

He said: “Proposals include a shared cycle route from Lode to Stow cum Quy as well as a £2 million investment in a route along the A10 from Cambridge to Foxton.

"This new release of money could also help partly fund the new proposed Abbey to Chesterton Bridge which forms part of the Chisholm Trail.

“Funding could also go to the next phases in cycle safety improvements along Huntingdon, Hills and Trumpington Roads as well as other cross city routes.”

In a statement, Cambridge Cycling Campaign said it welcomed the funding and the projects it was being spent on.

“The schemes being funded are all welcome in opening up transport choice and reducing congestion, benefitting all road users,” it said.

“We are looking forward to working with the hard-working officer team at the County to ensure that schemes genuinely reach continental standards, avoiding shared-use pavements for instance.

“However,” the statement continued, “we are concerned that investment to make cycling safer in the surrounding area remains low.

“Excellent schemes such as a cycleway in the A10 corridor, and various initiatives in the Ely area, for instance, need to be progressed, and we call upon the government to provide funding for the Greater Cambridge area also.”

Cambridge Cycling Campaign also called for an end to “stop-start” funding for cycling, saying that investment was “basically treated by the DfT as spare change found down the back of the sofa.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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anthonysjb | 9 years ago

In Oxford the major problem that seems to be consistently avoided is Cowley Road. The place is a minefield on a bicycle. It urgently needs attention and investment, however it is quite a narrow road already.

I think removing car parking spaces on the road and perhaps narrowing the pavement by about 1ft would allow a segregated cycle lane, which is urgently needed in my opinion. Been too close to being doored dozens of times.

Stumps | 9 years ago

robonabike - thanks for your insight mate, i appreciate that can only print what they are told and having someone with local knowledge clearly shows that are not being told the whole truth by the relevant authorities !

If, as you state, its right next to an already built cycle / pedestrian bridge then it is clearly not required which is a shame as people who dont cycle will say "what a waste of money".

robonabike replied to Stumps | 9 years ago

Not blaming at all, although the local press could be expected to distinguish their elbows from their fundaments.

The whole sorry mess is discussed on the message board of Cyclox (who had the scheme dumped on them at the last minute for approval, and who had the balls to refuse) here:

gwildar | 9 years ago

Oxford is a funny place. It has relatively high cycling levels but a vehemently anti-cycling County Council. The only thing they care about is driving to the drinks cabinet at County Hall, hence all the work to 'smooth' the traffic around the St Frideswide.

nielsamd replied to gwildar | 9 years ago

I'm guessing that the `county' influence in Oxford is greater than the corresponding deal in Cambridge where the surrounding area is less populated. Cambridge actually seems to do needed things for cyclists. The constant silly concern in Oxford is about motor traffic being able to `flow' when, in fact, the concern should be to produce viable alternates to car travel. But what newbie would feel encouraged to cycle in from an Oxford park and ride, let alone a nearby village, as things stand?

robonabike | 9 years ago

The Oxford part of this story is completely wrong (and suspiciously like the Oxford Times story which was completely wrong in exactly the same way).

The bridge near the boathouse (the main one mentioned in this story) hasn't got funding, isn't going to be built, was never going to be built, and even if it had, it wouldn't help anyone trying to go in or out of the City because it's not in a useful place.

The one that *has* got approval, and seems likely to be built, is only 150m from an existing decent pedestrian/cycle bridge, so is completely superfluous. An utter waste of 3 million quid.

Can we say "clusterf*ck"?

MattT53 replied to robonabike | 9 years ago

Where is this bridge being built, right next to Donnington bridge?

robonabike replied to MattT53 | 9 years ago

See my comment: It isn't being built. The one they *are* building is at Oxpens, next to the existing bike bridge.

No, me neither.

Simon_MacMichael replied to robonabike | 9 years ago
robonabike wrote:

The Oxford part of this story is completely wrong (and suspiciously like the Oxford Times story which was completely wrong in exactly the same way).

Well, yeah; we link it as a source. Well, Oxford Mail. Which is the daily version of the weekly Oxford Times, so same thing.

I'm local (ish) and used to live in Oxford so I follow what is happening there pretty closely, have to say as local authorities go, Oxford/Oxfordshire are not the most transparent about what is going on and ease of finding it on their websites.

Stumps | 9 years ago

correct there mate !

I think a pedestrian and cycle only bridge over what is our biggest river is a great idea rather than run the risk of getting creamed by some car or wagon by going through the city centre.

You've got to start somewhere and show that the money is being used properly, which in this case it sounds as though it is. Well done those involved  41

don simon fbpe | 9 years ago

You can please some of the people, all of the time.
You can please all of the people, some of the time.
But you ain't never going to please all of the people, all of the time.

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