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“Actively unsafe” town centre bike lanes slammed by cycling campaigners

“They don’t protect people riding bikes and they confuse people driving cars. Cycle infrastructure should be for all ages and abilities”

Cycle lanes recently installed on a town centre street have been branded “pointless” and “actively unsafe” by local cycling campaigners and politicians.

Initially billed as “next-generation cycling infrastructure” by Oxfordshire County Council when consultation began on the project in January 2021, the bike lanes eventually installed on Corn Street in Witney as part of the market town’s “major cycle scheme” instead amounted to 1.3-metre-wide advisory lines of paint, situated next to car parking spaces on both sides of the road.

According to Cycling UK, “where cycle lanes are introduced, the absolute minimum width is 1.5 metres, but two metres is preferred and essential at higher speeds… Anything less than 1.5 metres (minimum) deprives cyclists of road space and encourages traffic to pass too close.”

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As the Witney Gazette reports, the dangers associated with the narrow, advisory lanes were raised at the town council during the summer, where it was claimed that time constraints during the consultation process, and the need to quickly spend the allocated active travel funds, had resulted in the questionable cycling infrastructure.

The council also claimed that the width of the lanes was agreed through consultation with Oxfordshire County Council’s Road Safety Team, who deemed 1.3 metres suitable to provide space for cyclists whilst also accommodating two-way traffic and parking spaces on the road.

It added that Corn Street now has a 20mph limit – introduced as part of the same scheme – and that traffic on the road is relatively low.

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However, the project and its divisive bike lanes have been widely panned by local politicians and active travel campaigners.

Kath Cochrane, founder of West Oxfordshire’s Windrush Bike Project, said of the Corn Street cycle lanes: “They don’t protect people riding bikes and they confuse people driving cars.

“Cycle infrastructure should be for all ages and abilities. The new 20mph speed limit, which is good for pedestrians and cyclists, should be more visible to drivers as well.”

“Corn Street is a narrow market town road with cars parked both sides and it’s my view that cycle lanes should not be used alongside parked cars,” local resident Robert Haydon told the Witney Gazette. “I cannot see any aspect on Corn Street that is safe for cycle lanes.”

Former Conservative county councillor and county cycling champion Suzanne Bartington also described the lanes as “actively unsafe” with “no evidence to support them – a real waste of public funds”.

One Facebook user added: “They are not fit for purpose, and actually make the road more dangerous. Get rid of them, NOW.”

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Responding to the criticisms, Oxfordshire County Council told the Witney Gazette that the lanes are part of a temporary trial and will be reviewed in conjunction with future improvements to Corn Street.

“Several other additional measures have been introduced as part of the trial to provide a safer space for cyclists,” a council spokesperson said.

“These include removing the centre line road marking, a 500mm buffer zone between the parking bays and adjacent cycle lanes in Corn Street, and cycle symbols laid across the mouth of each side road junction.”

The county council has also recently applied for funding from the Government’s Capability and Ambition Fund to develop plans for a permanent long-term scheme for Corn Street.

“In addition to this, the forthcoming Witney Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), due for consultation later in 2022, and the forthcoming Witney Area Travel Plan due 2023/24, will help develop a safe cycle network for Witney,” the spokesperson said.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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