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Oxfordshire cyclist calls for urgent safety improvements after crash on shared-use path along busy road

Safer cycling infrastructure along A40 from Witney to Oxford has been planned for nearly two years – but project delayed by funding issues

A cyclist from Oxfordshire is calling for urgent repairs to be made to a cycle path running alongside a busy road between Oxford and Witney after he was injured following a crash due to tree roots damaging the surface.

The crash, which left the cyclist with a dislocated shoulder and cuts and bruising, happened on a shared use path next to the A40, where improvements to facilities for cyclists and pedestrians have been promised for nearly two years but have been delayed due to funding issues.

Recounting the details of his crash, the injured rider told the Oxford Mail: “It was a sunnyish day and I knew that there was going to be a bump because I go along that cycle path quite frequently. To remember where the bumps are I count the path markings after the layby, but because I had overtaken someone the tree root just appeared up in front of me.

“I lost control of the bike. I went over the handlebars. I had my feet clipped in so there was nothing I could do to stop it. Fortunately an ambulance was passing and they saw me and stopped and they loaded my bike into the car.

“It was a back shoulder dislocation which is very rare because they are usually at the front but the impact was so strong. So I was sent to the John Radcliffe Hospital [in Oxford],” the cyclist continued.

The rider, who spent two weeks with his arm in a sling and needed to take time off work while recovering from his injuries, subsequently received a settlement from Oxfordshire County Council.

The cyclist returned to the scene of the crash later the same day and discovered that council workers had already repaired that, although the rider was far from impressed with the results, saying: “They put tarmac on top of it so it was now 10cms high. They actually raised the bump to four inches.”

He also pointed out that there are other parts of the path that present a danger to people on bikes.

“There are still many of these roots on the West Oxfordshire side closer to Eynsham roundabout,” he said. “I get punctures at least once per week and I always get my clothes ripped and get scratches from the overgrown hedges.

“There’s a bit of the path past Barnard Gate where there’s only one lane and there are overgrown bushes and a fallen down fence.

“It’s quite downhill and you pick up speed quite quickly and there’s a very, very narrow space and if anything comes you are bound to go right into the road.

“I can’t understand why they don't improve this cycle path when it’s one of the most congested routes into Oxford,” the cyclist added. “And they say they want to encourage active travel.”

Other local riders told the newspaper of their concerns about overgrown vegetation on the shared use path, overhanging branches, and cracks caused by weeds and tree roots.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council told the Oxford Mail: “This length of the A40 and other locations across the county are on a £1million programme of works to improve key footway and cycleways.

“This work will include vegetation cut backs, siding out (recovering to full width) and, where necessary, surface improvements.

“This programme of work is due to start this week,” the spokesperson added.

Home to more than 30,000 people, Witney is the largest town in West Oxfordshire, with its location 12 miles west of Oxford making it a popular place for people working in the city to live.

Many residents commute by bike into Oxford and use the path alongside the A40 as an alternative to taking the B4044 via Eynsham, where campaigners have called without success for safe cycling infrastructure for more than a decade now and where a cyclist was killed near Farmoor in 2019.

> Cyclist killed on Oxfordshire road where campaigners have battled for years to have a safe cycle path (+ video)

In December 2021, the government pledged £35 million as part of a £49.3 million project for improvements to the A40 between Oxford and Witney, with the planned works including the creation of a 3-metre wide shared use path for cyclists and pedestrians along the entire route, aimed at making active travel a more accessible choice for people living in the area.

Transport Minister Baroness Vere said at the time that besides increasing road capacity and improving public transport links, the “improved and safer infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians” would “enable more people to take up active travel as a healthier and more sustainable way to get around.”

Works were due to have been completed by the middle of next year, but the project has been plagued by delays due to what Oxfordshire County Council last month described as “global inflationary pressures.”

Upgrades to walking and cycling infrastructure along the route were discussed at a meeting of the council’s cabinet last month, and ahead of that Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said: “This investment in travel along the A40 is much needed. Our intention is to make it easier to access West Oxfordshire, and to make best use of the funds available to improve bus services and prioritise active travel.

“The new, improved cycle route will offer better and safer facilities for residents and visitors alike,” he added. 

 The council also outlined current proposals for active travel infrastructure in the A40 corridor and that would conform to the Department for Transport’s LTN 1/20 guidelines, including:

  • A continuous, upgraded shared-use path between Eynsham park & ride and Wolvercote on the south side of the A40
  • A continuous, upgraded shared-use path on the north side of the A40 between Eynsham  park & ride and Shores Green
  • Sections of upgraded shared-use path between Eynsham park & ride and Wolvercote
  • New signal-controlled crossings at points along the A40 corridor to support and prioritise local journeys by active travel.

It added that improved bus, cycling and pedestrian routes between the Wolvercote roundabout in the north of Oxford and the A34 flyover, around a quarter of a mile to the west towards Witney, are currently under construction.

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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Safety | 6 months ago

It annoys me when politicians and government spokesman say "were spending £xM to improve something". When in fact all they are doing is maintaining something at it's original design spec i.e. cutting back vegetation overhang. This should be BAU for any organisation and not a newsworthy announcement.

Who do they think they are fooling?

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