Tag Archives: witney

Party Paradox

Hustings are hard to read. Even before the candidates open their mouths factors have already influenced the opinions about to be formed; every attendee arrives preprogrammed with a lifetime of preferences and biases, and in this case, just like the tv version, decisions about which candidates will participate have been made by the organisers.


Witney Hustings, Methodist Church, Monday 10 October

Then when the candidates do speak, their words are variously bolstered, dismissed and occasionally rejected by an audience with several partisan elements. Attempting to separate out the activists and party faithful to form an objective opinion about which candidate has been the most influential with the punter is itself subjective. But sometimes a moment stands out.

Continue reading

Connecting the Dots

EthanolFour years into Oxfordshire’s latest transport strategy and here we are embarking on another multi-stage consultation for Local Transport Plan 4. The official reasoning makes a case for it but can the goals and objectives of a strategy covering two decades really have changed so much that it warrants starting from scratch? We’ll be taking a look at the detail following tomorrow’s Connecting Oxfordshire meeting at 7pm in Henry Box School.

Connecting Oxfordshire conjures up the idea of places joined together, settlement to settlement, Carterton to Witney, Witney to Oxford, but that’s only one level of local transport. The hyperlocal is at least as important – how we move around within settlements – and it’s the one we consistently fail to make more efficient, pleasant and healthy. Travelling along better local transport links is one part of the solution, not having to sit in 15 minutes of congestion at either end is the other.

The only major road project during four years of LTP3 to be planned, signed-off and (soon to be) built in Witney is the Ducklington Lane junction improvement. It started out with a £2 million budget and a brief to future proof it for a predicted 2030 level of motorised traffic. When the engineering contractor Atkins ran the junction through its capacity modelling software ‘computer said no’; it didn’t have enough lanes for stacking. That’s a technical term for temporarily parking vehicles at a junction so a queue doesn’t back up so far that it adversely effects the next junction upstream.


(Edited to update diagram to Option 4 in Annex 5)

What to do? Quite a large area around the junction is deemed highway land and during a site visit Atkins’ engineer noticed the B&Q corner “doesn’t go anywhere” (the business park being hidden behind a very large hedge) so no crossings or pavement to it would be required. That was a boon to a modeller of motor traffic because it meant:

  • the pavement removal would give more space for traffic lanes,
  • more time could be retained for traffic movements.

Stacking traffic is only part of the equation for a signalised junction, there also needs to be a enough time available to clear the stack during each light sequence so a growing remainder doesn’t back up over time. Adding a proper Toucan crossing to reach B&Q would scupper the junction’s maximum capacity in the traffic model.


Despite bikes being regularly parked at B&Q, and people beating paths through the bushes to it, the traffic counts showed low numbers of people walking and cycling on the western arm of the junction, supporting the removal of the pavement along with the potential to cross there. If you’ve tried it you’ll know why; it’s relatively risky and far from pleasant. It’s so unpleasant and off-putting in fact, a sympathetic observer might conclude that the people counts ought to be multiplied by a factor of about 100 to take that into account. Traffic models can’t empathise neither can they model people walking or cycling.

During the consultation bike users requested better access which resulted in a 2m shared path along Thorney Leys to an informal pedestrian crossing, with a refuge, to Thorney Leys Business Park. Oxfordshire County Council could not provide an official, safe and convenient bike route for the employees and visitors to B&Q and the rest of the businesses there. ‘Encouraging’ people to cycle and relieve congestion doesn’t yet stretch to giving them a place to do it.

I don’t think we’ll get another chance to put that right for a very long time and this corner of Witney will continue to be cut off from the bike network for now, and will remain so when the junction eventually starts to operate at its designed capacity in the late 2020s. All that tarmac poured, rolled and marked out, sat there through rain and shine, developing potholes, waiting for that day. Does that sound innovative to you?

So perhaps Ian Hudspeth, the architect of Connecting Oxfordshire, is right, the Local Transport Plan does need a revamp from the top down. I’m not so sure. Cycling and walking were high priorities for all settlement types in LTP3, including Witney, but that had no influence when it came to providing people with a safe and convenient option to cycle to Thorney Leys Business Park. Not considering walking and cycling until after the road layout for the junction was complete was a failure to plan for walking and cycling; good policy made no difference to an old process.

Come along tomorrow and ask Ian how he’s going to fix that for short journeys at the hyperlocal level, as well as for the local transport links to and from Witney.

What About Us?

NewInvestmentInCyclingUpTo2015Our Dave appeared to be promising us new cricket pitches for fracking this week – if we want them – but was far less generous with his announcement of cash for cycling. The nearest it gets to us is Oxford; precisely where OCC currently spends most of the county’s minuscule bike budget.

The new investment is being focussed, which is good, otherwise the (very approximately) £150 million over two years would be spread so thinly it wouldn’t stretch to an innertube each.

Continue reading

I Like The Way I Bike

Back CameraSmack bang in the middle of the year already and the festival of all things bike is upon us.

If we’re lucky and the weather doesn’t then I’m afraid to say there are still a few people out there who might try and rain on your parade. They’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong, not wearing the right stuff, sometimes they’ll even single you out as a potential lawbreaker that needs a friendly talking to about the heinous acts you’re going to commit. My advice is ring your bell, smile sweetly and give them a wide berth, we’ve no time for killjoys in Bike Week.

Wear your favourite outfit and ride your favourite bike; summertime is the perfect time to demonstrate riding a bike is as normal as walking the dog or driving the car. If you feel more secure upon your steed sporting hi-viz and a helmet then be our guest – we’re not the fashion police!

A serious note though. If you’d like to ride a bike but don’t, would like to ride with your family but don’t, have a child or grandchild that’s just itching to ride to school but can’t, then please consider joining WitneyBUG and telling us all about it. For an infinitely-valuable-non-time-limited-one-off-fee of £5 our bicycle user group also works on behalf of potential bike users, like you, to make riding a bike as easy as riding a bike, even in Witney. Oh, and sign this (trust me, it’s not just about ‘cyclists’).

Bike Week kicks off on Church Green in front of St Mary’s Church at 10am this Saturday with a gentle, family friendly, Potter to the Pottery.

We have an Infrastructure Safari on the following Saturday where we look at the good, the bad and the just plain awful places our local authorities would like us to ride our bikes in order to shore up the capacity of Witney’s increasingly congested roads.

If you fancy going further afield you’ll find some lovely themed rides in Oxford as well – the cycle path along the A40 takes you all the way there and a coffee stop in Summertown and/or Eynsham is a pleasant way to break up the journey.

Throughout Bike Week it’ll be 2 for 1 entry to Cogges for everyone arriving by bike and we’ll be finishing up with a ride there on Sunday 23rd. That’ll mark the end of Bike Week for another year but we’ll be carrying on with regular meetings and rides at Cogges.

Enjoy the week. And remember – it’s not a crime…

Using a Bike for Short Journeys – Part 1

SafetyBicycleConvenience. That’s the key.

It’s convenience, or rather the lack of it, that explains why someone who regularly does a 60 mile ride at the weekend, or commutes 15 miles each way to work all week, will choose to jump in the car to pop into town. Sounds absurd on the face it, surely a journey of 1 or 2 miles is easier than slogging your way over the Cotswolds? And of course it is, if you ignore all the phaffing around that goes with it.

This from the most recent research into using a bike in the UK, Understanding Walking and Cycling

“It is often assumed that short trips could easily be made by bicycle or on foot (e.g., DfT, 2011 pg 5), and the statistics suggest that there are many short trips that could be converted. According to the National Travel Survey (2010) 36.1% of trips under 2 miles and 53.0% of journeys under 5 miles are undertaken by car, with walking accounting for 23.4% of all trips and cycling only 1.5% of all journeys.”

It’s not just distance that differentiates short local journeys from long fast clubruns; one is all about the ride while the other is about the purpose. More than about 5 miles and the time spent on the bike begins to dominate, less than 5 miles, or about half an hour, and it’ll be what you do when you get there that counts. You’re no more likely to clip clop into a restaurant in a pair of budgie smugglers and a shirt colourfully advertising a bank in foreign climes than you are to turn up at the start of a club run in a suit and tie. For a town like Witney it’s a mere 10 minutes from the outskirts to the centre – hardly worth getting changed for.

There are exceptions at either end of the cycling community. I have friends who virtually live in lycra and go everywhere by bike, and equally I occasionally nod to old guys in woollen blazers and brogues riding miles from anywhere, but valued members as they are of that risible 1.5% of journeys undertaken by bike, they’re the bookends of a missing bell-curve that could and should be mass cycling in the UK.

More from Understanding Walking and Cycling

“For instance in Sweden and Finland 9% of all trips are by bicycle, in Germany 10%, in Denmark 18% and in the Netherlands 26% (Pucher and Buehler, 2010). The research reported here suggests that assuming trips (in the UK) could be undertaken by bike or on foot just because they are short is a rather simplistic approach that fails to fully understand the nature of the problem.”

When I go to the Netherlands and look at the people riding bikes there, just focussing on the people and their bikes rather than the environment they’re riding them in, I see the occasional helmeted roadie on a carbon framed racer, the rarer off-roader on a fully suspended MTB, but obscuring these are masses of people riding relatively heavy machines wearing nothing you’d find between the covers of Cycling Plus.

When it rains I see umbrellas. I’ve tried using an umbrella and it’s not easy in a forward leaning position. Sit upright though and controlling the bike one handed isn’t a problem. In fact everything seems to just work on an upright. Sure you can splash out on a Brompton jacket with darts in the back giving enough room to stretch into an aero position, but that kind of negates having a whole wardrobe to choose from when going out.

Has the technology revolution in bike design made the short journey any easier? Does a 20% weight saving give any significant advantage on a 10 minute journey? Is the electronic derailleur mech going to make my trip to the cinema any better?

Seems to me everything that makes using a bike for short journeys more comfortable and convenient was sorted out before the outbreak of the Great War. Hub gears, mudguards, chain guards, skirt guards, comfortable steel frames, the wicker basket. While since then every technological advance to make going further, faster easier has made the short journey more uncomfortable and inconvenient.

The people using bikes in the Netherlands that give cycling a legitimate voice aren’t ‘keen cyclists’ or ‘cycle enthusiasts’, they do it because it’s been organised in such a way that it’s convenient. As our mega-fit mile-eater we started out with demonstrates, promoting ‘cycling’ doesn’t make using a bike convenient and is doing little to resolve the short journey conumdrum in the UK.

I’m glad to say it’s not a secret here. Not everyone’s conforming to what is ‘normal for the UK’. Our arty bike stands at the back of the Woolgate have a steady stream of snappily dressed bike users coming and going with their shopping. Mostly women. Even more in Oxford ignore the advice of cycling experts and are discovering for themselves what works, or just carrying on a tradition that hasn’t died out yet. They’re the ones doing most to promote the bike’s supremacy for the short journey.

I read the other day that the classic dutch bike is based on the british roadster. Oh Raleigh. Where did it all go wrong?

[UaBfSJ Part 2]

Like a wheel within a wheel

Dutch style roundabout test TfL

Transport Research Laboratory, Bracknell, England, 2013.

Bikes. Transport. Research. England. For the details check out the BBC report.

That’s bikes and transport. Not bikes and sport, or bikes and leisure, or bikes and recreation, or bikes and charity rides, but bikes with a place, and a space, in the transport network.

Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine sailing around Five Ways Roundabout in Witney, or anywhere else you might be trying to ride a bike, without having to mix with the cars, vans, busses, and lorries that are focussed on every other vehicle rather than you. Feeling relaxed? You can open them now.

What’s significant about this is that someone, somewhere, is taking responsibility for the safety of people on bikes. And it’s not just about bikes. Someone, somewhere, is also thinking about taking the stress out of driving around people on bikes.

Which is marvellous, because people can get on with riding their bikes without worrying about how dangerous it might be, or leave the house without worrying about crushing a loved one.

I wonder who’s responsible for the safety of people using bikes in Witney? They must be thrilled too.

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
The modern era of the bike
Continues on apace
Like the circles that you find
Riding rings around your mind

Wheels for All – Witney

Following on from the Wheels for All day in Cutteslowe Park, Oxford, Cycling Projects brought their bikes to Queens Dyke School in Witney for a taster session run together with volunteers from Witney Mountain Bike Club and Witney’s Bicycle User Group.

For those that couldn’t make it Steve and Luke produced this short video of the bikes being used on the day.

Along with Wheels for All in Oxford, and the Oxfordshire Sports Partnership, the next steps are to find a more suitable venue and plan regular sessions beginning in Spring 2012.

Sign Of The Times

FiveWaysCyclistsDismountSome twenty years ago Cyclists Dismount signs appeared on every approach to Five Ways roundabout. It was never made clear how someone travelling by bike ought to negotiate the roundabout, and despite complaints at the time and in the intervening years they remained in place.

For cycles to be taken seriously as a form of transport, WitneyBUG concluded that we really had to wipe the slate clean and get these advisory signs removed. It was that or have the DfT introduce an advisory “Drivers Alight” sign. Silly? Of course it is.

Continue reading

Cycle Sculpture


Voted at the last BUG meeting to be the single most significant contribution to cycling in Witney this year, the new cycle parking at the Woolgate is a big hit with bicycle users visiting the centre.

Not just because of the upgrade to ‘proper’ cycle stands, nor simply because of the increase in parking capacity, but also because it looks and feels like we really do give a damn about cycling in Witney.

Continue reading

And They’re Off!


Bike Week 2010 got off to a popular start on Church Green this morning with a ride to Aston Pottery. Members of Witney Mountain Bike Club, CTC Witney, WitneyBUG, Velo Specialist Cycles and others gathered at the start to hear the Deputy Mayor officially open Bike Week in Witney.

Describing himself as an occasional cyclist, Councillor Harry Eaglestone wished 30+ cyclists “an enjoyable week of events promoting everyday cycling for everyone”.

Today also marks the official release of the Witney Cycle Map, unfurled here for the first time by the Deputy Mayor and the well drilled Mountain Bike Club.

A joint collaboration between WitneyBUG and West Oxon District Council, the map is one in a series of projects to provide bicycle users with the information and the infrastructure they need.

Witney’s Bike Week Events continue throughout the week including an exhibition in Witney Library.