Northern Gateway

To the north of Oxford, there is a complicated and congested set of junctions where roads from several directions meet the ring road. The City Council has identified some of the land in this area as suitable for development, but this would be likely to make the situation worse.

The queues coming from the west (the A40) in the morning are particularly notorious. The A40 brings traffic from Witney, which has seen large-scale housing growth, but has limited public transport (principally buses which get stuck in the traffic). The conventional approach would be to make all the junctions bigger, with traffic lights controlling entry to the roundabouts. The lights would also allow for multi-stage pedestrian/cycle crossings.

While these junction schemes tend to improve traffic flow in the short term, they don’t solve any of the underlying problems. They give no advantage to public transport, and the crossings are too slow to promote cycling. So, if anything, they tend to encourage more traffic.

Instead, we should use these opportunities to think laterally. How can we organise the traffic so that public transport has an advantage? Can we simplify junctions to make them more cycle-friendly? Can the traffic be concentrated so that it feeds a Park & Ride service? Can we create space for liveable housing developments that aren’t cut off by major roads?

My suggestion would be to divert the A40 to Peartree roundabout, with the existing road kept for buses only. This gives a significant advantage to public transport. For people coming from places that aren’t directly served by public transport, the Peartree route will give them easier access to the Park & Ride. In due course, I’d also like to see a railway station at Peartree.

Diverting the A40 to Peartree would allow Wolvercote roundabout to be simplified. There would only be one main flow (from Peartree to the northern bypass), so this could have lanes through the middle of the roundabout, with the rest of the roundabout made slow. This would allow the land beyond the roundabout to be properly integrated with the rest of Oxford, making it much more suitable for housing development.

With all turning movements catered for at Wolvercote roundabout, the simplest solution at Cutteslowe roundabout – a much more confined site – would be to make it a crossroads with all turning moves banned. This will reconnect Cutteslowe (and Kidlington) to Oxford.

Given the car-based lifestyles of much of the population outside the city, it’s probably inevitable that there are large roads on the edge of the city. But the traffic can be organised so that it does not form an impenetrable barrier, and does not get in the way of good public transport into the city.

Original imagery from Google Maps.

Driving Short Distances

The census data on journey-to-work can be used to analyse where and how people are travelling, based on where they live and work. This gives some important indications of where different modes are effective, and where they could be, with some support.

This data isn’t generally available, and I’ve had to piece together the Oxford story from a number of sources. Most of the data is from 2001, which therefore doesn’t reflect some major changes in Headington. But it does give a broad indication of the issues. 2011 data should be available later this year.

High-level numbers (rounded)

Oxford’s congestion problem is the result of too many people driving. People who drive out of Oxford are probably less of a problem – their journeys don’t tend to concentrate on key destinations, or at key times. The people who drive in from outside generally travel further overall than those who just drive inside the city, but in terms of congestion, their impact is similar. The number driving from outside is roughly double that from inside, but both are substantial. The total number of drivers is about 40000.

The driving figures include about 3000 drivers, mostly from the rest of Oxfordshire (or further afield), who use Park & Ride. Oxford’s Park & Ride system is large, and makes a significant difference, particularly for journeys to the centre. But it still only intercepts about 10% of incoming drivers.

We can also see where and how people travel to the main employment areas (the centre, Headington and the Cowley works area).

City Centre

Few people drive to the centre – forty years of parking control have had the desired effect – but driving has not been entirely eliminated. It’s noticeable that the highest source of driving from within the city is the area around the car works (Cowley), despite a bus share of over 50%.

For half the city, the bus is clearly dominant for journeys to the centre (not as dominant as rail in London, but close). Cycling isn’t ever quite as dominant, but there are some ward-to-ward modal splits in excess of 50%, especially where there is no direct bus service. Cycling modal splits in the 20-40% range are quite common.
Buses already have substantial bus priority on many routes, particularly from Headington/Cowley (by virtue of the High St closure) and from the north (bus lanes). So there’s a limit to what more can be achieved by improving bus quality.

Parking is slowly being reduced, as businesses decide that land can be released for building. But there’s also probably an opportunity to improve the quality of the walking and cycling environment. Walking and cycling are already dominant from the inner wards, and offer the best opportunity to reduce driving further. Cycling is a substantial mode from Headington and Cowley (despite the hill), and there may well be opportunities to provide a clearer, more joined-up network for cycle commuting, relatively easily.

Headington

The next biggest employment destination is Headington (principally two hospitals). The situation will have changed since 2001 – there has been significant hospital expansion, new bus services, and stricter parking control. However, the different modal splits are illuminating. A large proportion of commuting is within the Headington area. Quite a lot of people are driving short distances. The other big origin wards in the city, particularly for driving, are the wards around the car works. And there is a lot driving from outside the city.

So in terms of policy, it looks like the top target would be shifting from car to walk/cycle from the immediately surrounding area. This makes a policy of restricting parking permits based on residential location look very sound (and indeed, that’s what has happened).

But do the alternatives need to be improved as well? The main reason for improving the alternatives is to make parking restrictions more palatable. In practice there has been little improvement for walking and cycling, with most of the improvements directed towards bus users. Two new bus-only access roads were built, Park & Ride sites have been expanded, and new direct bus services provided. Some of the buses are still prone to congestion, and it’s hard to provide a service to a dispersed market. So it would be better to improve conditions for cycling in parallel. Cycling is more effective as an alternative for the inner wards, and just as likely to be effective from the Cowley area.

Cowley

The third big employment destination is the area around the car works (partly still a car works, but with other similar employers and a couple of business parks as well). Again, a large number live locally, and despite a substantial level of cycling, a lot drive. Bus is almost irrelevant. There is very little parking control. Again, the most immediate opportunity is shifting from car to walk/cycle from the immediately surrounding area.

But how is this to be achieved without parking control? It will probably require cycle facilities that are more attractive than the Oxford norm, but perhaps more importantly, a substantial cultural shift (more positive about cycling, less accepting of the need to provide parking for short-distance commuters). Fortunately, there are some pretty good cycle tracks along the ring road (it’s how people got to the works before they owned cars), but the tracks need to connect up better. The useful bits of main road need to be made cycle-friendly as well, so that people feel that they can easily go everywhere.

Can buses (or other public transport) play a significant role for travel between suburbs (eg from Headington to Cowley)? Public transport is only likely to be really effective if there’s parking restraint. The ring road provides a fast route between the suburbs, so it’s almost impossible for public transport to provide a comparable service. So the focus has to be on dealing with local journeys first, where it is much easier for the alternatives to be comparable.

Congested City Centre Approaches

Even though the proportion of drivers to the centre is fairly low, there is still congestion on Botley Road, Abingdon Road and through the science area, with Botley Road being the worst. The data allows us to look at who is probably driving on Botley Road, and what alternatives to driving are most likely to be acceptable.

Botley Road carries about 1000 cars in the peak hour in the peak direction. Some journeys to work will be outside the peak hour, but clearly the census journey-to-work data gives a good indication of the origins and destinations of a lot of the peak traffic.

Journeys to the centre are the largest source of driving, despite a comprehensive bus service. But note that about 500 of these drivers use Park&Ride. Driving to the rest of the inner wards (Jericho & Osney, Other Inner (St Clements etc) and North Ward) is also substantial. For these areas around the centre it is noticeable that bus use is markedly lower than to the centre, partly due to the availability of parking (especially on Osney Mead industrial estate), but also partly due to the difficulty of interchanging between buses in central Oxford.

For the shorter journeys, cycling is a substantial mode, and often as important as the bus. While the cycle lanes along much of Botley Road are clearly valuable, the gap under the railway bridge, the problematic side roads further out, and the fairly poor conditions through Frideswide Square could all be keeping people driving.

Bus use from Botley/Cumnor to the centre isn’t as high as many of Oxford’s outer wards, and cycling is higher – it’s more like Wolvercote than Cowley. Given the hill, that is a little surprising, but reflects the different demography, and the lack of clear high-frequency bus routes. The bus service is divided between four routes (one of which has two operators). Some rationalisation of services may be required, perhaps incorporating a new link between Elms Rise and Harcourt Hill.

The lower level of bus use, and the inherent poor competitiveness when coming from any distance, makes it hard to make a case for further bus priority. Bus priority could be enhanced by holding back traffic at Binsey Lane, or by removing the turning lanes and installing an outbound bus lane. Buses are certainly being severely delayed by congestion. But because many drivers come from too far away, there aren’t likely to be enough switchers to make queue relocation or a reduction in car capacity feasible. It is probably more sensible in the short term to improve the quality of provision for cycling, to rationalise and coordinate the bus services, and to improve city-centre interchange.

General Lessons

While this has looked specifically at Oxford in 2001, in the context of a long policy of parking restraint, there are some general lessons to be drawn. A lot of people drive quite short distances, and in many cases the most likely alternative to driving will be cycling. Buses work particularly well from outer council estates to the centre, especially when supported by parking restraint and bus priority, but are less effective from between-the-wars estates, or from towns outside the immediate urban area.

Tackling Congestion in Oxford

The most effective policies for tackling congestion in Oxford are likely to be a mixture of parking restraint, providing a more cohesive network of cycle routes, particularly in the suburbs, and improving bus interchange in the city centre.

To Squeeze or Not To Squeeze

Botley Road under the rail bridge is only 8.05m wide, for a short length, between a wall on one side, and the kerb of a narrow pavement on the other. A 20mph speed limit applies. This is the only section of Botley Road without some form of cycle lane, and filling in this gap has been a top priority for more than a decade.

A 1.2m cycle lane could be marked on both sides (see second picture), leaving about 2.8m lanes for general traffic. The cycle lanes can’t be narrower than that, because of the wall on one side, and drainage grills on the other. At 20mph, 2.8m traffic lanes are adequate. That’s only just enough room for two buses to pass, but manageable.

There have long been ambitions to get this bridge rebuilt a bit wider, though that will only happen if there’s a railway business case for doing so. There is talk that it might happen as part of expanding the station, maybe in 2017.

So – the question is – do we put up with the gap in the cycle lane for years and years, in the hope that one day we might have plenty of space? Or do we squeeze in a cycle lane, at a cost of a few thousand pounds, and risk that it might be superseded in a few years?

Since a cycle lane would probably pay for itself in months, we should just do it. The sooner it is done, the bigger the payback.

Original imagery from Bing.

An Excellent Bus Network

Oxford’s buses are excellent – for getting to the city centre. Based on the inner cordon counts, over 40% of journeys into central Oxford are by bus. Buses run at least every five minutes on all the main corridors.

A large part of this success is due to bus priority, most notably the closure of the High Street to general traffic in 1999, blocking the only direct route from east Oxford.

But all these high-frequency routes don’t add up to a network. If we want a truly excellent public transport system, the individual routes need to connect – and the system needs to be clear and easy to use. At the moment, Oxford can’t really be said to have a joined-up network. In fact, as is typical in the UK, the local bus map doesn’t show what happens in the city centre at all.

There are particular reasons why the centre is too complicated to map. There are two major bus companies and several smaller ones. Bus services are profitable in Oxford, and this has led to competition and duplication. In the last few years, the two main companies have agreed joint operation of some of the busiest services, but there remains a huge variety of low-frequency services. Despite some joint-ticketing, services are still designed around route-specific ticketing.

In most of the rest of Europe, tickets are valid for a fixed time, so services can be designed for interchange. In the UK (outside London), there’s little coordination between services, even between services run by the same company, and pretty much everything runs into the city centre.

Even if low-frequency services were excluded, the situation in the centre would still be too complicated. This is because the high-frequency services take a variety of routes through the centre, with some running through, some looping round, and some doing both. By comparison, in a Swiss city such as Basel, one-way loops are rare, almost all the routes run two-way, and most of the main services run through.

This pattern is partly the result of operating trams, but it also applies to cities such as Winterthur which operate buses. The lack of loops makes it much easier to create a network map. There are fewer lines, and interchanges are clear and simple. It’s easier to understand the services as a network, and the usage reflects that – it’s not just a service into the city centre, but the normal way of getting anywhere in the city. This is one of the key reasons why car use in Basel is remarkably low (under 20%).

The Swiss even stick to two-way operation in quite narrow streets: they just run non-stop. As we’ve found in Queen Street in Oxford, buses have very little impact if they just run through a street slowly. Buses and trams only really get in the way when they stop.

How can we make Oxford’s buses simpler for people to use, for a wider range of journeys? It would be great if we had trams instead of buses, but since buses are cheaper to run, it’s probably better to stick with what we have – fares are high enough already. But even without trams, we can make significant improvements, by learning from the Swiss.

It’s difficult to run services through from one side of Oxford to the other, because demand is much higher on the eastern side, requiring bigger buses. So a lot of services do have to terminate.

We also have to cope with fairly slow loading, with every passenger having to pay the driver or show a pass or ticket. This has led to a situation where each main service has its own stop, and stands there for several minutes loading. Through journeys are tediously slow, and interchange generally requires a walk across town.

Some ticketing reform would certainly help. The central stops could have ticket machines, so the driver only has to check tickets. Tickets above a certain value could be valid for interchange between SmartZone services, for say 30 minutes. Smartcard ticketing could be extended to these 30-minute passes, rather than being limited to day (and longer) passes.

But the real solution is to run the main eastern services two-way, non-stop through Queen Street, to the railway station. This will give those services multiple credible boarding stops, no reason to stand at any stop for very long, and facilitate interchange with other services.

Only the main eastern services would run through Queen Street – the rest would turn down St Aldates and run through to the south, or terminate at Speedwell Street. Most southern services would run via Castle Street to the railway station, and northern services could run to the railway station as well. This would provide clear interchange between services, and allow a proper network map to be drawn.

More space would be required for buses at the station, but that’s achievable by moving the taxis to the short-stay car-park.

There would also need to be a clear bus priority route through Frideswide Square. That can be achieved by running the buses along Hythe Bridge Street, switching the general traffic to Park End Street, and crossing over at Worcester Street (a potential layout is shown below).

Unfortunately, the latest proposals for Frideswide Square rely on crossing over at a sequence of three roundabouts, which is almost bound to gridlock in the evening peak.

Two-way buses in Queen Street inevitably means compromising space for pedestrians. But if we want to have excellent public transport in Oxford, and get people out of their cars, we need to give the buses the space they need so they can operate as a network.

Maps from Oxford Bus Company (pdf), Basel On The Move (pdf), and Google Maps.

Short-term Strategy

Turning a city into a transport paradise inevitably takes time. There’s a lot of city that needs to change, and a lot of people that can obstruct progress. So it is important to carry on taking small steps, as well as working on bigger ones.

What’s on the agenda in Oxford in 2014? There are some major projects – a £900k project to make The Plain roundabout more cycle-friendly, and planning for a major extension to the Westgate shopping centre, and a rebuild of the railway station.

But there should be progress on financially-smaller schemes as well. They should not be postponed yet again. While it is true that people will carry on muddling through without them, they do have a positive effect, so every postponement is an opportunity missed.

There are three simple cycling schemes which should be done in 2014, and a long list of small improvements for walking where progress can be made.

1) Cycle lane under Botley Road railway bridge. The traffic-light island needs to be trimmed slightly, but otherwise this is simply a matter of painting in a cycle lane and narrowing the traffic lanes. The dimensions are all a bit tight, but adequate at 20mph. The railway bridge might get rebuilt, but it might not, and the costs of marking a cycle lane are so low that it should be done as an interim solution, regardless.

2) Cycle lanes on Marston Road. This scheme has been on hold, and should be pushed to implementation. It consists of an outbound cycle lane from London Place to John Garne Way, and cycle lanes on both sides from there to the start of the cycle tracks. The parking would all be moved to the east side and placed in a bay.

3) Parking ban on Donnington Bridge Road. Cycle lanes were painted on Donnington Bridge Road a couple of years ago, but they are generally obstructed by a small number of parked cars. The cars are parked half on the pavement, half on the road: the road is clearly not wide enough for parking. There is spare capacity in the side roads, and the whole length should be double-yellow restricted.

4) Raised side-road crossings. The new type of raised side road crossing that was installed along Iffley Road is very effective at giving pedestrians priority. These should be installed at all side roads, in due course. The next batch could be along Botley Road, to improve conditions for people walking from and to the Park & Ride.

Traffic in Inner London

This chart shows motor-traffic volumes on main roads (A roads) in inner London. The data is from the DfT’s traffic counts for 2012, with junction codings made consistent (not a trivial task).

There are huge traffic flows to the west, using the two big roads (the A4 and the A40). If you provide big fast roads, they fill with traffic (which then needs somewhere to park). Other parts of inner London, notably to the north, manage with roads that are nowhere near as big. Quite a lot of this traffic is unnecessary.

The second observation is that flows can vary quite substantially along a route. Much of the traffic is short-distance: avoid falling into the trap of thinking that there’s lots of long-distance traffic that needs through routes. Most journeys from outer to central London are by rail, not road. This effect can also be seen in the way that flows diminish away from the big roads. Inner London has excellent public transport, and unless there’s a quasi-motorway, most people will avoid driving for any distance.

The policy implications of this are well-known: traffic will disappear if you reduce roadspace. In north London, traffic could be suppressed further, for instance by removing general traffic from Camden High Street. If conditions for the on-street alternatives (buses, walking, bikes) are improved at the same time, all the better. In south London, the A road network could be simplified. Would it perhaps even be better to concentrate traffic on the Embankment, rather than creating a network of nasty junctions in Lambeth and Southwark?

Normalising Cycling in Inner London

Cycling in London is peculiar. It is characterised by commuting several miles into central London. LCN+ and the Superhighways have – in different ways – both been aimed at providing for this middle-distance commuting market, partly to help relieve overcrowding on the tube. Unfortunately, these routes are often incomplete, or compromised. Key junctions remain risky, especially in central London, and inner south and east London. Fixing these junctions is proving very difficult, due to the volume of traffic using them.

While this type of middle-distance cycling is certainly found in the Netherlands or Denmark (or in Oxford or Cambridge) it is not the norm in those places. Normal cycling is short-distance, little more than a mile or two, and includes a wide range of journey purposes. Commuting only accounts for a quarter of journeys – there are more trips for shopping than commuting.

The situation in London is peculiar, but not inexplicable. The conditions for cycling aren’t good, so it is largely confined to the braver sort of cyclist. You need a certain level of commitment to even consider it. Public transport is very good, and crowding is tolerable over short distances, so people don’t tend to bother with cycling for short distances. Providing routes for longer bike journeys is easier, because you can avoid the difficult bits. And to top it all, key attractors for short journeys, such as town centres, are often in those difficult bits which cycle routes avoid.

If cycling is to be normalised, the focus has to change to short-distance journeys, and for strategies to be more centre-based than route-based. Why hasn’t that already happened? In outer London, it hasn’t happened because there isn’t the demand for it. Most people drive, few cycle, and there isn’t much demand for that to change, alas. In inner London, the demand is there, but space on the main roads is too highly contested, making it very hard to get started on the difficult bits. Providing a fine-grained network for short-distance cycling is clearly a job for the borough, but on main roads TfL effectively has a veto, with traffic taking priority. So there’s a stalemate.

To break out of this stalemate, some fairly substantial change will be needed at main road junctions – the sort of change that would cause traffic chaos if we weren’t simultaneously getting a substantial number of people out of their cars. So we need to change quite a lot in fairly short order, as a package. The change needs to be convincing enough that it leads to substantial modal shift, with fewer people driving, leading to less congestion, and fewer people using the tube for short journeys, leading to less overcrowding.

Ideally we need to find an area where cycling is already fairly established (if not normalised), where car-ownership and use is quite low (but with scope to be further reduced), where the TfL trunk road network is fairly sparse, so there aren’t too many huge junctions to deal with, and where there’s a lot of short-distance tube overcrowding, ready to transfer to bike (or bus) if conditions on the streets improve.

The best opportunity looks like Camden/Islington/Hackney. That isn’t to say that some other parts of inner London aren’t in need of a similar approach, or that work on key problem junctions (such as Aldgate and the Elephant) should stop. If the approach can be made to work in inner north London, it should certainly be attempted in other parts of inner London as well. But the best chance of success is in the north.

What needs to be done? TfL, with the boroughs, needs to look at the main road network, and work out how much room can be made available for cycling, how much impact that will have on other modes, and how much traffic reduction will be required to make it work. And then they need to go for it.

Totally Integral

Transport strategies should be integrated. They need to be, if they are to be successful in the long term. They should be based on an understanding of who travels where, by what mode, how that is likely to change, and whether that can be influenced. Planning for each mode in isolation is easier, but inefficient, because the plans for each mode impact on the others, and frequently conflict. A plan for one mode might look quite sensible in isolation, but be completely ineffective because it fails to understand the characteristics of the travel markets it competes in.

Transport also suffers from an inherent tension between the needs of travellers and the communities they travel in. The tension gets worse, the longer the journeys. Often there is a mixture of local trips, longer trips and through trips, all competing for attention. There are often two levels of government responsible, sometimes more.

While a perfectly-integrated transport strategy is impractical, transport strategies will be far more effective if these issues are considered and addressed, even if only at a high level.

Taking London as an example, you can segment the transport market into three – journeys in inner/central London, journeys in outer London, and journeys from outer to central London. The three markets are very different. Inner/central journeys are dominated by sustainable modes, with less than 20% by car. In contrast, the car accounts for about 60% of journeys in outer London; driving is very much the norm. Journeys from outer London to central London are 80% rail.

Clearly, London’s transport strategy needs a strong focus on rail – how to provide for the large commuter flows between outer and central London with tolerable levels of overcrowding. But that needs to be woven into the rest of the strategy. Rail commuting creates a distribution issue in central London. It’s important to get rail services as close to the City as practical, but there’s also a strategic interest in facilitating walking from the rail termini (hire bikes are almost irrelevant, given the scale of the task). Improving the walking environment makes central London more attractive as a leisure/shopping destination, making better use of the comprehensive rail service. Rail also suffers from increasing overcrowding as you get closer to the centre – there’s a strategic interest in diverting some of this demand away from rail.

The low usage of cars in Inner London provides an unexploited opportunity. There’s quite a bit of through traffic and freight traffic on Inner London main roads, but local trips are dominated by sustainable modes. The local interest is to improve the sustainable modes further, with little interest in providing for cars. The strategic interest is to discourage car-commuting (which makes other road journeys unreliable), but also to provide alternatives to using rail services into central London (which are overcrowded). While the space available is highly constrained, there is a co-incidence of interests in promoting buses and cycling. In particular, given adequate provision on main roads, cycling could become ubiquitous, not just for commuting into central London, but for a much wider range of journey purposes, and with a broader demographic.

The situation in outer London is quite different. Local journeys are a little more dispersed, and orbital public transport less effective. Through journeys are concentrated on a few high-capacity roads. A large proportion of local journeys are still concentrated on education and shopping (and are predominantly short-distance), but car ownership is high, congestion intermittent, and car-usage is frequently the norm. High car usage creates a health, pollution and carbon problem. It also constrains the opportunities for non-car-owners. But policy is likely to be focused on creating opportunities to use alternatives to the car, rather than explicitly restricting car use. Take up of alternatives is likely to be slow. Conversely, there is less pressure on roadspace, and fewer through journeys. So there will be more opportunities to moderate traffic speed and to take space for cycling. Rather than a radical transformation, the strategic interest lies more in applying continuous support for incremental change.

That’s a very high-level survey of the interactions between journey patterns and modes, but I think it already indicates that there is significant value to be gained from looking at transport in an integrated way. This allows policies to be adopted that are more likely to be successful, and more likely to fit together into an effective overall approach.

Total Cycling – Main Road Survey

This map shows the current state of Oxford’s main road cycle network. About half the network is in Green, and has cycle lanes, bus lanes or priority cycle tracks. Yellow indicates non-priority cycle tracks (shared pavements), cycle lanes that are too close to parking, or pedestrianised streets with restricted cycling hours – these need review and improvement. Orange shows where cycle lanes could be installed (usually by restricting some parking, or replacing pedestrian refuges). The few sections of six-metre road are in red.

Junctions are colour-coded in the same way – green are OK, yellow needs some attention, and orange needs quite a bit of attention.

The next stage of developing the Total Cycling strategy is to list the areas needing attention, identify rough costs associated with likely treatment, and set out priorities and a program.

There is a parallel analysis of routes to support family cycling, and access to employment sites away from the main roads. Quite an extensive network already exists, so the focus will be on areas where provision is notably absent, particularly around Cowley Centre, and on the main hospital sites.

Total Cycling

Total Cycling – Everyday Cycling Everywhere

In any city with a developed cycling culture, there are cyclists everywhere. They don’t just use a handful of excellent routes; they use pretty much every available street. People just take the most obvious, usually the shortest route from where they are to where they want to go. The only roads people avoid are multi-lane roads without street frontage.

In north Oxford, for instance, there are two main roads closely parallel to one another. Neither is that busy, or fast, but there’s a steady flow of traffic on both. One has continuous bus and cycle lanes, the other has a long gap in the southbound direction, with all the traffic sharing a single narrow lane. More people use the good road, but significant numbers still use the not-so-good one. People won’t even divert a hundred metres for a better cycle route.

To make a cycle city, virtually every street has to be made cycle-friendly. Residential streets are fairly easy – introduce 20mph limits, and arrange the parking to stop any speeding. The hard part is making main roads cycle-friendly. It can take decades to make all the main roads cycle-friendly; this is where you need to develop a strategy. A Total Cycling strategy is one that sets out a credible program for making all streets cycle-friendly.

The first part of a Total Cycling strategy is assessing the current situation on the main roads – how much traffic, how fast, how much space, and whether there are any roundabouts or gyratories. The situation will vary from city to city. You may be lucky and have lots of wide streets and no difficult junctions, but in most places it’s not so easy.

The Dutch have developed standard cycle-friendly solutions for various types of roads, based on the level of traffic and its speed. Unfortunately, they don’t always fit (even in the Netherlands). In fact, in UK cities, you’re quite likely to find that they rarely fit. The level of traffic and speed on most UK main roads would, by normal Dutch standards, require separate cycle tracks, but that will often mean narrowing the pavements and rebuilding all the drainage. It may be more palatable to reduce speeds so that painted on-road cycle lanes can be used instead. Even that will often require the removal of parking.

The space constraints at junctions will probably be the hardest challenge. Often junctions have been arranged to maximise capacity for motor-traffic. Making space for cycling will require reductions in junction capacity, and increased (motor-traffic) congestion. Again, painted solutions, accepting a certain degree of conflict, but managing the risks by reducing speed, are more likely to be practical.

For the purposes of a Total Cycling strategy, you don’t have to design every scheme, but you do need to have a reasonable idea of what is going to be required: where the space is going to come from, who will have to be displaced, how much traffic or speed reduction will be needed, and whether the costs are acceptable.

When you’ve identified the strategy for making your main roads cycle-friendly, you’ll need to consider the range of cyclists it will work for. In an ideal world main roads would be suitable for cyclists of all ages, but you may find that is impractical. If you’ve had to opt for painted solutions, particularly at junctions, the main roads won’t be sufficiently cycle-friendly for family cycling. Fortunately, family cycling is more willing to accept constraints on routes – family groups will often avoid main roads anyway, and prefer quiet routes, even if they are less direct. So coupled with a strategy for treating main roads, you need a strategy for family cycling – routes that take families and children starting to cycle on their own to the places they want and need to go – schools, shops, libraries, parks, swimming pools.

If we are to achieve Total Cycling, almost all our roads are going to have to change. That is no small task, and any serious cycling strategy has to address itself to the scale of the problem. Most cycle strategies fail to do this, and all they achieve is delaying the development of an effective strategy until the next time.