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.