New ‘cycling city’ signs may signal good intentions, but Oxford’s two-wheeled commuters are facing increased risk on the road.
The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Jean Fooks, will today unveil the first of eleven signs around Oxford proclaiming it to be ‘a cycling city’, despite the fact that the most recent figures show cycling accident rates have increased in Oxfordshire.
The signs form part of the Council’s long term transport strategy, set out in its recently published draft Vision 2050, which proposes to replicate the commuter cycle rate in its twinned city Leiden, in the Netherlands.
Oxford City Council hopes to increase the number of commuters who cycle to work from its current rate of 17%, to 70%.
In a press release, Councillor Louise Upton said: “these new signs will be a statement of intent from Oxford City Council.
“Our long-term aim is to replicate Leiden and significantly increase the number of people commuting to work by bike. This obviously won’t happen overnight, but this is one step towards that goal.”
However, Green Party Councillor Dick Wolff told Cherwell that, while he welcomes the signage initiative, it must be set against “a background of falling cycle use and increased accident rates.”
Between 2012 and 2015, the number of cycling casualties per year in Oxfordshire rose from just under 300 to just over 350, while over the same period, the level of cycle traffic fell by about 1000 vehicle miles, according to data collected by Oxfordshire County Council.
This rise in accident rate occurred despite the City Council investing £367,000 in cycling infrastructure between 2012 and 2016, in order to improve the experience of cycling in Oxford.
In February of this year, a study by Map-mechanics using Department for Transport statistics found that The Plain roundabout, situated at the junction of Iffley Road, Cowley Road, St Clement’s and the High Street, in the centre of Oxford, is the second most dangerous roundabout for cyclists in the UK.
According to analysis of Department for Transport statistics by Cycling UK, while cycling fatality rates in the UK have been dropping since 2005, the KSI (killed or seriously injured) rate per billion miles has grown significantly over the last 10 years. In 2005, it stood at 875 cyclists per billion miles, but by 2015 it had risen to 1,025.
According to Cherry Allen, Cycling UK’s policy information coordinator: “It’s clear that cycling safety needs serious attention.”
Councillor Upton believes that the ‘cycling city’ signs will “remind drivers to be more aware of cyclists within Oxford City Centre.” However, this is the first time signs like these have been installed in the UK, and there is as yet no data to support her belief.