Developing a vision for cycling in Oxford

By Simon Pratt,
Two people cycling through Oxford city center

Oxford has the second highest levels of cycling in the UK, but the cycle network is very fragmented and well behind European standards.

Sustrans regional office has been based in Oxford since 2004 but we have had limited opportunities to work in the city during that time, so were delighted to be involved in developing a vision for cycling.

It all started in May 2013 with a public meeting called by Cyclox, the cycling campaign for Oxford, to discuss a vision for cycling in Oxfordshire in 2020. Cyclox was founded in 2003 with three broad aims:

  • Improving cycling infrastructure 
  • Raising the profile of cycling in Oxford
  • Supporting our members

During the meeting a lively debate ensued with the main points summarised under the headings Vision & Persuasion, Policy & Behaviour Change, and Infrastructure. It was then left to the Cyclox Committee to take this forward.

As an Oxford resident and member of Cyclox, I was inspired by the positive discussion at the meeting and offered to lead on producing a manifesto for Oxford, by hosting a series of meetings to come up with a cycling vision and strategy for the city.

A small group of people from Cyclox, Sustrans and the CTC met on a monthly basis to steer the project. We commissioned articles from local experts (with in the five key areas of Economy, Health, Inclusion, Air Quality and Climate Change) to provide background information and advice for the vision.

Similar successful cycling manifestos have been created from around the UK, and we were able to receive useful guidance from the Bristol Cycling Campaign, who had recently produced their Bristol Cycling Manifesto ahead of the mayoral election. We liked the simplicity of the Bristol Cycling Campaign approach with Five Principles, Five Elements and Five Actions.

Before too long we had produced the final result, which can be found on the Cyclox website (pdf).

We were starting to prepare for a final launch of the document at the end of January 2014 when I received a phone call from the consultancy firm WSP, who were invited to tender their services to Oxfordshire County Council to develop a Cycle Vision and Strategy for Oxford. After a short meeting and bike ride around the city, we decided to join forces and prepare a joint tender.

In a strong competition with other consultants, our bid was accepted due to the quality of our submission and the local knowledge and contacts of the Sustrans team.

In addition to fulfilling the main requirements of the tender, we also offered an audit of all the main roads and convened an expert academic panel and a stakeholder group including campaigners to guide the project.

Sustrans and WSP were appointed in mid-February with most of the work to be completed by the end of March. Sustrans’ position had completely changed from cycle campaigners to paid consultants working for the County Council. Due to this potential conflict of interest, we withdrew from the Cyclox working group, although we continued to assist with the final production of the published document.

Our work on the Cyclox vision strengthened our tender to the Council and we drew on that work to inform the official version, which is likely to be published early in 2015 as part of the wider Oxford Transport Strategy.

Find out more about how Sustrans works in partnership to provide expert services to local authorities across the UK.