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Column 20th May 2020

How should streets be used in the future?

As we manage our way through the Coronavirus crisis, everyone is asking not just how long will this last and what to do to get through, but what will our world look like after it?

Will there be an ‘after’? We may be living with, rather than defeating, this virus for a long time.

How can we use road space in a more shared way to promote public health?

I’ve spent the last three weeks reading the topic papers issued by the County Council as part of the early thinking for the new Oxfordshire Local Transport & Connectivity Plan and some of the papers caught my attention.

One is entitled Active and Healthy Travel - Cycle Streets. It says a cycle street should be on a main cycle route and remains open to local traffic, but cyclists have priority over motor vehicles.

It goes on to say that to achieve the feeling of comfort for cyclists to take priority, Cycle Streets should have a maximum traffic speed of 20 mph with both psychological and physical traffic calming features and priority for cyclists at junctions.

These streets would typically have different coloured tarmac to differentiate them from other roads where vehicular traffic takes priority.

These seem like a great way of slowing down traffic in places like Wantage and creating safer cycle routes through the town.

Could this approach be used in the town centre, where Wallingford Street (from the roundabout), Newbury Street (from the traffic lights to the Market Place), Grove Street, Mill Street and the Market Place could all be made Cycle Streets?

This wouldn’t create a traffic free zone but would reduce the feeling that Wantage town centre is totally controlled by cars, buses and lorries.

When, finally, the Wantage Eastern Link Road has been completed through Crab Hill, Harcourt Road and Charlton Village Road could become Cycle Streets as well.

Another topic paper is entitled School Streets. A School Street is a road outside a school with a restricted access for traffic at school opening and closing times. The restriction applies to school traffic and through traffic but not directly to residents living in the designated area.

This is another great idea but I think it would be harder to implement and won’t work with many of our schools situated on through roads.

 Even on other roads we all know how difficult it is to control illegal parking outside schools already.


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