Manchester's Oxford Road proposals fall short of 'Dutch' quality

Manchester's Oxford Road proposals involve reallocating roadspace to create cycle-specific infrastructure, protecting people cycling from motor traffic. This kind of approach is much needed on busy arterial urban roads like this one. The bus stops in particular appear to have been designed well, with clear design routing cycling behind the bus stops, with priority crossings for pedestrians.

However, we are concerned by claims that the proposals are ‘Dutch’, or 'Dutch-style', especially as they fall short of Dutch practice in several respects.

A truly ‘Dutch’ scheme would involve

  • fully protected cycle tracks, not intermittent ones that become cycle lanes, or involve mixing with motor traffic;
  • continuity at junctions, and separation from motor traffic, using separate signal phases;
  • cycling infrastructure of a standard suitable for anyone to use, with no need for some people to cycle outside the cycle tracks

The proposals for Oxford Road, however, fall short on these details. While the correct approach is being employed in principle, we would like to see more care and attention being paid to the safety and comfort of people cycling, throughout the scheme.

In particular, there is no need for cycle provision to run on the outside of loading bays, which not only is less attractive than a cycle track running between loading bays and the footway, but also involves conflict between people cycling, and vehicles moving in and out of the bays.

Loading bay Oxford Road

This is oddly inconsistent on a road layout that (properly) already involves bus stop bypasses, to insulate people cycling from motor traffic.

Parking bay Oxford Road

In this latter example, in addition to the cycle lane running outside a loading bay, quality cycling provision appears to have disappeared, leaving people to cycle amongst buses. This is concerning in its own right; even more so given that these proposals appear to involve opening the road to all traffic after 9pm, something we would question given the amount of pedestrians in these areas.

If conditions for cycling are only itermittently attractive, interspersed with areas which involve cycling on hostile roads, then demand for cycling (and the benefits that flow from mass cycling) will continue to be suppressed. Routes like this need to be designed to a high standard along their length.

We would also like to see more continuity of design, both for cycling and walking, at the side road junctions, to increase comfort and safety. 

Side road treatment Oxford Road

In particular, the cycle tracks should run through these junctions, not revert to cycle lanes. This could either involve the cycle track being set back from the main road, with priority, or continuing through the junction at a raised level, higher than the carriageway, alongside a continuous footway, to reinforce priority.

The major junctions should also be rethought, to provide greater safety and attractiveness for people cycling.

Major junction Oxford Road

The current proposals do not provide sufficient insulation from the dangers of left-hook conflicts, nor do they allow right turns to be made easily, by people cycling.

We are also concerned by an emphasis on people cycling outside the cycle tracks, which features in the video.

Cycling outside cycle track

This is suggestive of the cycling infrastructure being too inconvenient for all types of user; we would prefer to see designs that work for everyone, and don't rely upon people avoiding them.