FUNDING for a near-£1m scheme to make The Plain roundabout safer for the thousands of cyclists that use it has been approved.
Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron today confirmed £77m will be spent on a dozen major cycling projects across the country.
Changes to the city roundabout will see lanes narrowed to slow traffic and make conditions more cyclist-friendly.
Richard Mann, from cycling campaign group Cyclox, said: “I think it’s excellent news.
“The county council’s proposals for The Plain are very much focused around making one of Oxford’s key problem junctions as cycle-friendly as they can.
“We’re very optimistic with the money coming forward that we will be able to make a substantial difference to The Plain.”
At present the carriageway that runs around The Plain varies between 6m and 10m in width, but the redesign would change this to 5m all the way round.
As well as slowing traffic, the council says this would remove the need for lane crossing and reduce potential clashes between cars and cyclists.
Instead of two lanes approaching The Plain from the city, there would be a single lane. The roundabout would also be raised with ramps.
Pavements surrounding the roundabout, which links the city centre and arterial routes of St Clement’s Street, Cowley Road and Iffley Road, will be widened, as would the existing pedestrian crossings.
The council says the The Plain is “off putting for less experienced riders” and has a “history of cyclist casualties”.
An estimated 4,700 cyclists use the roundabout between 7am and 7pm each day, and there have only been 29 accidents leading to reported injuries in the past five years.
The council hopes the changes will increase the number of cyclists using The Plain to 5,700. An estimated 3,500 cars use the roundabout every day, along with 1,000 bus journeys.
Tim Harding, manager of Cowley Road bike shop Cycloanalysts, said: “We do get a lot of people coming in who have been knocked off their bikes, and a lot of them do get knocked off at The Plain.
“Just sitting in the Cape of Good Hope pub at the end of Cowley Road the other day, we saw at least five people get into trouble, so it is a problem.”
According to the county’s submission to the Government, consultation on traffic orders for the scheme is due to take place in November this year, with a final design early next year.
Work would start in November next year, with a provisional opening date of April 1, 2015.
The county council is providing £130,000 towards the revamp, and the Department for Transport the other £835,000.
The county council's cabinet member for environment, David Nimmo-Smith, said: “This is great news and something I know thousands of cyclists will welcome.
“We are committed to making Oxford as cycle-friendly as possible. In many cases this can only be done with the help of external funds and so I am delighted the Government has been able to help out.”
The Government’s funding announcement also includes a feasibility study to look into creating a new national cycleway broadly following the route of the HS2 rail line.
The £42.6bn line – to open in 2026 – would go from London to the Midlands and the North of England, passing Finmere and Mixbury in north Oxfordshire.
Mr Cameron added: “Following our success in the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Tour de France, British cycling is riding high – now we want to see cycling soar.
“This Government wants to make it easier and safer for people who already cycle as well as encouraging far more people to take it up.”