Pedestrianising Broad Street
The results of our survey
26 October 2021
Broad Street must surely be one of the most beautiful spaces in the city with its handsome and dignified architecture, its wonderful vistas and the central role it plays in the ceremonial life of the University. But it is not being used to its full potential. Without traffic and parking the street could provide a focal point for leisure and entertainment with scope for creative, changing uses.
The Society was involved with the Council and the designers LDA in the planning of the recent pilot scheme for the pedestrianisation of Broad Street, starting with the west end, known as ‘Broad Meadow’. We hope that eventually the whole of Broad Street can be part of this aspiration. This may take years to fully deliver but now is the time to start!
To gauge public opinion OCS authored the Survey but its release was delayed at the request of the Council on the grounds that it could pre-empt the launch and lead to some confusion as to the proposals for the pilot. OCS acceded to this request and the Survey was held back until after the Council’s official press release on 1 July. It was noted that on 1 July the Council had also opened its own consultation which continues to 29 October1. Delaying our own Survey until the pilot was up and running was useful as, having seen the design in situ, it allowed us to fine-tune our questions.
The OCS Survey opened on 27 July with a closing date of 23 August. It contained 21 questions (5 contained subsections) and 4 of which allowed free text answers.
The Survey generated a total of 168 responses: this was a disappointing response compared to the Covered Market survey, April 2021. Those living in OX2 represented the largest group of respondents – 40%.2
We believe the low response to our Survey can be attributed to the simultaneous existence of the Council consultation, which very closely resembled the questions posed in the OCS Survey. According to the Council the response rate to their consultation currently stands at 700+.
As can be seen from the statistics in the Appendix, not all respondents answered all the questions. However, in general the response rate varied only slightly across questions, ranging between 129 – 169 respondents.
The questions that generated the least answers were those that allowed free text answers ranging between 17- 93 respondents. 11a (49) related to the city’s green spaces, and 14a (17) asked for general comments relating to the closing the East end. Not all respondents were members of OCS – of the 168, 129 were members, 37 were non-members.
The overall response in favour of pedestrianisation was 83%, and 65% had no reservations about the proposals. 71% of the respondents do not use the parking facilities in the Broad, and 87% either walk or cycle. 60% of respondents visit or pass through the Broad at least once a week.
65% of respondents had no reservations about the loss of parking but many recognized that some element should be retained for disabled parking and arrangements for motor cycles should not be ignored. One respondent observed that the total number of spaces for motor cycles had been reduced as a consequence of the pilot.
What respondents value most about Broad Street is its architecture and the opportunity to stop, sit and watch the world go by. The Survey revealed that people feel green space in the city centre is scarce. Whereas colleges benefit from quiet green spaces, these are normally closed to the general public and visitors. The most frequently visited green spaces in Oxford identified in the Survey were the University Parks (82%) and Christ Church Meadow (72%). Beautiful though these spaces are, cycles are banned and the Broad has the advantage of easy, unrestricted access together with the presence of shops, cafes and plentiful seating.
42% of respondents felt that for safety purposes there should be designated separate lanes for pedestrians and cyclists and a further 31% felt that there should be a requirement for cyclists to dismount at particular times of day (as in the other city centre streets, Cornmarket and Queen Street for example). A disadvantage of implementing a designated system could destroy the Broad visually if it was necessary to mark out the road surfaces.
On the newly-organized scheme itself, 76% approved of the random location of seating benches; 73% valued the inclusion of flower and lawn beds, and 68% felt the inclusion of a central entertainment area was crucial to add to the vibrancy of the space, providing concerts and street performances. It is noteworthy that during the pilot there has been a number of events, for example the Alice weekend and the Great British Green Week. Such events attract young and old, are entertaining, educational and interactive.
Of course, there were some objections to the pilot and these centred around the potential noise and disruption that an entertainment area could generate (31%). One respondent objected to a proliferation of planters, bollards and signage which ‘is destroying the city visually’.
A csv file containing the complete responses can be downloaded here.
It was encouraging that the concept of the proposals put forward was generally supported by the respondents. There were few objections, those that we noted related to the poor quality of materials used and maintenance of the installation. By its very nature this pilot was a temporary construction designed to visualize the concept if it was to become a permanent feature.
When the Council’s consultation closes on 26 October the working group will analyse the results and make recommendations to the Council on what future steps might be taken. If permanent pedestrianisation goes ahead a new design must be prepared and a larger budget will be required to fund the project. Looking to the ultimate goal, which is the total pedestrianisation of the Broad, this will be an issue that must be considered by both City and County. With the general support of the people of Oxford this may be possible, although we recognize that funding and the potential loss of income from parking may be an insurmountable problem. But we should be optimistic.
1. Would you support the pedestrianisation of Broad Street?
2. Do you have any reservations about pedestrianising the Street?
3. How often do you visit/pass through Broad Street?
4. How do you access Broad Street?
4a. If you drive where do you usually park?
5. When you visit/pass through Broad Street, what is your main purpose?
6. How frequently do you visit the cafés/pub on Broad Street?
7. When do you mainly use the cafés/pubs?
With special reference to the current West-end pilot and assuming you have visited the newly organised space …
8. Does the existing design work?
8a. Random location of seating?
8b. Creative uses – central entertainment area?
8c. Raised flower and lawn beds?
8d. Additional comments.
9. Is its current location of the central entertainment area well or badly placed?
10. Do you support the idea of outside entertainment?
10b. Street theatre.
10c. Community Group performances.
10d. If against entertainment, state reasons why.
11. Where else in the city centre can/do you currently enjoy a tranquil green space?
11a. Additional comments.
12. Do you think there should be a designated separate lane for cyclists and pedestrians in Broad Street?
13. What do you most value about Broad Street?
14. Based on your experiences of, and reaction to, the current pilot, would you support the closing of the East end (Sheldonian end) to traffic and the extension of a similar scheme for the whole of Broad Street?
14a. Additional comments.
|Question number||Respondents||Question number||Respondents|
|4a||99||10d (free text)||50|
|6||169||11a (free text)||49|
|8c||150||14a (free text)||17|
|8d (free text)||93||15||166|
Note: Questions 15 and 16 related to OCS membership and respondent’s postcode.
SOME COMMENTS – BOTH FOR AND AGAINST
Oxford badly needs a ‘square’; that is a relaxed place to meet. Gloucester Green is taken up with noisy markets Wednesday-Sunday and does not fulfil that purpose; Frideswide Square less so, I should say that pre Pandemic I used the Broad daily and hope I will again.
The location of seating is good, and the use of recycling materials is to be applauded, but the style does not suit the nature of the buildings that surround Broad Street – they are too modern. The entertainment area has been ‘cheapened’ by the painting on the tarmac. Painting of a chessboard (Alice) would have been more suitable.
As a cyclist I am against dismounting to cycle through the area – slowing down and being courteous to other uses of the area yes but asking to dismount I am against. Pushing a bicycle is cumbersome and takes up more space.
Hopefully a permanent, sympathetic, landscaped scheme will be implemented and all trace of tarmac and vehicles removed, so that Broad Street becomes a tree lined piazza.
In general, as a low key hub of relaxation where one can sit and enjoy the ambience, it could be a very valuable asset to Oxford centre. I imagine it would have the support of local shops and businesses in the area, who surely can only benefit from the attraction of relaxed, happy people into the area. And as such it would be in their interest to be supportive and actively involved in the success of the venture.
The Sheldonian is regularly used for concerts and noise from the street can be a problem currently. Turning the street into an entertainment hot spot will only make that worse. Tourists around Radcliffe Camera and the Old Bodleian cause a lot of noise and are a nuisance to readers using these libraries.
1 Link to Council consultation https://consultation.oxford.gov.uk/regeneration-economy/broad-street-summer-2021/consultation/intro/
2 Postcode breakdown was OX1 14%; OX2 40%; OX3 14%; OX4 23%, other OX 6%, Outwith 3%.