Should Queen Street be closed to buses and taxis?
The County rethinks its proposals
17 November 2016
The County Council originally seemed set on permanently closing Queen Street to buses and taxis. When they went to public consultation, many voices including our own pointed out fundamental problems with the idea. We are glad to see that now the proposal is going back to the County for a decision, the officers’ recommendation is that more time is taken to look at the options. The County still seems to think that something must be done before the new Westgate opens, when there will be even more congestion in the city centre. We have extracted and summarised the officers’ recommendations here.
Closing Queen Street was requested by the Westgate developers. If it goes ahead most buses will stop alongside the Westgate centre in Castle Street. This is a long way from other shops and would arguably give an unfair advantage to the shops in Westgate.
With Queen Street closed, all buses which have used it in the past will divert via St Aldates. This is already more of a bus station than a city street, dangerous for all other users but especially for people on foot and on cycles. Adding even more buses will most probably gridlock what should be one of the most gracious streets in Oxford. Bus travel times will be increased yet further.
Along with banning buses from Queen Street the County proposed a new bus turning circle near the Worcester street car park. This junction already has the huge London and airport buses travelling through it. We thought this was not a feasible or sensible solution. Fortunately, the County appear to have dropped this idea.
As a sweetener the County proposed to allow unrestricted cycling in Queen Street. Both we and Oxford Pedestrians Association opposed this idea as we both think that mixing pedestrians and cyclists does not work well without proper segregation, something the County has been reluctant to recognise. It seems this is also being dropped.
The County’s officers now recommend that Queen Street should be closed for an ‘experimental period’ of six months after Westgate has opened so that the impact can be assessed. We think this approach is too piecemeal, and a complete strategy for travel into and through the city centre should be developed covering all modes of travel.