Let’s come up with our own crazy proposal

Bringing back buses to Cornmarket, pictured, is madness, says our columnist

Bringing back buses to Cornmarket, pictured, is madness, says our columnist

First published in News

One kind of gets used to progress marching along in a fairly linear direction. At times it jogs along rather too slowly. At others, it bolts alarmingly fast.

But progress is progress, and you know where you’re going with it: forwards. Which is why, when a reversal of progress is proposed, it feels so wrong.

I am referring to the suggestion last week that buses should be allowed to trundle along Cornmarket Street as they did 10 years ago.

Cornmarket is Oxford’s busiest street by far, where even walking is a challenge on busy Saturdays in summer and poor cyclists, wish as they might to weave through the throngs, are banned between 10am and 6pm. The idea that buses be readmitted to this hectic space is pure madness.

And it isn’t just a question of congestion. Bus engines may be cleaner than ever but the fact is diesel emissions are responsible for Oxford’s illegally high levels of noxious fumes. Levels of nitrogen dioxide have failed since 2005 to fall below the target of 40ug/mg (micrograms per cubic metre of air). In fact, this invisible killer is on the rise. By 2011 (the most recent available figures) the level was a shocking 61ug/mg – 50% higher than in 2005.

On Radio 4 last week there was a fascinating edition of Costing the Earth about how modern diesel cars emit far higher levels of some pollutants than previously thought.

Is the same true for buses? Whatever the answer, it is clear diesels and pedestrians should not mix.

The Cornmarket suggestion comes from the county’s two main bus operators and though it may at first appear to be a self-serving whim, it is actually a reaction to what they see as insufficient bus provision around the new Westgate Centre.

Cyclox should try to grab the headlines with a crazy scheme of its own. After all, cycle provision to and through the new Westgate is also rubbish.

Phil Southall, of Oxford Bus Company, said “radical thinking” was needed to strike a balance between direct bus links and pedestrian areas. But the idea isn’t radical, it’s retrograde. Radical would be closing South Parks Road/Longwall Street to private cars and having it as a bus and cycle lane only. And maybe taxis if drivers can manage not to break the speed limit. Buses could drop off in St Giles and then head along a re-opened Keble Road, around Longwall St to access High St. This would add a few minutes to the journey but create a realistic north-south route.

The city centre streets should be the domain of walkers, cyclists and load-carrying bikes making deliveries.

Comments (6)

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12:31pm Tue 2 Sep 14

King Joke says...

Yes, it would help buses if there were more bus-only routes across the city centre, and fewer or no through-traffic routes.

It is entirely wrong however to state that the city centre 'should be the domain of walkers, cyclists and load-carrying bikes making deliveries.' Bus passengers need to be dropped reasonably close to where they need to go; ideally within 250 m. THey also need to be able to interchange with other bus routes; this is how networks work. Dropping passengers on St Giles as James suggests would be no use at all if you wanted to connect with a bus on St Aldates or Castle St, 600 m away.

Bringing buses back onto Cornmarket is not ideal, no-one is pretending it is, but as James acknowledges the provision for buses proposed once the WEstgate opens is simply not sufficient for the numbers of people that will need to be moved.

Diesels and pedestrians won't need to mix either, as in a very few years hybrid buses will be able to operate with their engines switched off in sensitive areas, using a combination of battery power and wireless charging at stops.
Yes, it would help buses if there were more bus-only routes across the city centre, and fewer or no through-traffic routes. It is entirely wrong however to state that the city centre 'should be the domain of walkers, cyclists and load-carrying bikes making deliveries.' Bus passengers need to be dropped reasonably close to where they need to go; ideally within 250 m. THey also need to be able to interchange with other bus routes; this is how networks work. Dropping passengers on St Giles as James suggests would be no use at all if you wanted to connect with a bus on St Aldates or Castle St, 600 m away. Bringing buses back onto Cornmarket is not ideal, no-one is pretending it is, but as James acknowledges the provision for buses proposed once the WEstgate opens is simply not sufficient for the numbers of people that will need to be moved. Diesels and pedestrians won't need to mix either, as in a very few years hybrid buses will be able to operate with their engines switched off in sensitive areas, using a combination of battery power and wireless charging at stops. King Joke
  • Score: 0

1:11pm Tue 2 Sep 14

Myron Blatz says...

We have endured bus-only semi-pedestrianised Queen Street in Oxford for some years, with pedestrians somehow managing to miss being mowed-down by ever-larger buses - which, since last year, have been happily crawling along the street using near-silent electric or hybrid vehicles, and the odd totally ignorant cyclist ploughing through crowds! So, am sure the poor old pedestrian will also get used to the same thing in Cornmarket - though wonder how the buskers and street artists will cope, every couple of minutes? Instead of bothering with Oxford, maybe tourists, shoppers and OAPs with Bus Passes should simply catch an X5 or S5 and go to Bicester Village, where they can shop without fear of being knocked-down!
We have endured bus-only semi-pedestrianised Queen Street in Oxford for some years, with pedestrians somehow managing to miss being mowed-down by ever-larger buses - which, since last year, have been happily crawling along the street using near-silent electric or hybrid vehicles, and the odd totally ignorant cyclist ploughing through crowds! So, am sure the poor old pedestrian will also get used to the same thing in Cornmarket - though wonder how the buskers and street artists will cope, every couple of minutes? Instead of bothering with Oxford, maybe tourists, shoppers and OAPs with Bus Passes should simply catch an X5 or S5 and go to Bicester Village, where they can shop without fear of being knocked-down! Myron Blatz
  • Score: -4

3:47pm Tue 2 Sep 14

King Joke says...

'Ever larger buses' Myron? You mean 2.5 m wide and 10-12 m long as they have been for many years? The 15 m Oxford Tubes don't use Queen St.

The point with getting a bus to Bicester is that many people won't be able to, or won't bother to, when the bus from their area doesn't stop within walking distance of an X5 or S5 stop.

The hawkers, God-botherers and ****-lighters on Cornmarket will have to peddle their wares, myths and displays on Queen St which is being pedestrianised on John Lewis' say-so.
'Ever larger buses' Myron? You mean 2.5 m wide and 10-12 m long as they have been for many years? The 15 m Oxford Tubes don't use Queen St. The point with getting a bus to Bicester is that many people won't be able to, or won't bother to, when the bus from their area doesn't stop within walking distance of an X5 or S5 stop. The hawkers, God-botherers and ****-lighters on Cornmarket will have to peddle their wares, myths and displays on Queen St which is being pedestrianised on John Lewis' say-so. King Joke
  • Score: 2

4:40pm Tue 2 Sep 14

Patrick, Devon says...

I am old enough to remember when buses cars and lorries all used both Cornamrket and Queen St. It was foul and the buses crawled along at slower than walking pace with lots of black exhaust.

Oxord depends on public transport working. Either accept bus lanes or tramways through both streets - a one way circle using George St and New Rd, or be prepared to build a tunnel under the city centre.
I am old enough to remember when buses cars and lorries all used both Cornamrket and Queen St. It was foul and the buses crawled along at slower than walking pace with lots of black exhaust. Oxord depends on public transport working. Either accept bus lanes or tramways through both streets - a one way circle using George St and New Rd, or be prepared to build a tunnel under the city centre. Patrick, Devon
  • Score: 0

11:13pm Tue 2 Sep 14

14jayeff says...

Let's cover all the streets with straw and cowpats and turn oxford into a Disney type medieval themepark
Let's cover all the streets with straw and cowpats and turn oxford into a Disney type medieval themepark 14jayeff
  • Score: 3

7:44am Wed 3 Sep 14

King Joke says...

Patrick, Devon wrote:
I am old enough to remember when buses cars and lorries all used both Cornamrket and Queen St. It was foul and the buses crawled along at slower than walking pace with lots of black exhaust.

Oxord depends on public transport working. Either accept bus lanes or tramways through both streets - a one way circle using George St and New Rd, or be prepared to build a tunnel under the city centre.
Word.
[quote][p][bold]Patrick, Devon[/bold] wrote: I am old enough to remember when buses cars and lorries all used both Cornamrket and Queen St. It was foul and the buses crawled along at slower than walking pace with lots of black exhaust. Oxord depends on public transport working. Either accept bus lanes or tramways through both streets - a one way circle using George St and New Rd, or be prepared to build a tunnel under the city centre.[/p][/quote]Word. King Joke
  • Score: -1
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