A LEADING cycle campaign group in Oxford has welcomed publication of a safety audit of newly-designed Frideswide Square.

The report was completed by contractors Atkins in November last year for Oxfordshire County Council before work started on the long-awaited £5.8m revamp.

The redesign, featuring roundabouts at either end of the square, started in February and there have been two accidents involving cyclists, one in April and one in May. Neither cyclist was seriously injured.

Following a Freedom of Information request from the Oxford Mail, the county council released the safety report.

Problems picked up by the audit included the short link between the roundabouts on the eastern side of the square, making cyclists “vulnerable” as they weaved between slow-moving vehicles, and vegetation blocking sight lines.

Chairman of campaign group Cyclox Simon Hunt said: “These safety reports should be subject to public scrutiny.

“We will now have a close look at the report and there may be aspects we want to follow up as a result.”

Father-of-three Mr Hunt, 69, from North Oxford, a former lecturer in immunology at Oxford University, has been a cyclist since he was a child.

He added: “At the moment it is nerve-wracking when you cycle through the square because when traffic is congested it is quite close to you.

“As part of the new design there will be shared space for pedestrians and cyclists away from the main carriageway.

“Non-confident cyclists will need help to access that shared space – we don’t think that has been thought through properly.”

The county council’s strategic manager for project delivery Richard Warren said in the response to the FOI request: “Where it has not been possible to ‘design out’ the risk entirely measures have been taken to reduce the risk as far as practicable.

“For instance, the whole design principle is based on an average smooth, continual vehicle flow of between 10 and 15mph – ie ensuring the 20mph speed is adhered to.”

Mr Warren added the temporary traffic management arrangements were under constant review.

Labour city councillor Colin Cook, a keen cyclist who frequently rides through the square, said it would not be clear how safe the square was for cyclists and pedestrians until the work was done.

He added: “A lack of familiarity with the new scheme will generate its own issues and problems, but that could be beneficial because cyclists and pedestrians will take more care.

“I am confident enough to ride down the middle of the square, but others may not be and for the less confident the county council has promised it will be permissible to ride on the pavement through the square’s shared space.

“I would encourage cyclists to use the road surface because their presence in large numbers will calm the traffic.”

Oxford Pedestrians’ Association chairman Sushila Dhall, also a keen cyclist, said: “When I am on my bike, I have found the square easier to negotiate since work started, but we don’t know yet how the shared space will work.”

The scheme to redesign the square is due to finish in December.

The county council’s cabinet member for environment, David Nimmo-Smith, was unavailable for comment.