CYCLING has not been taken seriously enough in Oxford and £150m must urgently be spent to stop the city "seizing up", a Government-backed report has warned.

A National Infrastructure Commission report has suggested the money be spent on five high-quality protected cycle routes – a total of 17 miles.

The segregated routes include Botley Road, Banbury Road,the Eastern Arc, Iffley Road and East Oxford, and the Marston cyclepath. Some would extend outside the city boundary to Eynsham, Kidlington and Wheatley.

Unsafe junctions would also be improved if funding can be secured.

The study also looked at Milton Keynes and Cambridge but recommended £150m of the £200m be spent in Oxford.

Report author, Andrew Gilligan, said: "Without transport improvements, Oxford will seize up.

"But none of the usual improvements work.

"New road building is impossible, light rail is expensive and slow to deliver and there isn't even room in the centre for more buses.

"But one simple answer is staring Oxford in the face: the bicycle.

"Getting more people to cycle is the quickest, cheapest and least disruptive way to relieve pressure on the roads."

The findings revealed that the number bicycles on Banbury Road during the morning peak hour into Oxford – 417 – was closing in on the number of cars – 527 – during the same period.

An average 860 bikes an hour cross Magdalen Bridge between 7am and 7pm each year – 14 every minute – and 25 per cent of all commuter journeys in Oxford are by bike.

It also found that Cherwell School, in Summertown, at which 58 per cent of pupils travel by bike, was Britain's top cycling school.

The report found that Oxford was a city of cycling but that the road network did not reflect its importance and that "cycling is not taken seriously enough" by local authorities.

It said: "Despite the huge numbers of cyclists using them, Oxford's main roads and junctions are still laid out almost entirely for the benefit of the motor vehicle.

"They look little or no different from the roads of a typical British city where almost nobody cycles."

It added: "The county council, the highways authority does not even have one officer specifically working on cycling - but has dedicated staff for roads, parking and public transport."

Queen Street must also be opened to cyclists, the report said. It complained the current ban left "a major hole" in the cycling network and was unjustified, while also warning that many routes had gaps and were not joined up adequately.

It also ordered meaningful traffic reduction measures, such as a congestion charge or even blocking vehicles from several roads, to be explored to help encourage new cyclists.

In contributing to Mr Gilligan's study, Oxford University's pro-vice chancellor for planning, Professor William James, said: "Something more radical is desperately needed."

Oxfordshire County Council leader, Ian Hudspeth, said: "I think you've got to be quite radical. We are prepared to be bold."

Oxford City Council backed the report and said that the city’s roads and junctions had to be improved to encourage cycling.

City Councillor Louise Upton, Board Member for Healthy Oxford, said: “The city council welcomes the NIC’s findings and recommendations and supports its call on the Government to invest £150m to improve cycling in and around Oxford.

“Our city streets are creaking at the seams, and our air quality is poor. We need to reduce traffic and increase active travel.”

Chief executive of the NIC, Phil Graham, said: "Creating thriving and liveable communities supported by the right infrastructure is essential to safeguard the prosperity of one of the most economically important regions in the country.

"Maintaining its global lead in science and technology means retaining the brightest and best and providing them with new places to live and accessible routes to work.

"This report highlights the important role cycling could play in connecting communities."