PLANS to encourage thousands more people in Bicester to ditch their cars for short journeys and cycle or walk instead have been approved.

Oxfordshire’s county council cabinet approved a plan laying out roads and pathways in the town for what has been called ‘active travel’ at a meeting on Tuesday.

The Bicester Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) lays out ambitions to encourage a 200 per cent rise in cycling by the year 2031 – that’s 9,000 daily cycling trips up from 3,000; and a 50 per cent rise in walking – or 24,000 up from the current 18,000 walking trips.

The plan predicts Bicester’s population will expand from 30,000 to 55,000 by 2034 because of new housing developments.

Also read: Oriel College's plans to build flats refused for the third time

To prevent every journey made by these new residents being taken by car and clogging the town’s roads, the plan says a ‘fundamental shift in thinking’ is needed to get people on their bikes and walking.

As the plan was signed off by the cabinet, which is made up of the county’s most senior councillors, leader Ian Hudspeth said Bicester’s geography lent itself to 'active travel'.

He said: “Bicester is ideally suited towards the bicycle because it is pretty flat compared to other areas of the county.”

But Lawrie Stratford, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, had some criticisms.

Mr Stratford, who represents Bicester North, said: “There is an assumption that most journeys in future could be done on foot or cycle. I beg to differ due to the developments on the perimeter. I suspect there will be less opportunity for those people to walk or cycle.”

Mr Stratford was concerned that new shopping areas outside the town centre would be more easily accessible by car than bike or foot, and that some new housing estates might need to be retrofitted to take parts of the plan into account.

Also read: Top tips on protecting your bike from theft

Cabinet member for transport Yvonne Constance said the plan was a ‘first step’, and funding from Government was needed before anything could get off the ground.

She said the estimated costs of plans to encourage cycling and walking were £40m.

The Government is obliged to help councils find money to instigate large-scale cycling and walking projects.

The LCWIP includes a sliding scale of measures which could be adopted to encourage more people to take up cycling and walking.

At the bottom end of ambitions in this scale is simply maintaining the existing cycle network in Bicester.

At the top, measures include bus gates on town centre streets similar to those in Oxford, alongside new cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods throughout Bicester’s different areas: designed at stopping rat running.

Bicester Advertiser:

A map which includes the most ambitious ways Bicester could encourage walking and cycling. The map shows low traffic neighbourhoods outined in districts of the town, and red dots in the town centre where road closures could be made. Picture: Oxfordshire County Council

The roll-out of these measures in Oxford have led to worries about their effects on local businesses.

There are also plans for a comprehensive network of cycle paths, with main routes designated as ‘quickways’ and side streets designated as ‘quietways’, in a similar approach to the already-adopted Oxford LCWIP.

Depending on funding, quietways could see small changes including signs and priority for bikes added in, while quickways could see large changes like segregated cycle paths and even ‘Dutch-style’ roundabouts brought to Bicester.

Bicester Advertiser:

Oxfordshire County Council wants more people to walk and cycle locally in Bicester. Picture: Ed Nix

The UK’s first Dutch-style roundabout opened in Cambridge this year and gives priority to bikes and pedestrians over cars.

But it met with criticism because of huge costs and after a car accident happened a month after opening.

Also read: Picture of the Oxford Brookes parties spreading coronavirus

The amount of changes adopted in Bicester would depend on the appetite for change on the roads among residents.

The plan said the current level of cycling in the town is low, with approximately 5 per cent of the population regularly making trips by bike.

But it added that this is likely to change by 2031 as ‘the impacts of the climate emergency will be taken more seriously’.