Bridge trial in Abingdon set to be extended

A trial to temporarily designate some additional carriageway space on Bridge Street in Abingdon for better pedestrian and cycling provision has been extended to provide more time to assess the impact and refine the arrangement.

Originally restrictions were introduced in May after an inspection revealed stonework on the northern arch of the bridge – which carries the A415 across the River Thames in Abingdon – had become displaced. Temporary traffic signals were put in place to enable vehicles up to 44 tonnes to continue to use the bridge. This was an unavoidable measure required on safety grounds.

In an attempt to use the situation to explore ways to improve Active Travel in the town, Oxfordshire County Council decided to run a short trial. From 26 July, the temporary traffic signals were moved further apart to either end of Abingdon Bridge – near to Thames Street in the north and the Rye Farm car park in the south – to create a dedicated space for cycling and walking over the bridge.

There were concerns that the trial might have significantly impacted traffic through the town and so it was originally earmarked for five days. However early concerns about significant delays do not appear to have materialised so the Cabinet Member for Highways Management, Councillor Tim Bearder, in consultation with local councillors has decided to extend the trial.

Councillor Bearder said: "We've kept a very close eye on the effect these changes are having on traffic in the town and are pleased that it hasn't had the dire consequences some predicted. There is clearly a further piece of work required to make the space more accessible to cyclists and we are exploring options to make that better. If we can't achieve that then we may have to abandon the trial but for now we think it is worth keeping in place. 

“I appreciate that some motorists have expressed concerns, but ultimately unless we are serious about tackling climate change and creating more space for cycling and walking things will never change. There will be some impact on drivers but in the end we hope that better active transport provision will make Abingdon better for everyone."

Oxfordshire County Council has set up a dedicated page for the trial where a short survey can be completed and a forum on which comments can be made. The council welcomes residents' views so as to fully gauge the impact of the extended trial.

It is likely to be several months before work can start on repairing the bridge and possibly more than a year before it is completed. The complex nature of repairing this historic bridge, which was built in the 15th century, and uncertainty over the availability of subcontractors with the specialist skills, are factors in the amount of time the work will take.

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