Gateway to Oxford transformed after completion of £6.7 million works

Each day there’s around 20,000 pedestrian movements during the morning and afternoon peaks in Frideswide Square and 2,500 cycle movements on Botley Rd.

When the transformation of Frideswide Square started the old traffic lights were replaced by three roundabouts. There are now more than 37,000 cars, vans and light goods vehicle movements and around 5,000 lorries and bus movements going through the new “free flow” arrangements in a normal day.

The open area may shortly be used by food and drink businesses on the square to offer outdoor dining to customers.

Park End Street has also been resurfaced and has an improved drainage system, repaired kerbs as well as repairs to water damage on Pacey’s Bridges.

Vast pedestrian space and cycling facilities

Pedestrians now have vast areas of space and can walk from one side to the other of the square at a number of crossing points, while cyclists can choose to take on or off road routes. All traffic now travels along one central boulevard carriageway with courtesy pedestrian crossings replacing the old signal controlled crossings.

The design of the square is based on “shared space” which largely removes the segregation of pedestrians and vehicles. This is done by removing features such as multiple lanes of traffic, traffic lights, and introducing low kerbs and courtesy crossing points.

Although the square is now “open”, many of the features have been in use for some time and the county council is continuing to work with groups such as bus companies and disabled access groups to ensure the new system beds in and changes can be considered if needed.

The square will receive a final clean on Wednesday 16 December 2015 with the completion of work being marked with the switching on of the final lights on the Christmas tree and uplighters round the granite benches and planters. Buses started using the stops on the square on Sunday 13 December.

Major gateway complete on time

County Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “I am delighted that this work has been completed on time – it is a major gateway into the city and looks fantastic.

“Frideswide Square handles thousands of vehicle journeys every day as well as being the gateway to the area for rail passengers. We will see more reliable journey times, far better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists and be part of a modern approach for Oxford.

“We’ve now got a great public space that is in keeping with nearby facilities like as the business school and future developments such as the revamped train station. The finished article reflects the regeneration taking place in and around Oxford and the county as a whole.”

County Councillor David Nimmo Smith, Cabinet member for Environment and Economy, said: “The new road layout creates a welcoming gateway into the city with only two traffic lanes, instead of the six we had before the work started, and massively enhanced public space.

“The old system with the traffic lights led to a start-stop routine which wasn’t good for traffic flow and the general look of the area.

“I want to pay tribute to the contractors, Skanska, who worked hard to get the project finished on time and to a very high standard.”

Cllr Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council said: “Frideswide Square is a focal point for traffic movements around the city centre, and the City Council has worked closely with County Council colleagues to secure improvements that will help pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists.

“The new square is the first in a sequence of major improvement schemes that will transform the West End of Oxford over the next few years, including the Oxpens and Becket Street areas as well as the proposed new station and the ‘island site’ between Park End St and Hythe Bridge St. The quality of the public realm in the new square sets a high standard for these future developments.”

The job

The first stage of work involved altering the Worcester Street/George Street junction to create a traditional four-arm signal controlled junction, allowing traffic to travel north and south along Worcester Street at the junction with Hythe Bridge Street. That work completed in December 2014 also helped us to manage more easily the network during the various construction stages in the Square.

Between February and December 2015, the main phase involved the creation of three roundabouts, which replaced the traffic light controlled junctions. This remodelling improves traffic flows and reduces journey time into Oxford.

The new design encourages a slow (12-15mph) and smooth traffic flow meaning that the majority of cyclists will feel comfortable joining the main flow of traffic on the carriageway. The speed limit throughout the city of Oxford is 20mph.

The only major road scheme now taking place in Oxford is at Cutteslowe and Wolvercote roundabouts on the A40 in the north of the city.

Positive local response

Mat Davies, Director of Estates at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford said: “The staff and students of Oxford Saïd are delighted that the works to transform Frideswide Square are complete. From our building we see the activity in the square on a day to day basis, and it is already clear that the traffic flow is much improved through the square, whilst the delivery of a fantastic, high quality public realm space creates many opportunities for people to engage with the square. A project of this scale cannot be delivered without disruption, but credit should be given to Skanksa, who have handled the transformation of Frideswide Square very efficiently, with regular communication and excellent consultation.”

James Brown, Director of The Urbanists, a town planning and design consultancy said: “Frideswide Square was, until recently, a large traffic dominated junction. Pedestrians and cyclists were relegated to the spaces left behind once the roads had been laid out. The key design challenge of Frideswide Square was to introduce a much better sense of place which is more reflective of Oxford. It was also about ensuring that pedestrian and cycle movements were given equal priority to vehicular movement and that the whole square was still able to accommodate approximately 35,000 vehicles per day. Aligning these, often competing, agendas has been very challenging. The new square is now more harmonious. People can still move through it, albeit differently than they did before. Vehicular traffic remains in the square, but it moves through it constantly and more slowly. People now have places to sit, wait and spend a little time, whilst business have space where they can engage with new customers."

Gwilym Hughes, Head of Endowment Office at Nuffield College said: “The reformation of Frideswide Square has shown just how much progress has been made since the dark ages of traffic lights and municipal street furniture. We now have a gateway to Oxford which lives up to expectations and inspires us to continue with the regeneration of the West End of the city.”