After an astonishingly exhaustive (and exhausting) consultation process, the final LTP3 - or, as we're now meant to call it, Local Transport Plan 2011-2030 - has been published. "Here's the download":http://bit.ly/gxQZyt (a whopping 8Mb PDF).
These are a few outline thoughts after a brief skim through. I'll update them as and when I find more in the document.
First of all: this is a huge step forward from LTP2. LTP2 prioritised cycling and walking in Oxford, but largely ignored it in the rest of the county. LTP3 is much more balanced and begins to envisage both the creation of good cycle networks in the other main towns (Banbury, Witney etc.), and rural routes for utility and leisure purposes.
Everything comes with the mammoth caveat "there is no money", of course. But then there's been no money allocated to cycling outside Oxford for the past five years anyway. The suggestion here is that when there is some money, some of it'll be spent outside Oxford. Right at the start of the Rural Areas section, we have as one of the three principal priorities:
"Develop and increase cycling and walking for local journeys, recreation and health"
On slightly technical matters: The philosophy on designing cycle routes is promising but a little confused. The plan is admirably honest that the "dual network" approach (make main roads cycle-friendly, provide alternative quiet routes) hasn't worked as well as it should. Trying to make the Botley Road cycle-friendly is still a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. Quiet routes, when seen as a second-choice alternative rather than the primary provision, can often end up slow and winding. The NCN often suffers from this in non-cycle-friendly towns.
Instead, it says "future development will emphasise developing safe, direct, attractive, and well-signed routes which can cater for the majority of cyclists". Which is good, especially if "cyclists" is read as "future cyclists" rather than merely "existing cyclists".
I am nervous, though, about the suggestion that "this could follow a hierarchy that gives preference to on-road provision for cyclists". The "hierarchy of provision" is a one-sided idea dreamt up by hardcore road cyclists. Roadies are, of course, entitled to their road space. But "preference" implies "we'll try on-road first, and then if it doesn't work, we'll look at something else". On-road doesn't work for everyone. If it did, we'd have Netherlands/Copenhagen/whatever levels of cycling. We don't.
Anyway, enough on that. There are some good specifics in here: let's make sure they're acted on. (Especially in Banbury, but that's another story.)
The second part which I'm enormously pleased with is the Rural Areas section. The draft plan (published in the autumn) was very skimpy on rural transport issues. We put in a joint response from Charlbury Cycling Group, Sustainable Charlbury, and Charlbury Town Council to say "we think it needs to be a bit more meaty than this". And, greatly to OCC's credit, it is.
One of the things we pointed out was "OCC is never going to have enough resources to rewrite transport in every little village, so let communities do it" (all very Big Society). And that's in there: "Where rural communities develop community-based proposals for improving access to services, we will consider and support viable plans that are consistent with wider transport policy." Excellent.
Also: "Where resources for road or junction improvements are available, the design will reflect the potential for walking, cycling, horse riding and bus use in that location, and not just consider the needs of motorised traffic." And better still: "We will continue to support... the introduction of 20mph zones in settlements, where appropriate."
Finally: "If resources allow we will develop rural cycle routes: these would take the form of signed routes on less busy roads, usually connected to the National Cycle Network or other existing cycle routes. In appropriate cases we will consider converting rights of way to cycle use, particularly where this will provide access to basic services or transport opportunities."
There is no money. But, perhaps, when there is, LTP3 finally gives permission for the money to be spent on good stuff.