Joint Cyclox and OxPA meeting
January 28 2014

St Giles Campaign - Survey update

Speaker: Keith Frayn

Keith Frayn presented an interim summary of the findings of the OxPA survey of traffic in St Giles. The aim of the survey is to document the use of the thoroughfare by pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles with a view to a rational allocation of space.

Tribute was paid to the stalwart OxPA members who have been doing the necessary counting during hour-long stints at the various observation points. Keith Frayn’s presentation is summarised below.

Surveying work by OxPA and Oxford Civic Society June – October 2013

OxPA and Oxford Civic Society members counted pedestrians and cyclists at several points along St Giles on 5 days during June – October 2013.  On 15th October (University term-time) we surveyed at three times of day.  All surveys were conducted for one hour.

On each occasion we also counted people crossing St Giles.  On some occasions we also counted vehicle numbers at the southern (Martyrs’ Memorial) end.  We also attempted to calculate vehicle numbers based on the County Council’s data from their automatic traffic counters, but this was not very successful, as described below.

St Giles is essentially a North-South thoroughfare but not everyone is travelling its whole length.  Many people are walking or cycling along it to reach one of its buildings (or emerging from a building).  There are two main turnings off the street: Pusey Street to the West, Lamb and Flag Passage to the East (each approximately half-way along St Giles).  We also counted people entering and leaving St Giles by these routes on a few occasions.

Data collection points are shown on the sketch in the PowerPoint presentation.  The data have been collated in Excel.  A brief summary of the highlights of the data is given in below.

Members conducting the surveys also noted observations about hazards, traffic behaviour, etc and these comments are collected in Appendix A.

Observations from the surveys

A number of striking observations were made.  These might be summarised as:

  •  Very large numbers of pedestrians use St Giles, in each direction and on both sides (more on the W side).  There are also large numbers of cyclists, although not as many as pedestrians.
  • Many people (pedestrians and cyclists) cross St Giles in each direction, despite the difficulties of crossing this 4-lane highway.
  • Use of St Giles is complex.  In the surveys where we counted people using the side-entrances (Pusey St and Lamb & Flag Passage) these were very busy.  It is also clear from surveys in which we counted pedestrians at different points along the East side of St Giles that many must be using it for access to buildings along the street.
  • Vehicle numbers are less than those for pedestrians and cyclists.  It is clear that St Giles is more heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists than by vehicles.
  • Vehicle movements at the southern end are complex, with almost all south-bound cars, vans and lorries crossing the carriageway to enter Beaumont Street (80% of all vehicular traffic), necessitating traffic lights and long queues at busy times.

More details

Pedestrian and cycle traffic along St Giles varies with day of week, University terms and time of day, not surprisingly.  The heaviest usage we recorded was on a Tuesday lunchtime (13:00 – 14:00) during term time (15th Oct), when we counted > 1000 pedestrians going in each direction, and 200 – 300 cyclists.  During this period, 290 people crossed the road (i.e. 5 per minute).  The side-streets were heavily used, with 285 people using Pusey Sreet and 510 using Lamb and Flag Passage (pedestrians and cyclists, all directions).  At other times the street was not quite so busy but still numbers were large – e.g. Tuesday 4th June at 16:15 to 17:15 we recorded 894 pedestrians coming southwards and 736 going northwards.

We attempted to collate vehicle numbers from the County Council’s automatic traffic counters.  Unfortunately these are not placed in St Giles itself.  We had data from counters 505 in Woodstock Road, 506 in Banbury Road and 656 in Parks Road.  During one hour (Tuesday 4th June at 16:15 to 17:15, to coincide with the pedestrian survey) 750 vehicles came southwards down Woodstock and Banbury Roads.  529 came northwards along Parks Road.  But because we lack information on the routes taken, we cannot calculate St Giles traffic with any precision.  Taking two extreme assumptions (all Parks Road traffic turns south down St Giles, or none does) we calculate between 400 or 1300 vehicles coming southwards down St Giles.  Nevertheless, even on the greater extreme, it is clear that vehicles would only just equal southbound pedestrians and cyclists (total 1251), and, given the shorter transit time of vehicles, there is no doubt that at any instant there are many more pedestrians and cyclists on St Giles than vehicles.

We obtained more direct information on vehicles in some surveys by observation from the Martyrs’ Memorial.  On Tuesday 15th Oct, 08:00 – 09:00, 500 vehicles entered St Giles in a northerly direction (from Beaumont St and Magdalen St W).  Almost exactly the same number came southwards and entered Beaumont Street and Magdalen Street East.  At the same time, 974 pedestrians and cyclists went north and 609 came south along St Giles.  This confirms directly the conclusion that St Giles is more heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists than by vehicles.

Vehicle movements at the southern end of St Giles are complex.  Traffic coming southwards divides between Beaumont Street and Magdalen Street East (the latter mainly buses and taxis): almost all cars, vans and lorries cross the carriageway to enter Beaumont Street, necessitating traffic lights and long queues at busy times.

Additional observations made by the surveyors

  • Some coaches U-turn on St Giles.
  • Southbound traffic has been observed going very fast (buses and cars, > 30 mph).
  • Dangers to people crossing from traffic turning between carriageways (often parked vehicles turning across).
  • Dangers to people (pedestrians and cyclists) from cars reversing into parking spaces.
  • Buses going northwards are usually very slow and considerate to cyclists but southbound buses often travel at > 20 mph and cut in front of cyclists.
  • Drivers looking for parking places crawl along in the cycle lane and cyclists don’t know on which side to pass them (especially north-bound).
  • Difficult for northbound cyclists to get to Banbury Road (they get hooted at).

Sample videos taken during the survey show some of the problems: