We don’t know what the official results are of the Cow Lane Bridge widening on traffic volumes yet, but we do know it has sped up the traffic on Richfield Avenue significantly.
We have talked about Oxford Road and Reading West a lot over the years. It is a great and vibrant part of Reading, but it is also struggling with congestion, air quality and safety. It is fairly obvious to most that it needs addressing.
This includes us in the cycle campaign, but also by planners, Councillors etc. Plans were created in 2013 which were shelved after a consultation period. Those plans did not go ahead for various reasons.
Partially because Reading Borough Council decided then they wanted to wait for the effect of the widening of the Cow Lane underpass on traffic volumes on Oxford Road.
So obviously this project has been on the agenda of the Traffic Management Sub-committee for a while now, but the stars finally seem to align. Cow Lane is open and in use and the Oxford Road plans in some form or another will likely go into consultation this year.
The fact the Council wants to wait for the effect of the Cow Lane project to become clear is concerning however. The reality is that the Cow Lane underpass project has significantly increased road capacity in the area.
The law of induced demand suggests that when you cater more to cars you stimulate driving and therefore traffic. The danger is that we end up with more people driving because of the underpass, but without reducing the traffic on Oxford Road.
The law is a widely accepted now and we know it happens very quickly. Essentially people make decisions on their mode of transport or the trips they decide to make and know what they find convenient. That means we would expect to see an increase in traffic overall.
For that reason it is absolutely critical to get going with traffic calming measures. Once the increased capacity has settled in, it will be politically much harder (but not impossible) to tell that changes that are needed.
That means 20 mph will need to be implemented across the entirety of Oxford Road and Reading West as a whole. Currently it is still unclear whether the proposed 20mph speed limit for Reading West will include Oxford Road.
We know that some Councillors are in favour of it, but it is not a done deal. Also given it has to go into consultation it could easily take six months.
In addition to that it is vital we make significant adjustments to the current plans for Oxford Road to actually reduce traffic. This means giving much more priority to pedestrians and cyclists.
Reducing on-road parking, widening pavements or even introducing cycle lanes (not holding my breath on that one) can all be solutions.
The re-opening of the Cow Lane underpass was without question a major victory for car use in Reading. It can be a draw if this is offset by significant traffic calming measures on Oxford Road.
If we leave it longer we are just waiting for induced demand to catch up.
Leendert van Hoogenhuijze