Frideswide Square opens

The Urbanists were delighted to attend the official opening of the £5.8m transformation of Frideswide Square in Oxford in December. 

The square was designed by The Urbanists alongside Oxfordshire County Council (highways / transportation) and Atkins (civil engineering).

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.

James Brown, Director of The Urbanists: “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 the same number of 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.”

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.


Vast pedestrian space and cycling facilities

Pedestrians now have more 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. Specialist shared space consultancy, Hamilton Baillie Associates, were involved in the early concept design of the square. 


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.”

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 quality of the public realm in the new square sets a high standard for future developments.”


Positive local response

Matt 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. 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.”


The Urbanists are already working on several other projects with similar challenges and opportunities and look forward to applying our considerable experience to other towns and cities in the UK.