Councillor Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, looks at the future of transport in the county
Oxford and Oxfordshire weren’t built for motorised transport. Our historic county deserves an excellent travel network that connects us, helps businesses and jobs, gives access to opportunity, while tackling the climate and cost of living crises. That is what we are working to deliver, and we need your help and insight.
Since coming to power in May 2021, we’ve proposed steps to address the climate emergency and create a transport network that works for everyone.
We want residents and visitors to get around easily for work, education, daily living, and to connect families and friends. Our priority is to invest in an inclusive, integrated, and sustainable transport network while moving to zero carbon.
Most of us already contend with congestion and pollution. Cyclists and pedestrians are put at risk by sharing space with vehicles. If we carry on as we are while our population grows, we face gridlock. We must find ways for those who can to choose to travel on foot and bike, and use buses, taxis and trains (and share cars), to help free up our roads while we address the climate emergency and health issues by reducing emissions.
We are also committed to dealing with inequality. Cycling and walking are good ways to live healthily. But parts of the county and city are poorly served by public transport or lack safe connected cycle paths. Alternatives to cars must be affordable and work for everyone. Some people, and not just those with blue badges, need more help getting around, and we must plan for that too.
The County Council can’t do this alone. The city of Oxford, other local authorities and the county need to work together: the county needs access to its beloved city, and the city needs the county not to clog up its roads.
Our approach is to invest and encourage people to change the way they travel with a series of bold measures.
We are putting the interests of people with disabilities and those travelling on foot and bicycle first, providing better bus services, supporting taxis, and working to expand railways. We will amend existing policies, and with public help we are writing a radical Local Transport and Connectivity Plan to support this change.
Our planning strategy will evolve so new housing developments offer alternatives to the car – meaning residents need fewer parking spaces, have more green areas, and many can live on estates where car ownership isn’t necessary.
We must use data to understand where and when people want to travel so we make smarter choices about how to avoid traffic jams and offer smart ticketing on public transport. It will also allow us to provide dashboards on air pollution and local effects of the climate emergency.
We are determined not to build roads which will simply encourage more vehicle movements and reduce the space for living healthy. However, we have inherited some schemes bound up with new housing which need careful and thoughtful design and construction, not least to support new bus routes and cycle lanes. We also need to adapt existing roads to be better, faster routes for buses and bikes.
We want to gradually reduce parking spaces in Oxford and encourage others to do so, for instance through a workplace parking levy (which will be invested to provide quick and easy alternatives for commuters). Large employers like the universities are already working on this basis.
E-scooters, e-bikes and community buses can be used for the last few miles of journeys from out-of-town car parks. Motorcycles also offer an efficient alternative to cars and are part of our planning.
We’ve created a zero emission zone in Oxford, with plans to expand to the whole city centre and beyond, charging polluting vehicles as we move to all-electric transport.
There will be a focus on public transport, including replacing diesel buses with electric ones in Oxford from 2023, and introducing new lanes and bus priority measures to give peak priority in Oxford. There is one of these measures on Oxford High Street already, and another slightly different one on Botley Road. We will support community buses to connect people in our rural towns and villages. To achieve this, we will work in close partnership with the bus companies.
Our roads and urban environment also need to become safer and cleaner for people on foot, bikes, and mobility scooters. We have conducted experiments to cut through-traffic in our residential streets to improve air quality and quality of life and will review what we have learned. Reducing through-traffic in town centre streets can also help businesses operate outdoors and increase the attractiveness of our high streets for shoppers.
‘School Streets’ trials have also worked well in some places. More are planned to encourage children and families to walk or cycle to school.
We want to build dedicated and segregated cycle lanes, connect existing ones into a safer network along longer routes, and plug gaps in our towns and city. We also aim to modify existing and new road layouts to make them safe for cyclists and will look at establishing new links between home and workplaces – particularly for buses and bikes where the science jobs of the future are being created.
Bold changes aren’t easy but doing nothing isn’t an option. The prize is a city and county where we can all get around easily and affordably, in a way that is healthy and clean and does not damage our planet. Please share your ideas as we all travel on this journey to a cleaner, healthier, fairer Oxfordshire.
Cllr Enright is a member of the Fair Deal Alliance. It is made up of Labour & Cooperative, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors, and is the first administration without Conservatives since inception in 1889