'We must spend it!' Just £15k of £362k pot of Oxford City Council cash for improvements across city used

John Tanner

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First published in News

ABOUT £15,000 has been spent from a £362,000 pot of council cash for cycling improvements in the city, the Oxford Mail can reveal.

A council boss said transport staff did not have time to approve projects aimed at making roads safer.

Oxford City Council announced the Cycle City cash in 2012 but all work needs approval from Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

Projects announced in 2012 included £30,000 for a cycle lane on Marston Road and removing pavement parking on Donnington Bridge Road.

Labour council leader Bob Price said: “We have been concerned that we put forward

a whole range of schemes, small schemes, across the city which, for various reasons, the county council have not been able to allocate the resources to. It is disappointing given the money is there and we can’t spend it.”
He said the county transport department had been “amicable” and honest about its workload, which he said included redevelopment of the city’s Westgate Centre and Frideswide Square.
Official figures show Oxford is second only to Cambridge for the proportion of residents, 17 per cent, who cycle to work.
Mr Price said: “The concern is to get momentum going in relation to the principles in which cycling could be greatly improved.”
The cash has gone on new signs at Headington’s Green Road roundabout to a cycle-friendly route and £900 to remove barriers by Folly Bridge in Abingdon Road.
The county has approved barrier removal at Barracks Lane and University Parks and an estimated £900 new cycle lane in Little Clarendon Street.
But David Nimmo Smith, the county’s cabinet member for environment, responsible for transport, said: “If we are dragging our heels it is because we want to make sure it is right and proper and sensible. We see cycling as an important part of the mix. If we can get more people off driving, and more people on to buses and bikes, we’ll have a win-win situation.
“The county council is working closely with the city keeping them fully up to speed on our shared ambition to continue to improve conditions for cyclists in Oxford.”
Cllr Nimmo Smith said the county council’s own Oxford Cycle Strategy was not yet complete and would be launched in the autumn
New city council executive member for transport John Tanner said of the Conservative-led county council: “I don’t think they have cycling as the same priority as the city council has.”

Quarterly meetings with the authority had “not been as productive” as hoped, he said, adding: “Cycling is popular and I want to make it even more popular.” The cash will not be spent in other departments he vowed.
Yet he said £72,000 will be spent by April to improve the Oxford Canal towpath with another £50,000 for plans to improve The Plain roundabout at St Clements.
The £1m scheme is the city’s biggest cycling project with £865,000 from the Department for Transport and about 10 per cent from the county council.
City council environmental sustainability manager Jo Colwell, leading the schemes, said: “There has been a period of groundwork and consultation. But we are gathering momentum. It’s going to be a good year of delivery this year. All the partners are agreed on a strong cycling vision for Oxford.”
The council is set to release a city cycling blueprint called Cycle Vision in the autumn.
Simon Hunt, chairman of cycling lobby group Cyclox, said: “Things are slower than we expected. We’re in the third year now of those four years. The fundamental problem is that we’ve got two authorities.”
Green Party city council group leader Craig Simmons said: “Very little has happened.
“They [city council] haven’t really resourced it properly.”



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