OXFORD’S new Lord Mayor Elise Benjamin has pledged to let the train – and her bike – take the strain to help protect the planet during her year in office.
Ms Benjamin, 45, will become Lord Mayor at the mayor-making ceremony at the Town Hall on Thursday, May 19, taking over from John Goddard.
She will be the city’s first Green Lord Mayor after serving as a Green city councillor in East Oxford since 1999.
Ms Benjamin – who lives with former Green city councillor Craig Simmons in Magdalen Road and their daughter Berenice, 10 – said she was determined not to fly out to Oxford’s twin towns for official visits.
And she will use the Lord Mayor’s bicycle, donated by cycling campaign group Cyclox, whenever she can.
She said: “My first twinning visit will be to Bonn at the start of June and I will be travelling by train. As a Green, I prefer not to fly and I think it’s much better for the environment to travel by train.
“I am trying to find out if I can keep the Lord Mayor’s bike at my house after it was donated by Cyclox a few years ago. I will cycle to engagements as much as I can to avoid using the Lord Mayor’s car, the Toyota Prius, and I can wear a replica chain when I am cycling, to keep the real one safe.
“Using the bike will also help to keep costs down at a time when councils are trying to save money.”
Ms Benjamin and Mr Simmons, an environmental consultant, moved to Oxford from St Albans in 1993 after she attended the London College of Furniture and the Hertfordshire College of Art and Design.
She has worked as an administrator for Oxford Brookes University and the charity Africa Now, and for the past three years has worked for Caroline Lucas, former Green MEP for the South East, and her successor Keith Taylor.
Ms Benjamin was deputy Lord Mayor three years ago and finished her stint as Sheriff in May last year.
She said one of her priorities as Lord Mayor would be to ensure members of the public didn’t lose their democratic right to be heard at full council meetings.
She added: “The council meeting is one of the few remaining places where residents can have their say and I think it would be a mistake to change that.”
This year’s Lord Mayor’s Parade on May 30 – a Bank Holiday Monday – will feature a walk from the Town Hall to Christ Church Meadow where there will be stalls, music and a picnic.
Ms Benjamin’s chosen charities as Lord Mayor are Donnington Doorstep Family Centre and People and Planet, which encourages students to campaign on environmental issues.
Between 1999 and 2002, Ms Benjamin was a Green city councillor for the East ward. Then, following a two-year break, she became Green city councillor for Iffley Fields.
Current Lord Mayor John Goddard, speaking from Oxford’s twin town Leiden in Holland, said: “I have found being Lord Mayor a great experience and I am sure Elise will enjoy it too. I wish her well.”