Alison Hill & Simon Hunt

THE city centre is currently blighted by traffic, and the situation is getting worse.

Congestion has increased following the opening of the new Westgate Centre. St Aldate’s and the High Street are no-go areas now as buses and taxis jostle for space. Air pollution continues to be an intractable problem.

The environment for both residents and visitors is unattractive and unappealing, and there is worse to come, as the populations of both city and county grow and put additional pressures on transport within the city. The current situation is untenable.

To create an attractive, vibrant, clean city, with space for us all to enjoy, requires new and disruptive thinking.

And an exciting, fresh and provocative rethink seems to be happening. Cyclox was one of many organisations who joined in a meeting at county hall on January 9 where consultants, Phil Jones Associates and ITP, acting for the city and county councils working jointly, unveiled some breathtakingly radical options.

These involve reducing the roadway width for motor vehicles by making key roads one-way, freeing up valuable space for pavements and making dedicated separate cycle lanes.

The consultants propose creating one-way transport loops around the centre of the city for buses and other vehicles, and two-way segregated routes for cycle users on those same streets, with exclusion of through-traffic.

Stakeholders present at the meeting discussed various options for this system. The radical approaches suggested by the consultants should appeal to anyone who would like to see more walking or cycling in the centre of Oxford. Cyclox welcomes the idea of re-allocating highway space in favour of people on foot and on cycles.

The city and the county council transport strategies intend that cycling and walking are key modes of transport in the city. These new options should make cycling and walking in the city centre much more attractive.

Alongside improvements to radial routes into the centre, these ideas will help stimulate a substantial increase in cycling if they come to fruition. And they provide a good solution for an east-west cycle route between the railway station and Magdalen Bridge, for which Cyclox has argued long and hard. Would-be cycle users will be more willing to get on their bikes to come into the centre, and it will encourage more cycling-based deliveries and freight carriage, taking delivery vehicles out of the centre. A win-win for all…

The consultants’ options build on proposals for the zero-emission zone, on congestion charging and/or workplace parking levies, all of which are contentious issues, but are prompting changes in attitudes, and thinking, about transport in the city centre.

This is a strikingly new approach and we all need time to digest the proposals. But it has helped us think the unthinkable, and could stimulate further radical possibilities. It is disruptive of the status quo, and it will be difficult to row back from this now.

Let’s hope that the voices of progress are heard.