BROAD Street has been 'given back to the people' today as Oxford marks World Car Free Day for the first time.

The city centre route is closed off to motorists in a bid to encourage drivers to ditch their vehicles and highlight the benefits of walking, cycling and public transport.

Pedestrians and cyclists have turned out in force despite the rain, with several activities and stalls on offer.

The day is spearheaded by Suzanne Bartington, Oxfordshire County Council’s cycling champion, who hopes the event provides a blueprint for the future.

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She said: "I'm really pleased we're joining cities across the globe in giving streets back to the people.

"Broad Street is iconic - I always say it's one of the most beautiful streets in the country, if not the world, and yet we have cars sitting in the middle of it.

Oxford Mail:

"It makes a clear statement that this is how lots of people want to see Broad Street."

Cities began marking World Car Free Day in 2000, with the aim to rid places of vehicles and pollution.

This year, it comes two days after about 5,000 people marched on Broad Street in the city's latest Youth Strike 4 Climate protest.

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Lord Mayor of Oxford, Craig Simmons, opened the event and called for the measures to be rolled out across the city in the coming years.

He said: "There are 364 other days in the year, so if this is the start of something great that's important.

"We have to move towards fossil fuel vehicles being banned from the city centre.

"We've got a climate emergency and that impacts transport - we have to think radically about alternative solutions to the car."

Among the activities is a BMX adventure 'pump track' provided by British Cycling, while several Oxfordshire organisations are running information and activity stalls.

Oxford Mail:

One of those braving the wet weather is Scott Urban, director of Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, which advocates safe, active travel and smoother car movement across the county.

He said: "We're all for people having cars of their own, but we don't want cars to be a mass transportation solution.

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"Broad Street should be Oxford's plaza, every European city has one.

"This would be our natural plaza and one day it will be, so today is the first step in that journey."

Oxford Mail:

Steve Unwin, of Wheels for All Oxfordshire, echoed Mr Urban's call.

The service provides opportunities for all ages to access inclusive cycling facilities at Horspath Athletics Track and Mr Unwin claimed fewer cars would encourage more people to get on their bike.

He said: "To encourage more cycling, unfortunately we need less motor traffic.

"A lot of the disabled people we deal with wouldn't go on a public road, but if there was proper segregated cycle ways or traffic free areas they would."

Several similar initiatives are taking place across the county, with Oxford Bus Company offering free Park and Ride and PickMeUp journeys.

Many towns are also holding events, with Witney residents able to take advantage of cycling activities and a health walk.