Oxford city is gridlocked. Our beautiful streets are blighted by traffic jams morning and evening. With more vehicles crossing the ring road, journey times both by bus and car are increasing. Air pollution exceeds safe levels in many of our congested streets.

Currently approximately 45,000 vehicles enter Oxford during rush hour every day, driving a cumulative total of 220,000 miles, estimated to release 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Through traffic makes a major contribution to the congestion, comprising 40% of all motorised traffic through the city centre’s streets.

Cyclox has long been calling for radical action to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles, and we were astonished and delighted to read Oxfordshire County and Oxford City Councils’ proposals, published last Wednesday, outlining visionary plans to improve travel times, reduce congestion and tackle pollution. The councils are recognising that just making marginal improvements is not working.

The proposal is to implement five traffic control points – also known as ‘bus gates’ – both in and around the city centre in Thames Street, Worcester Street and South Parks Road, and in addition on the Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way. Sections of these roads will be closed to private and commercial vehicles during peak times, while remaining open to buses, taxis, emergency vehicles and cycles, as is already the case on Oxford’s High Street. These will stop cross-city journeys by private and commercial vehicles, and will reduce the journey times of buses.

The Councils are also proposing the introduction of a workplace parking levy for all businesses with over 11 employees in the Eastern arc of the city (Northway and Headington, through to the Oxford Business Park) with the aim of encouraging people to commute by more sustainable and efficient modes. The levy will fund future transport developments, such as improved bus routes and segregated cycle routes.

These plans have been released to test public opinion and seek early comments in advance of opening a formal consultation in 2020. So far it appears that the massive opposition that was anticipated has not emerged, with the public recognising the need to reclaim our streets.

Cyclox welcomes these bold plans to reduce journeys by cars, to speed up journey times for all, and free up space for walking and cycling. We will be responding in support as this is the first step in making Oxford’s streets healthier and more attractive for all, encouraging more people to walk and cycle in this great city.

We will be urging the councils to hold their nerve and deliver this visionary plan. Not only will the changes help those taking public transport and travelling on foot, or by bike, but also car drivers, who will no longer waste precious time sitting in traffic jams each day. By reducing the number of cars travelling through the city, we believe this plan will allow for quicker bus journeys and will free up space that can be allocated to walking and cycling. Air quality will improve, congestion will reduce and, most importantly, this will improve the health for Oxford’s residents and visitors. Everyone is set to benefit.