A VISION of a pedestrianised St Giles and flying taxis dropping people home from the shops are at the heart of new plans for transport in Oxfordshire.

The county council is asking for people's views on these and other ideas in a survey which will influence its plans for transport and highways until 2050.

The council said it wants to encourage more people to cycle by building better bike lanes, to move away from car ownership towards on-demand hire schemes, and reduce motor vehicle traffic by blocking off some streets.

Some people who have already responded to the survey, which is open until the end of the day this Sunday, have suggested there are gaps in the councils plans.

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The results will influence a long term scheme called the Oxfordshire Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, currently being discussed in draft form behind closed doors, which could have an impact over the next 30 years.

In an explainer as part of the survey, the council said that increasing car use had become a problem and action needed to be taken to move away from it.

It said: “That growth in movement has come at a cost. Wherever you are in the county, whether you drive or not, you’ll be impacted by the problem of congestion, interrupting your journey or your radio programme.

“Cars and lorries also use a large amount of land, for roads and parking. That is particularly valuable in towns and cities.

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“For some unfortunately there also is the direct impact of a road casualty.”

The council said that Oxford’s Zero Emissions Zone, aimed at curbing air pollution, and Connecting Oxford, aimed at stopping congestion, were the start of fixing these problems.

But it said more could be done to take cars off the roads, and said people in the future would ‘certainly’ drive electric cars, and may not own them, but rent them.

The council document even went so far as to suggest a ‘flying taxi’ might exist by 2050 as a convenient but expensive alternative to the bus.

Oxford Mail:

'We've started to address these problems': the Zero Emission Zone and Connecting Oxford. Picture: Oxfordshire County Council.

The survey also asks for opinions on creating cycling networks throughout Bicester and Didcot, similar to a plan drawn up for Oxford earlier this year, which it said will make cyclists safer through better lanes.

Other measures which the council suggests includes widening pavements, with an image showing a paved over St Giles full of people walking and sitting on benches, while two narrow lanes of traffic drive either side.

There are also plans to create two ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ in the county, areas where roads are closed off to cars, and streets are given over to pedestrians.

One area of Oxford already preparing a bid to become one of these low-traffic neighbourhoods is St Mary’s Ward, where Green councillors Dick Wolff and Craig Simmons have been working to design a scheme to apply for funding.

Reopening the Cowley branch line, as well as new train stations at Grove and Begbroke are also mentioned in the study, and members of the public taking part in the survey are asked how often they would use trains if these plans go ahead.

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People are also asked for their views on building bike racks near to train stations and bus stops to make journeys easier, as well as providing more public footpaths in the countryside.

But one area of the survey which is lacking, according to Oxford residents Hazel and Steve Dawe of the Cowley Area Transport Group, is a concrete local goal for reducing fossil fuel emissions on the county’s roads.

Mr Dawe said: “The Transport Plan needs an early date for carbon-free surface transport: about 45 per cent of Oxfordshire’s emissions come from surface transport. We suggest no later than 2030.”

Mrs Dawe added: “We need cuts in road traffic: the total volume of vehicles and journeys continues to increase. Every Oxfordshire council should be encouraging vehicle hire rather than ownership. No one will want to go back to the appalling rush hour traffic in this county after the current crisis. Bus services in rural areas which have been cut should be reintroduced.”

Similar schemes to the ones in the survey have been discussed by central government in recent weeks.

As people across England began to return to work with the easing of the coronavirus lockdown, government transport secretary Grant Shapps announced a £280m fund for temporary measures to widen pavements and cycle lanes, as well as reduce the flow of traffic on roads.

The scheme is aimed at getting people back to work while encouraging social distancing.

To take part in the Oxfordshire County Council survey, visit the council website.