ONE of the most senior figures at Oxford University has called for swift action to be taken to make roads around the city ready for bikes, as he prepares for 5,000 of his workers to return.

The call to action from Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr David Prout comes as the Government announced Oxfordshire would be given £597,000 from its emergency active travel fund to temporarily widen cycle paths and pavements across the county, with further funding for longer term projects also in the pipeline.

Both Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have told the university they are committed to doing whatever they are able to get people back to work as the lockdown eases.

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In a letter to the leaders of the city and county councils, Dr Prout said he anticipated 5,000 members of university staff out of 14,500 ‘could resume commuting into Oxford as the summer progresses’.

On top of these university staff members, workers at individual university colleges will also be returning to work.

To prepare for this, Dr Prout said: “Maintaining social distancing whilst travelling to work and between work sites will be essential.”

To do this, he recommended a series of changes to make cycling easier and safer in and around the city.

Oxford Mail:

Safer cycle paths are needed in areas surrounding Oxford, according to Oxford University's pro-vice chancellor

The first of these was adapting Oxford’s park and rides so that staff members who lived outside the Oxford ring road could ‘park and pedal’ instead.

He said this could be done by offering safe, segregated cycling routes from the different park and rides around the city, and providing more cycle parking at each of them.

Dr Prout also recommended segregated cycling routes on routes into the city to connect with Kidlington, Garsington, Cowley, Blackbird Leys, Kennington and Botley.

The university chief also said it was finding space in its estate for extra car parking, so members of staff who were unable to cycle could still use their cars in the absence of public transport.

The Government’s transport secretary Grant Shapps first announced a £250m active travel fund on May 9.

At the time it was billed as funding for pop-up bike lanes, road closures to pedestrians streets, and quick fixes to road markings.

From this first tranche of funding, Oxfordshire is set to be given £597,000.

From a second tranche of funding announced on May 23, Oxfordshire is set to be given £2,388,000.

This larger pot of money will help the county to make long term changes to encourage cycling but can also be used to improve bus services.

Together the two tranches of funding total £2,984,000.

Oxford Mail:

Cycling in Oxford city centre

Oxford City Council has already started installing new bike parking at park and rides around the city. On Wednesday the city council also committed £234,000 towards measures for safer cycling and walking.

Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for green transport and zero carbon Oxford, said: “Oxford University scientists are at the forefront of the global fight against the pandemic, and the city council is proud of their ongoing efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and rapid testing technology.

“The city council shares the university's clear ambition for Oxford scientists and their fellow Oxford citizens to travel into and around the city centre safely."

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Mr Hayes added there was a tight deadline of June 15, to prepare the city centre for when shops were set to reopen.

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “Recovery from the current situation is our top priority and transport adaptations will be needed as we seek to protect the public and encourage more active travel.

“We are working within the constraints of a historic city where much has already been done to encourage walking, cycling and public transport use but we are looking closely at what further steps can be taken in the short term and also over the coming months.

“The university’s suggestions for transport measures that could be considered as we emerge from lockdown are very welcome, and my officers are now actively considering them alongside other proposals to encourage safe, sustainable and efficient travel into and around Oxford.”