SOME of Oxford's biggest employers have called for cycling infrastructure to be upgraded to support social distancing.

Oxford University Hospitals, Oxford Brookes University and disability charity My Life My Choice have joined the University of Oxford, which last week wrote to the leaders of Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to call for more cycle parking at Oxford’s park and rides and in the city centre, in addition to segregated cycle lanes.

One third of Oxfordshire’s jobs are based in Oxford and the hospitals and universities are some of the largest employers, whilst 191 businesses and organisations responded to a city council survey to support measures to enable pedestrians and cyclists to safely social distance.

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The city council is now working with the county council, the transport authority for Oxford, on a range of proposals, including new bike parking at Oxford’s park and rides and in the city centre, segregated cycle lanes and wider footpaths.

Tom Hayes, deputy leader of the city council and cabinet member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “With the clock ticking to reopen the city in time for the Government’s deadline, employers of many thousands of people across Oxfordshire are overwhelmingly calling for urgent measures to safely reopen our city.

“It’s not safe to go back to our old toxic air pollution levels and chronic congestion – we need to upgrade our cycling network, make walking safer, and find ways to leave the car at home.”

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Jason Dorsett, chief finance officer at Oxford University Hospitals, said: “With concern over social distancing on public transport, there is certainly an appetite within our staff to ‘park and pedal’, and the trust is committed to supporting this.

“We have advanced plans in place to provide more secure bicycle parking and are committed to reducing the number of staff driving to our sites.”

My Life My Choice, which is run by and for people with learning disabilities, has also backed the proposals to change Oxford city centre.

Paul Scarrott, chair of trustees, said: “Measures like reduced traffic, wider pavements, and the promotion of an outdoor cafe culture are all great ideas which help people with a learning disability to feel safer.”

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The city council has already started work to convert car parking spaces into secure bike parking at its Redbridge, Seacourt and Pear Tree park and rides, whilst the county council is investigating the potential to add more cycle parking at the park and rides which it owns.

The city council has already committed £234,000 to kick start work on the improvement measures, with further funding announcements expected soon.

The Government announced £250m of funds to support projects to encourage safe pedestrian and cycle movement in cities, and the city council will be making a case for Oxford to benefit from a share of this pot.