NEARLY £3m funding to encourage people out of their cars and onto buses or bikes has been hailed as a ‘game changer for Oxfordshire’s public health and environment.

The £2.98m of cash towards emergency ‘active travel’ measures was announced by the Government’s Department for Transport at the end of last week.

The money, part of an England-wide fund worth £175m, will be used to fund long term alterations to roads in Bicester, Witney and Oxford, including so called Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

The county won more than the nearly £2.4m it was originally allocated by DfT because the Government liked the schemes it had planned.

READ AGAIN about what was in Oxfordshire's bid for the cash here

Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for transport and the environment, said: “This is great news for Oxfordshire. The scale of this award recognises the ambition of our active travel plans and enables us to build on our existing commitment to accelerate our bold plans for transforming how people travel and how communities are connected.”

She added that so-called active travel – using a bike or walking – and the climate crisis were ‘at the heart’ of the council’s plans for Oxfordshire going forward.

Tory councillor Ms Constance said: “We have put forward schemes which will have the greatest impact in terms of air quality, physical activity and environmental benefit. These are projects which go to the heart of supporting healthy and vibrant communities.”

Oxford Mail:

Cyclists in central Oxford

A total of five different long-term active travel schemes are being funded due to the bid.

Three of them are in Oxford, divided into the regions Cowley and Headington, North and West, and Littlemore and Rose Hill.

These areas of the city will see existing cycle paths widened along main roads including the Cowley Road, as well as a new Low Traffic Neighbourhood introduced in Headington and Quarry and in Jericho.

Three other LTNs in Cowley were funded by the council earlier this year and residents are due to be surveyed on them later this month.

ALSO READ: Here's every part of Oxford which could become an LTN

There are also plans for what the county council has called ‘traffic filters’ on Warneford Lane south of Oxford Brookes Headington Campus and at the north of the Cowley Road.

These traffic filters had previously been described as bus gates, similar to the one in operation on the High Street in central Oxford, and the name change may have been made after the furore over introducing new experimental bus gates this summer.

A council press release said the filters will ‘aim to reduce traffic, increase bus use and to make roads and routes more accessible and safer to use for cyclists’.

There are also plans to trial e-scooters on the streets of Oxford with some of the cash.

The other two active travel schemes will be rolled out in Bicester and Witney.

In Bicester there are plans to remove parking bays at a busy junction on Villiers Road, introduce new pedestrian and cycle paths along Middleton Stoney Road, Oxford Road and Kings End.

The council is also going to set up a School Streets pilot: where traffic is diverted away from the gates of a school to encourage parents and children to walk.

In Witney, an ‘active travel corridor’ linking the east and west of the town will be created, which will also link together national cycle route 57 and the main Witney to Oxford cycle route via the A40.

There are also plans to slow traffic through the town centre by reducing the speed limit on Corn Street to 20mph and new traffic filters at Witan Way roundabout and Fiveways roundabout to divide cyclists and drivers.

While Oxfordshire received more than it originally expected, the near-£3m funding it received is still not enough to cover all the plans it has, which are predicted to cost more than £4m according to documents seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Services.

To make up for the shortfall in Government cash, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is also providing funding towards the projects.

The new measures were largely welcomed by other leaders around the county.

Oxford Mail:

Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader at the Labour-run Oxford City Council said he supported ‘action which reduces the car congestion that clogs up Oxford's narrow roads, harms our local economy, and pollutes our air and climate.’

Mr Hayes said: “We believe that traffic filters, school streets and new segregated cycleways can be effective tools for achieving these goals.

“We are also clear that consultation must precede the introduction of radical changes, so that the people who know their streets better than anyone else are able to shape their own communities.”

Alison Hill, chair of Oxford cycling campaign group Cyclox said: “Cyclox wants Oxford being a truly ‘cycling city’ where people from all walks of life feel that the roads are safe enough that they can choose to cycle for any journey. These schemes could be game-changers.”

But Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Layla Moran questioned why more could not have been done for schemes in other towns across the county.

Ms Moran said: “It is welcome that the county council's bid for tranche 2 funding has been successful, after the failings with the tranche 1 bid, but very disappointing that the numerous suggestions for active travel schemes in Abingdon and the Vale of White Horse district were ignored.

"Local councillors and community groups worked very hard to come up with positive ideas and it is a great shame that they were ignored. Proposals included the badly-needed B4044 community path, which the County Council has again failed to support.”

READ AGAIN about when Oxfordshire County Council's first funding bid went wrong

The funding was the second of a two-part series of grants from the Government.

Oxfordshire lost out on half of the first tranche of funding, receiving only £300,000.

But the county council decided to pay for the other half of the schemes it had committed to from its own budget.