YELLOW-vested volunteers have pledged to act as ‘human bollards’ during the morning rush hour this week – standing-in for an LTN bollard that has already been replaced an estimated half-dozen times.

The group, made up of east Oxford cyclists and members of the Oxford Pedestrians Association, were stood in Howard Street yesterday morning.

The Low Traffic Neighbourhoods planters and bollard have allegedly been vandalised an estimated ‘six or seven times’ since they were installed last month. The bollard, reportedly designed to be knocked down by emergency vehicles speeding to 999 calls, has repeatedly been removed and the no entry signs stripped from heavy wooden-framed planters.

READ MORE: Controversial LTN bollards smashed down AGAIN

Dad-of-two Owen McKnight, 45, who organised the ‘human bollard’ demonstration on Monday, said: “We’ve been really pleased our presence has reminded drivers that it is illegal to pass through whether there is a bollard or not. We feel we’ve done our job and we’ve done the job that Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police should have done.”

He said he was concerned that children returning to school this week after the half-term break could ‘come into conflict with drivers who feel entitled to break the law’ by driving through the LTN.

As the Oxford Mail spoke to Mr McKnight and the other volunteers in their hi-viz gilets on Monday, two drivers attempted to get past the human cordon. Both vehicles – a DHL delivery van and a navy Saab saloon – backed down in the face of opposition.

When the LTNs were installed last month there were angry scenes, with a number of the planters and bollards vandalised.

Oxford Mail: A Saab tries to get through the LTN in Howard Street on Monday morningA Saab tries to get through the LTN in Howard Street on Monday morning

Videos circulated on social media showing at least one car driving at a bollard, while other drivers were seen remonstrating with people trying to prevent them driving through the absent barriers.

Josie Procter, 44, who has lived on Howard Street for more than a dozen years, said: “When the LTNs first went in, it was incredibly quiet. There were children playing, cycling along the road. There were wheelchairs wheeling through the LTN for the first time.

“And then the road signs and the bollards were removed. Large 4x4s were coming through at speed. I’m here because that combination of vulnerable road users and fast drivers in large cars is a very heady mix.”

READ MORE: Labour councillors disagree as East Oxford LTN trial faces public resistance

Deborah Glass Woodin of Oxford Pedestrians Association, who was part of a similar 'human bollard' protest in Oriel Square last year, said: “The behaviour change needs to be facilitated and it’s going to be hard, we get that, but people who walk and people who cycle have been at the mercy of people who drive for decades we just want to redress the balance.”

New highways boss at Oxfordshire County Council Cllr Andrew Gant briefly joined the protesters on Monday.

“I absolutely understand it’s a significant change and it does impact on people’s lives. I appreciate that,” he said of the controversial east Oxford LTN trial, which will run for at least six months and has split opinion in the city.

The current scheme had been ‘introduced by the last council administration’, he said. But he added the council had been ‘very clear’ in its view about car use. He said: “[It] cannot be allowed to continue growing in the way it has. Car use has doubled, capacity has not.”

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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