There are fears that Oxford’s long-running Christmas Market may not go ahead because the county council has “prioritised cyclists over small businesses”, the organiser of the festive event has said.

Nicole Rahimi, who has organised the city’s festive fair for the past 14 years, said Oxfordshire County Council had made it “impossible” for her to accept the tender conditions to run it again as it was adamant that a cycle lane through Broad Street must not be closed off.

Ms Rahimi said she feared a high speed collision will take place between cyclists and pedestrians on the historic street as thousands of visitors will be unaware of the major cycle lane through the city.

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Oxford Mail: The Oxford Christmas MarketThe Oxford Christmas Market (Image: Canva)

The council has emphasised that Ms Rahimi knew the conditions of the tender beforehand and it is understood the market could still go ahead with different organisers if a deal cannot be struck.

The market usually pitches up for the first week of December, and includes traders selling everything from food and drinks to novel Christmas decorations.

Ms Rahimi said: “They are prioritising cycling and their net-zero ambitions over the 60 businesses which come each year.

“I cannot accept the county council’s conditions so it will not go ahead at the moment.”

Oxford Mail: Visitors attending the Oxford Christmas MarketVisitors attending the Oxford Christmas Market

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Last year, Ms Rahimi, a cyclist herself, said the county council agreed to put in place a diversion route which encouraged cyclists to pass through Cornmarket Street and Queen Street.

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Ms Rahimi believes most cyclists would agree it was reasonable for the cycle lane to be closed for only three weeks.

She said: “I’m looking out for the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians.

“I understand that closing the cycle lane can be a nuisance, but we have to think about the businesses which will lose out.”


Oxford Mail: Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here (Image: Newsquest)

Ms Rahimi said if the council agreed to a road closure then cyclists would still be able to pass through before 10am and it would not be in place for 24 hours.

Oxford Mail: Oxford Christmas MarketOxford Christmas Market

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Ms Rahimi has also revealed that more space needs to be allocated to the market as she said it will be a “struggle” to fit all the stores within the two spaces allocated on Broad Street.

She said the market only had around 60 stores and this was much smaller than the markets which were held in cities such as London and Birmingham.

Ms Rahimi has been in touch with Brasenose College regarding hosting the event at the Radcliffe Camera but this was refused.

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Philip Parker, Bursar, Brasenose College, said on behalf of the Radcliffe Square frontagers: "We received a request in January for the Christmas Market to be relocated to Radcliffe Square.

"After careful consideration by the various organisations around the Square, we decided that with regret we could not accommodate the Market.

"The proposal would mean that for over two weeks vehicular access to the square would be severely limited, if it were to be possible at all.

"Access is essential for our ongoing operations, including deliveries and contractors.

"It would also be very difficult for students and their families when they leave at the end of Michaelmas Term.

"We are sorry not to be able to help and hope the excellent Christmas Market can find an alternative location."

Ms Rahimi said the city council had been “very supportive” of the market going ahead but the county council had “sided with the cyclists”.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Marc Evans said: “We are working hard with Ms Rahimi and other local stakeholders to alleviate any concerns about this year’s Christmas Market and discussions are ongoing.

"However, the conditions regarding the cycle lane were in place before Ms Rahimi submitted her bid to host the event and there are no plans to alter them.

“The east-west cycle path through Broad Street is a key route and is important to maintain.

"Thousands of cyclists use it every day. Although an alternative route was provided last year during the Christmas Market, that option is not available this year.

"This was made clear to Ms Rahimi at the time.

“We are looking at things we can do to improve safety, such as reducing the width of the entrance to the cycle path to reduce bike speeds.

“Similar events have taken place in Broad Street with the cycle route in place, and these have not led to any reports of accidents."

Oxford City Council said it will not comment at this stage.

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