3 Simple Steps to Promote Active Travel

By Mark Utting

The government’s recent promotion of ‘active travel’ is fantastic news and the announcement of £2bn of funding could stretch a long way if allocated wisely.

Cities – such as London and Manchester – are already planning to close some roads to cars to create dedicated pedestrian and cycle routes. Oxford must follow suit! Re-allocating road space to promote walking and cycling is a no-brainer for cities like ours and this process should have started long before Covid-19.

For example, Broad Street has always been an ideal public space for a linear park. Making this happen now could help reopen the city centre as ‘lockdown’ eases and has the potential to give local businesses the boost they need.

Not only should we be re-allocating space to promote walking and cycling, but we should be providing much better management of our streets to make active travel more attractive.

Three simple and relatively cost-effective things we could do:

1. Introduce a ban on vehicles parking on the pavement and in cycle lanes

Vehicles parked on pavements is commonplace, especially in East Oxford. It makes it difficult and undesirable to walk, particularly while maintaining a physical distance, and especially for those in a wheelchair, or with pushchairs. Additionally, vehicles parked in cycle lanes means that people riding bicycles have to position themselves more centrally in the road, to the frustration of other road users

2. Enforce existing vehicle parking restrictions

Despite what the local authorities may tell you, this does not require the implementation of Controlled Parking Zones, it just requires the enforcement of existing car parking restrictions. Take a look around places like Templars Square at any time of the day, and it is obvious that existing car parking restrictions are rarely enforced. People just park where they want, when they want, to the detriment of those walking and cycling.

3. Rationalise bus services

Anyone who has ever taken a trip down Cowley Road will watch in amazement how multiple oversized double-decker buses leapfrog each other to be the first one to make it to the next bus stop, usually only metres away. At the same time, they block other road users and often come into very close contact with people walking on the pavement.

If we are to encourage people to walk and cycle, buses should be smaller to fit the size of the roads they are operating on, and rationalised to ensure the number of services reflects demand. On roads like Cowley Road, we could even have fewer bus stops to encourage people to walk slightly further. This would also help reduce street clutter, leaving the pavement open and more attractive to those walking.

As the Government says this is an opportunity for us all to live “cleaner, greener, healthier lives”.

Oxfordshire County Council has announced ‘Bold plans for transport as Oxfordshire prepares for the “new normal”’. Tell them what you’d like to see! Email: lts.team@oxfordshire.gov.uk

If you missed our hugely popular After Covid event with Cllr Suzanne Bartington, Patrick Lingwood (County Council Active and Healthy Travel Officer) and Scott Urban (Director, Oxfordshire Liveable Streets) you can now watch it on YouTube.

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