Active travel campaigners fear Oxford will miss out on £2.4m COVID-19 emergency fund

Active travel campaigners fear Oxford will miss out on £2.4m COVID-19 emergency fund

Oxfordshire County Council’s failure to consult local stakeholder groups has put ‘free money’ to make cycling and walking safer in jeopardy.

Oxfordshire was on track to receive a £2.984 million ‘boost for cyclists and pedestrians’ as part of the Government’s emergency active travel fund announced in May this year. However, the chance of obtaining this pot of ‘free money’ is rapidly diminishing, alongside any hope that the local authority would seize this once in a lifetime opportunity with both hands.

Despite promises, the County Council has failed to demonstrate any engagement with local special interest groups, or propose adequate measures that meet the key funding criteria of ‘swift and meaningful plans to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians’. Committee members of Oxford’s cycle campaign – Cyclox – have been frustrated by the lack of urgency, commitment and ambition to deliver what should be expected of a ‘cycling city’.

Dr Alison Hill, Chair of Cyclox says:

Cyclox and other organisations have spent a huge amount of time over many years offering expertise, suggestions and support in anticipation of a pivotal moment such as this. For the County Council to ignore all of this input, while producing such poorly conceived bids for emergency transport funding, suggests that they have little commitment to improving conditions for those who do, or might, choose to cycle.

Having already failed to secure half of the available funding in tranche one of the Government’s scheme – a shortfall of £300k – it’s difficult to see that the County Council have learned any lessons. Despite multiple attempts to engage with the County Council, Oxfordshire’s experts in active travel have been repeatedly ignored and dismissed.

Cyclox and the Oxford Pedestrians’ Association (OxPA) requested to be included in preparations for the first bid on the 3rd June.

On the 1st July – the day after hearing the disappointing outcome of the first bid – the Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Travel (CoHSAT) wrote to Councillors Ian Hudspeth, Yvonne Constance and Liam Walker offering their assistance in preparation of the second bid.

On the 3rd July, MP Layla Moran wrote to Councillor Ian Hudspeth to ask for his ‘assurance that the County and District Council Cycling Champions and the various cycling groups within the county will be fully involved in the development of the bid for the second phase, and that they will see the bid before it is submitted this time.’

On the 21st July, CoHSAT submitted a comprehensive set of proposals to the council for ‘active consideration’.

The deadline to submit the second tranche proposal is today: Friday 7th August. To date, no member of Cyclox has been approached by the County Council and the bid has not been shared. Over two months have passed since Cyclox and OxPA issued a formal request for their views to be considered. The County Council appears reluctant to follow the government’s call to reduce the space used by cars, and increase the amount given to walking and cycling. The County Council is putting £2.4m at stake.

For further information contact: Dr Alison Hill, Chair of Cyclox:

Notes to editors

  1. Cyclox is the voice of cycling in Oxford. We are a membership organisation and we aim to get more people in and around Oxford cycling, more often, and more safely.
  2. More details on the allocation of funding for local authorities under the ‘emergency active travel fund’.
  3. Cyclox and Oxford Pedestrians’ Association (OxPA) ask for input on Council proposals, 3rd June.
  4. MP Layla Moran’s letter to Ian Hudspeth, Oxford Mail 7th July.

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