Could cycling replace most car trips in Oxford by 2030?

By Andy Chivers

It has been said that we over-estimate what it is possible to achieve in one year’s time, but under-estimate what it could be possible to achieve in 10 years’ time. Instead of trying to guess what travel in Oxford City will be like in 10 years’ time, perhaps a better question would be: what do we (the people that live and work in Oxford) want transport in our city to look like in 2030? And, assuming we could reach a consensus on that, what steps do we need to take to make our vision a reality? We need to decide our broad aims. 

Despite many of us wanting less congestion, road collisions, pollution and noise, car ownership in Oxford has more than doubled in the last 30 years. Crucially we need to reduce the number of car journeys. This includes electric cars as they still contribute particulate pollution from tyres and brakes as well as congestion and accident risk. Let’s suppose that all private motor vehicles were banned from Folly Bridge to St Giles and from the train station to Magdalen bridge. How would you get around without driving? 

Instead of lengthy tailbacks to the Westgate car park, rapid shuttle buses from the Park & Rides could get you there quicker. If Hythe Bridge St and Park End St were quiet roads, more people might consider walking, or cycling to and from the railway station, and small, free, electric shuttle buses could be used by others. Spaces like the Worcester St car park could become a lovely public space – even a canal basin – again.

Walking and cycling in the city centre would become easy and pleasant. The city would be much quieter, the air cleaner, and the spaces more enjoyable for sitting out on. Businesses fear that they would be starved of customers who would be unable to reach them by car. In fact, the reverse seems to be true – places that limit access to cars report increased footfall and spending. With an economic downturn that has been made worse by the pandemic, shops in the city centre have closed and are being used for other purposes despite ‘easy’ access to city centre parking. Things are already changing. 

There is concern that closing through routes in this way would mean people driving much further to get to their destination – clogging up the ring road and arterial roads, but let’s go back to the original questions: what do we want things to be like? What are the broad aims? What do we need to do to get there? We can adapt to a more active, sustainable, local way of life – where more of our daily needs are accessible by walking or cycling – if we want to.

Since becoming a charity in July last year, Cyclox has developed a vision for Oxford in 2030: a world class cycling city, where everyone can choose to cycle, and where cycling is seen as a normal form of transport. This may seem like an ideal – yes – but shouldn’t we at least try to move in that direction?

Photo credit: Tejvan Pettinger, CC BY 2.0.

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