How the Walton Street barrier got me out of my car and onto my bike
By Kate Seal
We interviewed Kate Seal who lives in Walton Manor about why she moved from ‘car dependent’ to ‘active traveller’.
When I moved to Oxford a few years ago, I became obsessed about where to park my car. Previously I had lived in a rural area where every journey I made was by car. I was shocked to discover that I had to pay for a parking permit and even more shocked to discover how difficult it was to find a parking space near to my house. I would keep watching for when a space would be available outside my house so I could move my car there. I thought I’d bought the wrong house because it didn’t have off-street parking.
I arrived in Oxford with a lovely new red Marin bike and for a while it lingered unused. But once I’d found a good parking space nearby, I just didn’t want to lose my spot, so I started – very cautiously – to cycle. I was cautious because I’d never cycled in a city before and it felt very unsafe.
Even though it felt unsafe on my bike, I started doing local journeys on it and I found that I could predict my arrival time for appointments and meetings; could drop-off anywhere along my journey, and I could get some exercise – without setting out to get some exercise – which I don’t enjoy. I started to like cycling.
But I started to love it when the temporary Walton Street barrier was put up. Why?
Because I could stop for coffee, or a chat. With baskets on front and back, I could easily pick up something in a local shop. I loved the absence of cars and the cleaner air. I felt much safer. I find I was shopping more regularly and more locally and I love the freedom and the connection with my neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, my car was gently rotting on the street and soon I realised I was hardly using it at all. So I sold it at the beginning of 2020 because I didn’t need it. Now, if I can’t cycle somewhere, I can usually get public transport, or a taxi. If that’s not possible I can rent a Co-Wheels car by the hour. I have never had a problem being able to rent one when I needed it. I reckoned I was spending about £3,000 to keep an old estate car on the road. I am saving so much by not owning a car. And it removed the low-level anxiety and constant preoccupation with finding a parking space.
I have become an active travel campaigner now too as part of Cyclox and the Jericho LTN group. I am convinced of the benefits of the low traffic neighbourhood in Jericho. It will be good for residents, visitors, traders, the environment. It will happen.
The Walton Street barrier has changed me from being car-centric to being an active traveller. Once Jericho has its LTN many more people will get rid of their cars.