A group of district councillors is urging Oxfordshire County Council to take steps to reduce the risk of traffic volumes increasing, if and when the Coronavirus lockdown measures are eased.
Four councillors known as “Walking and Cycle Champions”, including Green councillor for the Wittenhams, Sam Casey-Rerhaye, have written to the county council calling on the authority to take a proactive review of measures following a dramatic drop in traffic levels during the lockdown.
The councillors write: “Once residents begin to return to more normal activities, they will of course need to avoid close contact with others on public transport or in the street. It is highly likely that unless changes to the amount of space on the highway allocated for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles are changed, more people will turn to using their own car, and traffic levels will increase to more than that of pre-lockdown levels.”
“As Walking and Cycling Champions, we have noted other areas such as Lambeth and Hackney, as well as international cities such as Milan, are rapidly developing temporary measures to widen areas for people walking or cycling, and narrowing the space allocated for motorised traffic, or banning motorised vehicles altogether on some roads.”
The letter goes on to say that these changes serve to address the modifications in behaviour needed as society gradually returns to a more ‘normal’ time. The councillors see risks in these modifications that in turn could lead to different threats to health – from collisions as motorised traffic increases, from increased pollution and from an increase in inactivity.
“To ensure people can avoid risking social contact and to prevent an undesirable increase in private car use, we believe now is the time to organise temporary changes in Oxford and the towns across Oxfordshire to increase space for walking and cycling in order that people feel confident enough use these forms of transport as an alternative to car use or public transport.”
“We think there is a narrow window of opportunity to have both positive immediate effects in relation to coming out of lockdown and longer-term effects on reducing traffic levels which could lead to better overall health to our population. It would be fantastic if Oxfordshire could be part of this positive change.”
The other three signatories to the letter are Vale of White Horse district councillor Eric de la Harpe, Dan Levy of West Oxfordshire District Council and Louise Upton from Oxford City Council.