Oxford traffic predicted to fall by one third

An official report for Oxford County Council estimates the university city’s congestion could drop by 35% with the introduction of ‘traffic filters.’

Although the overarching image of Oxford may be of undergraduate students on bicycles, residents in the city have long complained about its levels of congestion. ‘Traffic filters’ have been proposed as a means of tackling its vehicle numbers.

Known in other UK cities including Sheffield as ‘bus gates,’ the filters would prevent private cars from entering portions of the city centre without a permit. The passage of buses, taxis, minicabs, coaches, mopeds and delivery vehicles would still be allowed.

Six sets of traffic filters are on the cards, on St Cross Road, Thames Street, St Clement’s Street, Hythe Bridge Street, Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way. The first four of these traffic filters would be operational from 7 am until 7 pm every day. Those on Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way would operate Monday to Saturday.

cars parked on side of the road near buildings during daytime

They have already received the backing of residents through a Citizen’s Jury of 16 people, organized by the University of Oxford. A YouGov poll showed 60% of residents in favour, and 31% against. The proposals are now also bolstered by a report commissioned by the county council. It’s figures suggest the filters would result in almost 25,000 fewer car journeys, meaning traffic levels in the city centre could fall by more than a third.

Highlighting the fact that no part of the city would be inaccessible to private vehicles, and that most journeys would be entirely unaffected by the introduction of the filters, the report suggests that bus journeys at peak times could be up to 15% quicker. They have previously been described by pressure group Oxfordshire Liveable Streets as ‘no faster than horse and cart,’ with council data showing some vehicles travelling no quicker than 10 mph.

CoHSAT Oxfordshire (the Coalition of Healthy Streets and Active Travel) is an alliance of 16 green groups including Oxfordshire Liveable Streets. CoHSAT Oxfordshire’s Co-Chair, Robin Tucker, said of the report findings: ‘The proposed filters would reduce congestion, cut journey times for buses and make our city a safer place to walk and cycle. We all want our city to be a place that is easier to get around [and] has less pollution.’

If the traffic filters scheme is successful, the report shows that air pollution in this historic city would fall by more than 90%. Scientific studies have shown air pollution to stunt children’s brain and lung development. It can increase the risk of developing diabetes, and even dementia.

Nine year old Ella Kissi-Debrah became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as an official cause of death after a long campaign from her mother. She lived 25 metres from London’s busy South Circular Road in Lewisham and died in February 2013. 

Photo by Nils Lindner


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