Letter from Oxford City Council Cabinet members regarding campaign to safely reopen Oxford - 12 June 2020

To whom it may concern,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to let you know about the series of temporary changes which will be made to the footways of Oxford’s busiest streets from Monday.

The City Council would like as many people as possible, especially those affected by a disability, to be aware of the changes before they arrive in the city. So please share with your organisation’s network the relevant bits of this email and / or the link to the page on our website where there is more information.

What is happening?

On Monday 15th June, Oxford city centre and Cowley Rd will look very different when people arrive. Some of the key changes to Oxford include:

  • A one-way pedestrian flow system on the busiest streets in the city centre and on Cowley Rd to help people maintain social distancing
  • In all shopping areas, temporary signs on street furniture and spray paint stencils on the ground encouraging people to support social distancing
  • Removal of obstructions to the pedestrian flow, including advertising A boards, busking sites and street trading sites
  • Designated rest areas – Gloucester Green, Bonn Square and Broad Street – to decrease the number of people blocking thoroughfares
  • New bike parking at Park and Rides to encourage people to cycle part of their journey into Oxford
  • Upgraded cleaning regime, including frequent cleaning of bins, bike racks and bus stops

All of this is to ensure you can maintain social distancing, and Oxford is as safe as possible for shops to reopen.

How is accessibility being addressed?

It is a top priority for the City Council that all transport and movement measures are accessible and inclusive for people in Oxford with disabilities.

In May, at the behest of Cllr Tom Hayes (Cabinet Member for Green Transport) and Cllr Marie Tidball (Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities), City Council officers convened the first "inclusive transport and movement focus group", which featured ten external participants with experience of living, working and travelling around Oxford with disabilities and / or who represented relevant organisations including KEEN Oxford, Wheels for Wellbeing, Free Thinking Network, University of Oxford, Ruskin College Oxford and a secondary school.

The first focus group on 27 May identified and developed some governing principles for inclusive transport changes. The second focus group on 3rd June focused on the campaign to "safely reopen Oxford" which is being prepared for 15th June. This session generated insights which have changed the City Council’s plans for the 15th June, which includes sending this letter!

As a result of the focus group we are:

  • increasing our emphasis on clear and regular communications up front and throughout the period of temporary changes
  • focusing the briefing and training of Council stewards on accessibility, including hidden disabilities, so that they can be a positive and supportive presence for all
  • walking through the city centre with focus group participants on 16th June, so that we can assess and revise our approach based on the facts on the ground

How can you help us to make this work as well as possible?

By working together, we can protect Oxford from the coronavirus pandemic and safely reopen the city. We are seeking your help in the following ways:

  • sharing the link with your network, which includes maps and travel tips
  • letting us know how the changes are working or not working (by email reply or through the form or by calling 01865 249811)
  • advising us on whether volunteers associated with your organisation might be appropriate for playing a supporting role at rest areas or in another way that benefits disabled people

Looking further ahead

Over the coming weeks and months, we will create a broader plan for engagement on accessibility issues with people and representatives of people with a range of impairments and disablement by society. The City Council is seeking for the “inclusive transport and movement” focus group to be the start of an ongoing process, which will put inclusivity and accessibility to the fore when transport and movement measures are planned in Oxford.

Please let us know if you would like to contribute to this process.

Thank you for your attention.

Councillor Tom Hayes
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford

Sent with Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities, and Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthy Oxford