Published: Monday, 27 July 2020

Oxford City Council has temporarily pedestrianised part of St Michael’s Street to enable outdoor dining, support hospitality businesses with social distancing, and create a more walkable city centre.

The road closure, from the junction of Cornmarket Street to Society Café, started on Saturday (25/7) and will be in operation every day between 10am and 6pm.

It means restaurants, pubs and cafés in St Michael’s Street will be able to safely install tables and chairs in the road. This is intended to ensure adequate space is available for diners to keep apart, minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus, but still eat outdoors.

Moveable planters are planned for outside Society Café to block the road and stop vehicles, including mopeds, from accessing the street.

The pedestrianisation is part of a wide range of work that the City Council is carrying out across the city centre to support businesses through the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing by enabling them to welcome as many customers as possible.

The City Council has been working on the initiative with Oxfordshire County Council as the highways authority for Oxford, representatives of the emergency services, highways development and street cleaning colleagues at ODS, and the street’s businesses.

The City Council secured permission for the road closure from the County Council on Friday (24/7).

Support for St Michael’s Street businesses

The road closure, which will be in operation initially until 3 September, will provide outdoor seating space for The Plough at 38, The Nosebag, The Three Goats Heads, Mission Burrito and Society Café.

To support the pedestrianised zone, the City Council has removed three bike racks outside Society Café. A further three bike racks have been removed to support outside working by The Handlebar and BikeZone.

The City Council has a protocol to replace any bike parking spaces that are removed, so all six racks will be moved to a nearby street.

The City Council is working with RAW Workshop, an Oxford-based social enterprise, to produce the planters. Some will be on wheels, so they can be moved into and out of place at the start and end of each day.

The City Council will also install disabled ramps at three points along the road to help people move from the pavement to the pedestrianised road, in line with the council’s commitment to create an inclusive and accessible city centre.

An additional CCTV camera will also be installed at the Cornmarket end to assist with policing the area.

The City Council has consulted with businesses and residents along St Michael’s Street, alongside the emergency services, about the changes over recent weeks.

Deliveries, waste disposal and street cleaning will take place outside the hours of the road closure, but emergency vehicles will still be able to access the road at all times.

The disabled parking bays in St Michael’s Street will not be affected by the changes.

Wider work to support businesses

The pedestrianisation is part of a wide range of work to support businesses in Oxford city centre through the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, the City Council introduced a one-way pedestrian flow system in Oxford city centre and the Cowley Road to help people return to the city centre safely.

Designated rest areas, including new seating in Broad Street, were also introduced to keep pedestrians moving in the city centre’s busy and narrow streets.

The City Council has also installed new bike parking at Park and Rides and will shortly introduce more in the city centre; designated seating areas in the city centre; and provided businesses with information and guidance about how to reopen safely.

The City Council is looking to make changes to sections of other city centre streets in the coming weeks to provide further space for outdoor tables and chairs.

The City Council surveyed businesses in Oxford in May to get their views on measures to help pedestrians and cyclists maintain social distancing once shops reopened. This found the highest levels of support for more secure cycle parking (92% in favour), road closures and safety measures outside schools (83%), new segregated cycle ways (81%) and new zones for outdoor tables and chairs (81%).

Meanwhile, the County Council has received Government funding to make improvements to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure across Oxfordshire.

“Without outdoor seating, some restaurants and bars will not have sufficient space to be able to open safely. The next few months are going to be crucial for Oxford’s hospitality sector and we are committed to helping. Our measures to reboot the local economy will also deliver the benefit of creating walkable streets and bringing into being a better system for moving around the city centre.”

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

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