Back to school feeling returns for rush hour drivers

Published: Tuesday, 3rd September 2019

A warning has been issued that the numbers of vehicles crossing the Oxford ring road will continue to increase unless the city’s transport network is transformed.

The number of vehicles crossing the Oxford ring road has increased by 5% since 2012, according to a new review of traffic data. And, with school term starting again this week, drivers on Oxfordshire’s roads will be setting the rush hour clocks even earlier to deal with the added congestion.

Congestion impacts on the whole of Oxfordshire but is particularly felt around Oxford and near schools, universities, hospitals and businesses.

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council are working together on new strategies to tackle the growing congestion problem, which left unchecked would mean even longer journey times and more pollution across the county.

The good news is that there has been a significant increase in cycle journeys, which will have helped to reduce the number of vehicles contributing to congestion. Since 2012, the number of cyclists is up by 23% at the ring road and by 13% in the city centre.

Since 2015 the councils have been planning, designing and building a number of schemes as part of the Local Transport Strategy, including Access to Headington, plans for a Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) and corridor studies for Botley Road and other routes. These schemes alone are not going to solve the issue, so further programmes are in development to increase the pace of change.

“Congestion in Oxford is county wide problem but particularly impacts the city. It causes commuter stress, adds to business costs and damages our health. We’ve already announced some bold initiatives like the zero emissions zone, but we need to go further and faster.

“We want to see fewer vehicles on the roads, and that means we have to act to create better alternatives to driving while providing incentives to leave the car behind. Looking at cities like London and Nottingham we can see that when the local authorities provide strong leadership people change their travel choices.”

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport

“It’s time to tackle congestion head-on and re-think travel to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, which have a severe impact on our health and environment. The county and city councils are working on some bold solutions which we want to discuss with residents, commuters and employers.

“We want Oxfordshire’s transport system to be largely zero-emission within 20 years and have started addressing issues step by step, working on the best options that bring the greatest benefits to the county. Some of these may be contentious, but we need to think differently about reducing the volume of private cars on the roads to improve journeys overall: for drivers, bus users, cyclists and pedestrians.

“We will be engaging businesses, organisations and residents as we develop potential schemes to cut congestion, carbon emissions and air pollution in the months ahead.”

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment

“We want to see more efficient, safe, active and sustainable low-carbon travel and a reduction in traffic, pollution and noise to create more attractive, accessible and people-friendly streets where everybody can enjoy spending time.

“We recognise that this requires visionary and bold measures, that may meet some initial resistance, as any change from the status quo does. But we believe that as the measures themselves are introduced public support will grow and grow. We will work vigorously to support sufficiently bold measures.”

Scott Urban, chair of the Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Travel (CoHSAT)