Oxford businesses support measures to improve social distancing for pedestrians and cyclists

Published: Monday, 1st June 2020

Oxford businesses have supported a range of measures to enable pedestrians and cyclists to safely maintain social distances once shops reopen later this month.

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, the transport authority for Oxford, are working together on a range of proposals for the city, including new bike parking, segregated cycle lanes, wider footpaths, pedestrianising roads, and zones for outdoor tables and chairs.

Over the last week, the City Council has surveyed businesses across the city to get their views on the measures being considered. In total, 191 organisations responded, including some of Oxford’s largest employers, small and large retailers and hospitality businesses, cultural organisations, NHS institutions and university colleges.

The highest level of support was 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%).

The responses, which also include comments under each question, will be used to inform decisions by the County Council over the coming days on the best ways to enable pedestrians and cyclists to practice social distancing while travelling into and around Oxford.

The City Council has committed £234,000 to kick start work on the measures, with further funding announcements for improvements to Oxford – including from the County Council – expected soon.

Central Government announced £250m of funds nationally to support projects to encourage safe pedestrian and cycle movement in cities, and the City Council and other city partners will be making a case for Oxford to benefit from a share of this pot.

Full results of the consultation

The full results of the businesses consultation are:

  • More secure cycle parking in key locations across the city: 92% in favour, 4% neutral, 4% against
  • Expansion of 'school streets' programme (closing streets or one-way systems around schools) in order to make it safer for children to walk and cycle to school: 83% in favour, 7% neutral, 10% against
  • Create new segregated cycle ways on key routes (e.g. Banbury / Woodstock Roads, Cowley / Iffley Roads), by removing bus lanes or narrowing traffic lanes in order to make it safer for people to cycle every day: 81% in favour, 8% neutral, 11% against
  • Allow extra space for outdoor tables and chairs for food and beverage businesses, perhaps by reducing space for loading, bus stops or vehicle movements: 81% in favour, 8% neutral, 11% against
  • Changes to the location of some bus stops to help provide more space on pavements for people walking: 80% in favour, 13% neutral, 7% against
  • More space at Park & Rides allocated to secure bicycle parking in order to encourage ‘Park & Pedal’ journeys into the city: 78% in favour, 17% neutral, 4% against
  • Widening pavements (e.g. using temporary barriers or markings), in order to create social distancing space for people to walk: 78% in favour, 7% neutral, 15% against
  • Implementing some one-way footways (through temporary signs and barriers) to support social distancing on heavy footfall streets: 76% in favour, 6% neutral, 18% against
  • Better signposting for people walking and cycling: 74% in favour, 4% neutral, 22% against
  • Reduce road speeds to 20mph on the main traffic routes - to make the outdoor environment safer for everyone: 65% in favour, 14% neutral, 22% against
  • Set new time windows for collections and deliveries within the city centre – for example before 7am and after 7pm – so that there is adequate space for walking and cycling during the day: 49% in favour, 11% neutral, 40% against
  • Restriction of central area parking including the suspension of on-street car parking to facilitate social distancing and pedestrian and cycle use: 46% in favour, 10% neutral, 44% against

The final two questions received a balanced view, with about the same proportion in favour of the proposals as against. The comments also reflected this.

On the time windows for collections and deliveries question, one responder said: “On paper it appears to be a good idea and would reduce the amount and impact of traffic considerably,” while another said: “That would have a detrimental effect on our business, but I can see the reasoning behind it.”

Similarly, on the suspension of car parking question, one responder said: “I personally think there shouldn’t be any parking in the city centre,” while another said: “Taking away the facility for residents to park is not feasible, however parking for visitors is a matter to be considered.”

The City Council will take on board all these comments before drawing up the detailed designs alongside the County Council.

Guided by national Government

The City Council and County Council are being guided by national Government policy and announcements in decisions on when and how to reopen Oxford.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week (25/5) that the Government will allow all non-essential shops to reopen on Monday 15 June – providing they implement measures to meet social distancing and hygiene standards.

The PM also told people to avoid public transport where possible, and instead encouraged them to walk or cycle, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

As a result of this, the changes are focussed on helping pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing while travelling into and around the city centre – and, at the same time, ensuring the proposals do not make it harder for disabled people to access the shopping areas.

The aim is to support businesses to reopen by ensuring the streets around their premises are as safe as possible.

The City Council is also following the High Streets Task Force’s 10 key objectives to support the recovery of high streets, which includes reallocating road space to enable social distancing, stewarding, consistent signage, enhanced cleaning, inclusive design, identifying pinch points, and communicating with businesses.                    

Alongside the questionnaire, the City Council is also holding a series of conversations with businesses and key stakeholders. A ‘Talk of the Town’ meeting with city centre traders, and a workshop with disabled people, took place last week.

“When shops reopen on 15 June, the city centre will become busier. Social distancing protects public health, so we have to move quickly to ensure people minimise contact with others. We're moving quickly because there isn't a lot of time left before the city centre reopens, but we're moving forward in cooperation, listening to and working with local businesses to get things right. 

“Local businesses have sent a very clear signal. We're seeing very high levels of support for more secure cycle, road closures and safety measures outside schools, new separate and safe cycle ways, and new zones for outdoor tables and chairs. Our clear aim is to make changes in the areas where we exercise control and to continue influencing our partners to use their powers in the interest of public safety.”

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