Oxford residents back one-way pavements and upgrading cycling infrastructure to support social distancing

Published: Thursday, 18th June 2020

Oxford residents have backed one-way pavements, upgrading cycling infrastructure and the pedestrianisation of Broad Street to help maintain social distancing in the city, a survey has found.

Oxford City Council carried out a survey of its standing residents’ panel between 23 May and 6 June, and asked a variety of questions about life under the coronavirus lockdown, including about the reopening of shopping areas.

The survey of Oxford residents found:

  • 78.0% back implementing some one-way footways (through temporary signs and barriers) to support social distancing on heavy footfall streets “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent”
  • 80.9% back removing all car parking from Broad Street and replacing it with socialisation space “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent”
  • 89.2% back expanding and segregating cycle lanes from vehicular traffic in the city centre “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent”
  • 89.4% back the expansion of restaurants with outdoor chairs and tables on pavements to help them with social distancing “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent”
  • 80.0% back more space at park and ride sites allocated to secure bicycle parking in order to encourage 'Park & Pedal' journeys into the city “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent”

With many shops reopening on Monday (15/6), the City Council introduced one-way guidance this week on the busiest pavements in Oxford city centre and Cowley Road to help people maintain social distancing.

The residents’ panel consists of 466 Oxford residents who were independently chosen – by surveying experts Ipsos MORI – to be representative of the city’s demographics. The City Council uses the panel to get insights into the views of Oxford residents. In total, 379 people (81% of the residents’ panel) responded to the survey.

Separately, the City Council is also encouraging Oxford residents to provide feedback on the changes to the city centre by visiting www.oxford.gov.uk/reopening.

We have already had lots of feedback and will continue to adapt and evolve our plans based on comments. For example, by Friday (19 June) across all the one-way streets we will have installed more signs and larger pavement stencils in order to make the temporary changes more visible.

Oxford residents back one-way pavements

The City Council asked residents’ panel members to what extent they supported a range of measures to help reopen Oxford:

  To a large extent To a moderate extent Neutral To a small extent To a very small extent
Removing all car parking from Broad Street and replacing it with socialisation space 262 43 28 12 32
Expanding and segregating cycle lanes from vehicular traffic in the city centre, to encourage more people to cycle 292 45 17 10 14
The expansion of restaurants with outdoor chairs and tables on pavements to help them with social distancing 248 90 21 11 8
Implementing some one-way footways (through temporary signs and barriers) to support social distancing on heavy footfall streets 187 108 48 16 19
More space at Park and Ride sites allocated to secure bicycle parking in order to encourage 'Park & Pedal' journeys into the city 218 82 54 9 12
Changes to the location of some bus stops to help provide more space on pavements for people walking 211 111 44 5 7
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 237 80 41 4 16

The City Council has been guided by national Government policy. The Government has told people to avoid public transport where possible, and instead encouraged them to walk or cycle, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.All of these measures are being considered by the City Council either to help people maintain social distancing, or to help people travel into Oxford city centre.

When asked how they planned to travel into the city centre on their next visit, panel members said:

  • Walking: 75 (19.9%)
  • Cycling: 179 (47.6%)
  • Bus: 27 (7.2%)
  • Car: 13 (3.5%)
  • A combination of the above: 59 (15.7%)
  • I don’t intend to visit the city centre: 23 (6.1%)

The residents’ panel was also asked whether they agreed or disagreed that the following measures would make them feel safer about visiting Oxford city centre:

  Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree
The twice daily sanitation of street furniture 65 108 117 56 27
A daily washdown of the streets 63 103 113 57 37
Placing of hand sanitiser dispensers at shopping centre and shop entrances 174 128 51 17 8

The City Council has since introduced all of these cleaning measures, including introducing hand sanitiser dispensers at the entrances to the Covered Market and its public toilets in Market Street and Gloucester Green.

Businesses, universities and hospitals support upgrading cycling infrastructure

Last month (May), the City Council also surveyed businesses in Oxford to get their views on the range of measures being considered to support the reopening of Oxford.

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 University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University and Oxford University Hospitals have also called for upgrades to Oxford’s cycling infrastructure.

The City Council’s work to reopen Oxford

This week the City Council has introduced a raft of measures across Oxford to help people maintain social distancing.

These new measures included new one-way pavements in the busiest streets, designated rest areas, stewards to act as guides to the new measures and provide help to people in need, the removal of obstructions from pavements, and an upgraded cleaning regime.

The City Council also installed 130 additional bike parking spaces at its park and ride sites over the weekend to help commuters cycle the last miles of their journey into the city.

The new measures, which have been designed after engaging with businesses and people with disabilities, are temporary and will be reviewed every two weeks. They could be scaled up or down, or amended, depending on need and whether or not social distancing is still necessary.

The City Council is 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.

These are the first in what is expected to be a series of changes to Oxford city centre to enable pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing.

The City Council is also working hard, with Oxfordshire County Council, to create additional space for tables and chairs – kept socially distanced from each other – outside restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes across the city.

New zones for tables and chairs should be in place in Cornmarket Street and Broad Street in July, and a streamlined planning application process will be introduced shortly for suitable locations elsewhere in Oxford city centre and local shopping areas, where space for social distancing allows.

Without the increased floor space created by the outdoor seating areas, many restaurants, pubs and bars in Oxford will not be able to reopen.

The City Council is also continuing to work with the County Council, as the highway authority, to explore opportunities for pedestrianisation, including on Broad Street, as well as additional segregated cycle lands to get into and around the city.

The County Council announced its latest proposals for how it will spend £600,000 across Oxfordshire to boost sustainable travel yesterday (16/6).

Wider residents’ survey answers

The residents’ survey also asked Oxford residents about their personal and financial concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked what level of threat they thought the coronavirus pandemic posed to them, the respondents said:

  Very high High Moderate Low Very Low
Personally 27 83 169 73 26
To your job or business 30 91 104 79 44

This means that almost a third of respondents (29.1%) thought the pandemic would have a high or very high impact on them personally, and more (34.8%) thought it would have a high or very high impact on their job.

Asked to what extent panel members agreed or disagreed that the coronavirus pandemic will have a detrimental financial impact on their household, the responses were:

  • Strongly Agree: 59 (15.6%)
  • Agree: 138 (36.6%)
  • Neutral: 99 (26.3%)
  • Disagree: 63 (16.7%)
  • Strongly disagree: 18 (4.8%)

This means that more than half (52.3%) of Oxford residents agree or strongly agree that the coronavirus pandemic will have a detrimental financial impact on their household.

“The people who took part in the council’s survey deliberately reflect Oxford’s wider population, so it is exciting to see a clear majority back one-way routes, upgraded cycling infrastructure, and a car-free Broad Street. Making these changes will help to keep people safer as businesses re-open, which is so critical for getting the local economy back on track and protect jobs and incomes.

“We have installed 130 additional bike parking spaces at park and rides in line with the wishes of eight in 10 survey respondents. We’ve also implemented one-way routes in line with nearly eight in 10 survey respondents. Now we have to urgently deliver the removal of cars from Broad Street and install segregated cycle lanes. We’re also working closely with partners to ensure that restaurants can run their businesses to the best possible extent, including expanding into outdoor chairs and tables, and we have raised George Street as a priority area.

“As the world has changed, Oxford is changing with it. Finding out the views of a representative survey is critical for the city council to be able to make the best possible decisions to keep people safe. If you have any comments on the changes to Oxford, please visit our inclusive and accessible: www.oxford.gov.uk/reopening.”

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