Universities, charities, and residents panel, support measures to reduce congestion in the city centre

Published: Thursday, 6th August 2020

Measures to reduce congestion in Oxford are supported by universities, and charities in the city, as well as the majority respondent in a survey of Oxford City Council’s residents panel.

Organisations including University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Oxfordshire Association for the Blind, Pedal & Post, and Oxford University Student Union have come out in support of progressive transport measures such as bus gates. They see that significant active travel measures are required in order to keep Oxford moving in a way which supports economic activity and the health and safety of our citizens and to ensure a more accessible city.

Oxford City Council carried out a survey of its standing Residents Panel between 10 July and 26 July. The residents panel is a representative sample of Oxford residents, independently selected by Ipsos MORI. The City Council uses the Panel to get insights into the views of Oxford residents. In total, 199 people responded to the latest survey which asked a variety of questions about life as lockdown has lifted, shopping and travel habits, and transport measures in the city.

The residents panel feedback is independent to the current ongoing feedback survey on the temporary bus gate proposals which is hosted on the Oxfordshire County Council website and closes at midnight on Sunday 9 August. The bus gates survey examines the proposals in greater detail and asks for feedback on areas such as the location of the bus gates, timings, and how road space can best be reallocated. 

Last month the City Council carried out a similar survey to its residents panel on measures to reopen the city centre such as one-way pavements, segregating cycle lanes, and expansion of restaurants to create an outdoor café-culture.

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have announced proposals for temporary bus gates to help reduce congestion, provide infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, and support the local economy.

A survey carried out in 2017 found that around 70% of shoppers to Oxford arrived by bus – either directly or via park and ride.  The city centre’s reliance on public transport means that the city centre economy is more vulnerable to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic due to people’s reluctance to use public transport. From the same 2017 survey, car visitors represented less than 10% of total city centre footfall.

The proposed temporary bus gates aim to support bus use by ensuring quicker, more frequent buses operating on less congested roads towards the city centre, with fewer cars using the city as a cut through route.

“Oxford’s narrow medieval streets are routinely clogged up with stop-go traffic, with vehicles cutting through, using the city centre as a permanent rat run. A survey in 2017 showed that 70% of shoppers to Oxford would come by bus and park & ride, whereas less than 10% would come by car. It’s promising to hear the full weight of Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Student Union, businesses, charities, and the residents panel being thrown behind the proposal for two temporary bus gates to cut congestion and protect our economy and jobs.
“Right now we need to support businesses and support people to shop in the city centre, and supporting travel by buses, cycling, and walking is how we can achieve this. We can’t afford to have vehicles cutting through that don’t stop, don’t spend, and don’t support local jobs and businesses during the toughest time they’ll ever know. We can’t afford to slow down the buses which actually do carry the people who stop and spend. We need to encourage people to come into the city centre rather than hop into the car, drive outside of Oxford, and spend money within other local economies. The bus gates aim to allow buses to get in to the city quicker to help allow shoppers to get in to the city, therefore supporting our local economy.”

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

Support from local businesses

"Our discussions have emphasised the importance we place on the bus gates being accompanied by other measures...We want to express again our long term support for integrated measures (bus gates, parking charges and improvements to public transport and walking and cycling) to reduce congestion, improve air quality and enhance the sustainability of the City of Oxford."

Dr David Prout, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning & Resources), University of Oxford

"Oxford Brookes University supports Oxford City Council's proposals to improve the sustainable transport fabric of Oxford.  Cycling has always been part of our city’s heritage, as a means to travel, and we support strategies that seek to enrich this.  We recognise this has been an extremely difficult and challenging time for everyone. It is, therefore, essential solutions are provided which allow people from across Oxford and beyond to return to work safely and securely - it is welcome that green travel is being placed at the heart of this movement."

Jerry Woods, Interim Director of Estates and Campus Services, Oxford Brookes University (June 2020)

“Oxfordshire Association for the Blind (OAB) are very much in favour of reduced traffic and better access for public transport and blue badge holders. Many of Oxford’s streets are cluttered and narrow for pedestrians, we welcome any efforts the council makes to give us more space to move around in a safer and healthier environment, enabling us to access local businesses and play a full part in the community.”

Mark Upton, Client Services Manager, Oxfordshire Association for the Blind

“We at Oxford University Student Union (Oxford SU) welcome the proposed temporary bus gates in Oxford City centre, as a good measure to reduce traffic in central Oxford and provide safer streets for walking and cycling."

Oxford University Student Union

"Pedal & Post strongly supports the temporary bus gate plans, we know the status quo doesn't work and things need to change as the county grows. Similar measures have been very successful in cities in Europe which have thriving local economies and Oxford following in tried and tested ways to improve air pollution, congestion, road safety is a win for all road users and people, supporting our community to bounce back after a very difficult period and building back better for a city for people, not for motor vehicles.

“We've now invested £45,000 in new cargo bikes and fully electric motorbikes and taken on five more employees working with the NHS trust on a pioneering medical delivery project, the temporary bus gates helps support us as it could be the spark to a cycling revolution in Oxford so we can truly become a "Cycling City"

Christopher Benton, Director of Pedal & Post

Residents panel responses

Results from the residents panel survey found:

  • 80% of residents who travelled to the city arrived by walking, cycling, or taking the bus.
  • Only 10% of residents who travelled in to the city used a car.
  • 80% support “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent” the restricting private vehicle movements in the city centre during the daytime to allow road space to be prioritised for cyclists, pedestrians, buses and access to city centre car parking.
  • 80% of residents also supported “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent” removing day-time loading bays in shopping areas to create wider cycle lanes and safer bike routes.
  • 86% of residents ‘Strongly agree’ or ‘Agree’ that they experience cleaner air during lockdown. 

Oxford residents support restricted travel movements in city centre

The City Council asked the residents panel to what extent they support measures to update transport measures in the city centre.

Table showing residents' panel survey results about what the extent to which they support measures to update transport measures in the city centre


To a large extent

To a moderate extent

To a small extent

I would not support it at all

Supporting restricting private vehicle movements in the city centre and putting in additional access restrictions to reprioritise road space for cyclists, pedestrians, buses





Supporting the removal of some car parking and day-time loading bays in shopping areas, to create wider cycle lanes and safer bike routes





80% of residents who responded supported “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent” the restricting private vehicle movements in the city centre during the daytime to allow road space to be prioritised for cyclists, pedestrians, buses and access to city centre car parking.

Additionally, 80% of residents also supported “to a large extent” or “to a moderate extent” removing day-time loading bays in shopping areas to create wider cycle lanes and safer bike routes.

Residents were also asked how they had travelled to the city centre since the reopening of non-essential shops on Monday 15 June. Panel members said:

  • Walking: 42 (23%)
  • Cycling: 42 (23%)
  • Bus: 10 (5.4%)
  • Car: 12 (6.5%)
  • A combination of the above: 11 (6.04%)
  • Not applicable: 65 (35.7%)

The survey found that 80% of those who have travelled in to the city centre, arrived by walking, cycling, or taking the bus, with only 10% arriving in to the city to shop using a car.

The temporary bus gate proposals aims to support these journeys as car journey levels are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in the Autumn, by ensuring quicker, more reliable, and more frequent buses operating on less congested roads in to the city centre, as well as possibly reallocating road space to cyclists and pedestrians to encourage walking and cycling.

The residents panel was also asked about their views on air quality levels.

Table showing residents' panel survey results about views on air quality


Strongly agree




Strongly disagree

During the lockdown I have felt the air is cleaner and I don’t want to go back to the air pollution levels we previously had






In total 86% of residents ‘Strongly agree’ or ‘Agree’ that they experienced cleaner air during lockdown. During lockdown, Oxford city centre saw a 64% decrease in air pollution levels. However, to sustain this level of activity, reduce traffic dangers, and maximise space for cyclists and pedestrians, significant change to road space is required.

Bus gates proposals

It is proposed that the two temporary bus gates for the city centre are to be located:

  • On Hythe Bridge Street or Worcester Street, between Frideswide Square and Beaumont Street
  • On St Cross Road or South Parks Road, between Parks Road and Manor Road

The key points of the proposals are:

  • Restricting car traffic cutting through the city to ensure quicker, more reliable, and more frequent buses operating on less congested roads in to the city centre in an effort to reboot the local economy and support local businesses
  • Reallocating road space to improve and encourage cycling and walking, including new or wider cycle lanes and closing roads to allow restaurants to place tables and chairs in the street create an outdoor café-culture, and to create safer and more attractive civic spaces which revitalises the city centre economy
  • Cyclists, buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles, Blue Badge holders and disabled tax allowance vehicles will be allowed through the bus gates during its hours of operation.
  • Limited access through the bus gates for residents within the central area of the city is being considered.
  • Exemptions for other users are also being considered.

The bus gates would potentially operate seven days a week between 7.30 am and 6.30 pm, aligning to the existing restrictions at the current High Street bus gate.

The bus gates are specifically designed not to prevent access to any areas of the city, including the city centre. Access will be maintained through the bus gates for certain modes of travel and vehicles; other traffic will still be able to get to their destination via alternative routes.

The scheme will be funded by both councils and implemented by Oxfordshire County Council as the transport authority.

Residents are being encouraged to find out more about the temporary bus gate proposals, and take part in the survey which close on Sunday 9 August.