Oxford City Council statement in response to County Council's Cabinet paper on temporary bus gates:
“We are disappointed the County Council is now proposing a U-turn on the principle of implementing temporary city centre bus gates, the scheme developed by both councils to meet Government demands to reopen our economy and reallocate road space to active travel. Both councils surveyed Oxfordshire on the proposal, with over 7,200 responses, three quarters of which were from Oxford residents. 53% of people in Oxford agreed that the bus gates were a good idea generally, with 44% disagreeing. Countywide the measure was 50% to 46%. That may not be decisive, nonetheless the County Council intends to reject the view of the majority in the largest transport consultation in memory.
“At the same time, the County Council acknowledges that access restrictions like bus gates will be central to the delivery of other schemes including Connecting Oxford and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. They’re also a key part of the County Council’s Tranche 2 Active Travel Fund proposals currently being considered by Government - a COVID emergency response fund which could also have been used to cover the additional costs of the temporary bus gates. All these schemes, as well as the Zero Emission Zone, require consistent engagement with residents and businesses, and consistency in execution and delivery. Those who shared their views in the consultation and now feel let down by the U-turn can still make their case to the County Council Cabinet at its meeting on 13 October.
“Oxford City Council called for the survey to be undertaken, and it has provided both councils with lots of useful feedback. We would like to see the proposals move to the next stage, with the shaping of a specific scheme that provides much-needed clarity for businesses and residents on the locations, times of operation, and various exemptions for the bus gates. That would enable a final consultation on a clearly set out proposal for the city, and allow us to take the steps needed to improve Oxford’s toxic air pollution, reduce congestion, improve our bus services, and support Oxford’s economy now. The Zero Emission Zone and Connecting Oxford will be transformative schemes, but they are still 2-3 years away and cannot address the situation created by the COVID pandemic.
“The current bus gates installed on the High Street show what can be achieved quickly to reduce traffic cutting through the city centre. Bus gates would provide other benefits, including creating the opportunity to pedestrianise more city centre streets to support the hospitality sector which is on its knees. Over the summer, working with the County Council and other stakeholders, we trialled this on St Michael’s Street – which has now been extended until the end of September 2021 – as well as a four-week experiment on George Street. Over 1,000 people have responded to a survey regarding George Street, 83% of whom expressed support for the reinstatement of the pedestrianisation in the warmer months and 74% of whom said they would be more supportive of bus gates if they knew they would lead to more pedestrianisation in Oxford city centre.
“We call on the County Council to listen to the public.”
Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council