"A future for transport in Oxford City"
Speakers: Councillor David Nimmo Smith, Chairman of the County Transport Advisory Panel and Cabinet Member for the Environment.
Councillor Nimmo Smith’s presentation stimulated a lively discussion. Summary points include:
1. Choice: an audience member pointed out that “unfettered choice” is not sustainable. If too many people make bad choices, unjust damage is inflicted on everyone else. The County should be urged to use its influence with bus companies to improve their services.
2. Pollution: from the floor it was suggested that if the councils are serious about improving air quality and to stop breaking EU legislation, the number of vehicles passing through the centre must be reduced. Large sums are collected by fining motorists illegally passing the bus gates during daytime, so this shows that penalties are not high enough. The county collects the revenue but pedestrians and cyclists still have to put up with excess traffic and poor air quality.
3. Car parking: although city car parking costs quite a lot, enough custom is attracted to make a profit. An audience member suggested that fees might therefore be raised further
4. Station redevelopment and enlargement: DNS said that County officers and Network Rail planners are aware of the need for both more headroom and carriageway width under Botley Road Bridge; the road is to be lowered for the benefit of double-decker buses. There was no comment about the width, which is vitally necessary for cycle lanes.
5. Hythe Bridge Street and Park End Street: DNS indicated that the County Council is aware of the need to improve pedestrian and cycling routes between the rail station and the city centre, particularly vital for visitors. This will be part of the Frideswide Square redesign.
6. Frideswide Square: the danger to cyclists on the planned roundabouts was reiterated very strongly by members of Cyclox.
7. Pavement parking: DNS promised to look into the call for clarification of laws on pavement parking, in view of the recent appeal from the Guide Dogs charity.
8. Consultation: DNS assured the meeting that he would encourage his officers to seek our opinions and make use of the expertise available in Cyclox and OxPA in transport consultations. He does assume that objections and comments made during consultations will be faithfully transmitted in Officers’ reports to him about projects and schemes. Generally he confines himself to reading the reports in summary form, although the full reports are always made available to him. The summary does not list the formal objections.
9. St Giles: DNS promised to take a walkabout with OxPA to understand our concerns. It was suggested that an experimental widening of the central refuge could be carried out quite cheaply and soon to inform the design of more extensive improvements.
10. B4044 Eynsham to Botley cyclepath: audience members presented strong arguments in favour of providing a safe route from for commuters and others by bicycle and on foot. DNS said that for any scheme the number of people who are likely to benefit has to be weighed against the cost. Central government funding would be needed, but he considers that this proposed cyclepath is neither high on the government’s agenda nor locally. In response to a question about increasing the investment in cycling to a dependable long-term £10 per head per annum, DNS said that in Cabinet discussions about funding he relies primarily on arguments about benefit to the County’s economic prosperity.
11. Public Health: in response to a question about the recent transfer of public health spending to become a County responsibility, DNS said he is lobbying for more money to spend on health-improving schemes to increase active travel.
12. The Plain: Officers had commented, and DNS agreed, that bus companies are reluctant to accept delays, possibly of up to five minutes at peak times, that singling of the carriageway entering the Plain from Magdalen Bridge would cause. It was noted that long delays continue to be caused by inefficient ticketing practices, despite the recent introduction of cross-ticketing.
13. Local Transport Plan aims: an audience member highlighted that Active Travel in the County is one of the four overarching aims of the current LTP. This aim does not appear to receive the priority it deserves.
Councillor Nimmo Smith was warmly thanked for giving his time and coming to engage in dialogue with us about transport in Oxford and we look forward to future cooperation.