Oxford City Council is exploring the opportunity to make ‘once in a generation’ improvements to to transform the city centre, maintaining Oxford’s improved air quality, quieter streets, and ensuring safer movement around the city and better use of public space.
Oxford is following the lead of cities across the UK and beyond, including Milan, Manchester, Hackney, and Auckland as part of experimental measures to protect residents and visitors as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted around the world.
Since the start of lockdown, the air pollution monitoring station on St Aldates has seen a 59% reduction in nitrogen oxide levels compared with pre-lockdown measurements. This represents the cleanest city centre air in several generations, and perhaps not previously seen since the days of the horse and cart.
The City Council is in discussions with partners, including transport authority, Oxfordshire County Council, as well as University of Oxford to consider a range of temporary and more permanent measures to support businesses and help build confidence among residents, commuting workers, and tourists in the reopening of Oxford’s city centre.
The City Council is evaluating how safety can be maintained in public spaces, shops and cafes as they return to operation.
Possible arrangements being explored with partners include:
- Temporarily reallocating road space (through road closures, traffic light controlled one-way streets, and wider pavements) to allow people to walk and cycle safely into and around Oxford
- Supporting and improving cycling for commuting and daily journeys through the creation of segregated network of cycle routes, improvement in cycling infrastructure, and additional on-street cycle parking
- Re-organising bus routes in order to create additional road space required for pedestrians and cyclists
- Suspending all loading bays during ‘customer’ hours to increase space for pedestrians and cyclists
- Pedestrianising Broad Street with the removal of on-street parking bays and redesignating the space for social distancing-compliant mix of activities
- Exploring an outdoor café culture, with temporary tables & chairs zones outside food premises to maintain capacity, whilst adhering to social distancing and maintaining a balance with additional space for walking and cycling
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, city council cabinet member for planning and sustainable transport said: “This is a once in a generation opportunity to transform our city centre towards a cleaner and more pedestrian-friendly environment whilst allowing us to support businesses and the local economy to return to operation.
“I look forward to working with our partners on continuing to develop our current projects, as well as exploring new ideas which will help to make our roadways and public spaces safer and cleaner after lockdown.”