Oxfordshire CC is the latest local authority to launch plans on urgent cycling and walking schemes, that will see it spend £600,000 over the next eight week to help safe travel and social distancing.
These fast-track plans are the first part of a wider £2.9m of funding to be awarded to Oxfordshire County Council by Government to improve cycling infrastructure, parts of the roadwork network and footpaths as the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the next two months, the focus will be on enhanced maintenance for paths and cycle routes, new cycle parking facilities across all districts and Oxford, changing signal timings to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, restricting hours of loading/servicing in key city centre streets, park & ride upgrades with more room to park bikes and freeing up routes for pedestrians.
The goal of this first investment is to address the short-term need to get people back to work, school, shopping and leisure by sustainable means and at a safe social distance, says the council. The second phase of funding will be awarded on the commitments in the first phase of funding. The £600,000 will be spent equally across the whole of Oxfordshire and will be based on some of the priorities identified in a recent survey of all 63 county councillors as to how the £2.9 million should be invested.
The second part of the sum worth £2.38 million will plan for longer-term transport upgrades and will look to address more of the specific steps county councillors outlined.
Projects under consideration in the second stage include bus gates in Oxford to prioritise bus travel through the city, more controlled parking zones as well as low traffic neighbourhoods. Across Oxfordshire towns and villages hope for 20mph speed limits, school streets, improved cycle paths and secure cycle parking which will all be considered.
These plans are aimed at making cycling, walking and public transport more accessible and will aim to increase road space forÂ non-motor transport.
The funding comes as part of a £250 million Department for Transport nationwide Active Travel Fund, the first stage of a £2 billion investment for Britain’s transport network.
These plans come amid a wider focus on green transport. Oxford County Council, Oxford City Council and bus companies Stagecoach and the Oxford Bus Company are also submitting a separate £50m bid to become Britain’s first all-electric bus city.
In addition, the county council’s Better Deal for Bus Users is a series of four bids to bring in on-demand bus services in rural areas around the county.
Areas served by the new buses could include a service linking villages in the Chilterns along the A4074, a replacement for a service to villages south of Didcot due to expire in 2022 and expanding a voluntary service currently running in Freeland and Hanborough in West Oxfordshire, possibly incorporating the Lower Windrush Valley Area.
Cllr Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment said: “This funding will allow Oxfordshire to build on the great enthusiasm we have seen from our residents for walking and cycling as well as the plans we already have to upgrade active travel amid growth across the county. We have a series of bold plans including the implementation of school streets to make school journeys safer as well as an ambitious commitment to upgrading Oxfordshire’s cycling and walking network.
“We have a real opportunity here to make a difference; we want to transform the way Oxfordshire residents travel and this funding will enable us to make our county into a place where many more journeys are made by cyclists, who feel safer, and pedestrians, who have improved paths, and where communities and the workplace are connected for a more sustainable future.”