Two impassioned and personal accounts on Oxford’s LTNs (low traffic neighbourhoods) kicked off a polarised debate ahead of their permanent implementation.
The Fair Deal Alliance cabinet at Oxfordshire County Council, comprising Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green councillors, decided to keep the temporary traffic restrictions in the Cowley area this week.
It means the giant plant pots and bollards, used to close off side roads to through traffic in Church Cowley, Florence Park and Temple Cowley, will stay, albeit with a promise to “undertake further community and stakeholder engagement to further refine and improve the scheme” by spring 2023.
Former Labour and independent councillor David Henwood had presented a petition, which he said had more than 3,000 signatures, opposing the LTNs.
“The LTN scheme has polarised local politics and segregated communities, producing a negative climate in Oxford,” he said.
“Independents and most residents acknowledge there is a problem with the number of vehicles on our roads and will work with anyone to solve it.
“Using funding from central government to create active travel should be just that, a mechanism to introduce it and not a means to weaponise the Liberal, Labour and Green alliance in their war on private and business car ownership.”
Mr Henwood highlighted issues for disabled residents and said the measures had pushed extra traffic to the surrounding roads. He also argued that key workers and care staff “should be given unfettered access”.
“As a father with a son with severe autism, getting him to his special needs school has increased his anxiety and journey times, and this has further burdened similar families,” he added.
He argued for relaxing the restrictions in the evenings and at weekends “to provide access to friends, family and essential deliveries”, adding: “There is no mechanism for businesses that are facing closure due to this scheme or for independents (traders) to regain their lost earnings.
“The county council must come forward with a compensation package.”
He was followed by public speaker James Schumann who highlighted how his own behaviour had been influenced by LTNs.
“I used to drive through Littlemore and Cowley a lot, but since the LTNs came in, I have switched to cycling because it is now safer,” he said.
“They used to be busy roads, but now I see children playing football in the street and cycling and walking to school, deliveries by cargo bike and people chatting on street corners without traffic fumes. It has become a community.
“We lost a baby a couple of years ago but were blessed with a second chance. Now we have a four-month-old son, and that showed me this is about children. They don’t get to vote, but it is their future.
“I want him to grow up in a city that he is proud of, where he feels safe to play and breathe the air.
“I hope you have seen the evidence that, over time, LTNs reduce all traffic, including on the main roads, as people like me get out of our cars and leave the roads clear for those who really need them like taxis and ambulances.
“LTNs are just the first step and a vital step.”