Saturday, 4 October 2014

How can we improve air quality in Oxford?

Oxford is in the top ten most polluting cities in the UK when it comes to car emissions with the 9th highest emission in the UK

This confirms that, as long as cars are not included in the Low Emission Zone in the City Centre, it will be ineffective in reducing air pollution. Air pollution kills many more people than road traffic accidents. Air pollution caused an estimated 28,416 deaths in Great Britain in 2010. This compares with 1,713 road deaths in 2013.  It’s about time we took reducing car use seriously.

A new report shows how we could achieve carless cities and cut air pollution within the next 20 years.
"There's no town in Denmark which a main road goes through. No town. Zero. … They’d actually think it was slightly mad to have a main road going through a centre of town. … Consequently, their culture is much happier than ours.” Andrew Davies CEO, Environmental Transport Association

Oxford is considering introducing congestion charging. The report criticises London Congestion charging for being a blunt instrument. It argues for variable charging for certain types of vehicle and road user and according to the level of congestion in real time. However, ite warns that congestion charging will only reduce traffic if there are viable public transport and cycling alternatives.

One example of good public transport is Vienna where if costs only 1 Euro to go anywhere in the City – a City much bigger than Oxford.

A transport researcher argues for “ a magnificent network of cycle routes”:  an area where Oxford used to lead but which now seems to have stalled with a cycle improvement budget from central government remaining largely unspent by the City and disputes with local cycle groups over ‘improvements’ to Frideswide Square and The Plain roundabout.

The report advocates joined up transport so car-sharing becomes part of a package that also includes train travel, bus travel, cycling and so on. With a travel card you could swipe and take a car when it suited, but swipe onto a bus where that made more sense.

A more radical suggestion is that the green man should be the default at pedestrian crossings and cars should have to stop and get permission to cross.

If we make it easy, normal and safe to travel on foot or by bike people will chose to do so. I know of someone who would love to cycle in Oxford but doesn’t dare because she finds the traffic too intimidating. If it was easy normal and safe to cycle in Oxford much more people would do so.

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