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Who "owns" road barriers in East Oxford?

Who supports the barriers that are about to divide our community –bringing massive disruption community conflict and increases in traffic jams and pollution? It is increasingly difficult to understand where both the main parties in this ward stand on the most significant issue in this election –Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across East Oxford.


Background

This policy was introduced by the Conservatives when they ran the county council and fast-tracked by the Lib Dems, Labour and Greens when they took over in coalition. Our Green city councillors were deeply involved in planning barriers for East Oxford and our Labour County Councillor has been vehement in support of LTNs. But now? Neither Labour nor the Greens seem to want to own the monster they helped to create.


What does our MP think?

Oxford East Labour MP Anneliese Dodds has called on the county council to delay implementation. She supports LTNs “in principle” but is concerned that the current plans “will worsen congestion on arterial routes used by buses in Oxford, further negatively impact bus uptake in East Oxford and increase division around active and public transport measures in Oxford’s communities.”


The Labour Party always used to name-check “hard working families”. In her letter to Council leader Liz Leffman (as reported in the Oxford Times) Anneliese Dodds does not mention ‘car’; or ‘van’, or ‘delivery vehicle’, or ‘tradesperson’, or ‘parent’, or ‘health worker’ or ‘teacher’. None of these register today on our MP’s concerns about LTNs unless they travel by bus or cycle.


Annaliese Dodds’ solution is to delay LTNs until the county has installed bus gates across the city. These bus gates (electronic barriers as in the High Street) split our city into five zones which cannot reach each other by car or van except via the ring road, increasing the length of journeys and pollution, and putting the Headington hospitals out of easy reach by car to East Oxford residents. After that, our MP wants the LTNs as well.


In advance of the city elections Anneliese Dodds wants to give the impression of being an LTN sceptic while Labour canvassers on the doorstep assure residents that “Annaliese will sort it out”. Meanwhile our Labour County Councillor Damian Haywood prefers to impose these changes rather than consult properly with residents and those who service the area.


Increased congestion and increased community divisions

These are exactly what we have been highlighting for months. And this will not only affect bus passengers. What about people who need to use their cars to get to work at the city hospitals, or at city schools? What about busy parents who drop their children at school and then go to work? What about people with restricted mobility who need to access shops and health services? They cannot all cycle, and they cannot all use buses, especially as cuts to bus services, like the 16, go ahead and the county stands by and watches. And then there are delivery drivers, postal workers, care workers, bin lorries...


Just to be clear. I strongly believe in reducing car use and increasing use of bicycles and public transport. But I am acutely aware that there are people who need to use cars and that many of them service our city and are not our enemies.


To create a transport policy that works and that reduce pollution we have to engage with all road users and have a plan that commands support – not one foisted on one section of the community, who had virtually nil involvement in its planning and whose views are being completely disregarded. We have to respect each other on the roads and in policy making. Currently, we have a recipe for community conflict, greater emissions and pollution.


Can we believe that LTNs are only a trial?

Both Labour and the Greens try to persuade East Oxford residents that the LTNs are only a trial and they “should give it a go”. But who will be the jury in this trial, and what will be the evidence?


Cowley residents were told their LTNs were a 6 month trial. The ‘trial’ is now in its second year. They were told pollution would be reduced – the county’s own evidence is that it has increased. They were told that road traffic would “evaporate”; the county evidence is that it has increased. Nor have the Cowley LTNs increased cycling or walking as promised.


When consulted, 63% of residents opposed the LTN with less than a quarter in support. However, the Green and Labour parties both supported the County Council recommendation that the scheme become permanent. At the last moment, the Cowley decision was delayed so that it could be taken after the election. If this is how they treat Cowley residents why would we in East Oxford be any different?


I challenge the Green and Labour candidates to publish the criteria by which they will measure East Oxford LTNs.


Will they think it successful if Cowley Road, Iffley Road and St Clements are gridlocked for much of the day? Will they think it a success when these vehicles emit pollution into St Mary’s environment? Will they think it successful if buses are delayed making them unusable for commuters?


The public have already said they don’t want the LTN; if they vote against again will candidates Emily Kerr and Mustafa Barcho, promise to respect the result?


In the latest Green Party leaflet, Emily Kerr talks about cycling safety and climate change, but does not mention LTNs at all. “Don’t mention the wall,” seems to be the current Green strategy.


Signs have already started appearing at the end of roads in St Mary’s warning motorists to “check your route”. But far from manning (or womaning) the barricades, it appears that both Labour and the Greens are checking their lines of retreat.


I predict that if the LTNs are implemented, when they fail, everyone will blame each other. The city will blame the county, the political parties will blame each other.


The eleven Independent candidates across the City are each addressing these issues in a way that recognises their ward’s own unique needs. In our ward there is only one candidate committed to fighting for a new traffic plan that will make our roads safer and reduce emissions and that recognises the diversity of our communities and the diversity of our needs.


Vote John Skinner Independent Candidate for St MARY’S.





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Notes from Your Doorstep 20/2/2022
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