Remarks to Oxfordshire County Council
In support of motion for active travel
6 November 2018
My name is Scott Urban. I run a small company in Oxford. I am also a Director of Oxfordshire Liveable Streets.
I have been very impressed with the pro-active steps taken by this Council in regard to active travel. Oxfordshire has the UK’s best cycling and walking design standards. It has great aspirations in the Local Transport Plan. This council has also built some great infrastructure – Access to Headington and the raised table on Broad Street. One of our directors also noticed a fantastic new pavement in Woodcote.
As councillors, you are faced with a nearly unprecedented challenge in budgetary decisions. I may not agree with all of them, but I do recognise the difficulty you face.
Oxfordshire’s transport arrangements are strained. The annual budget for maintenance is £15 million. But £400 million is needed to put the roads right. Added to this is the 20% growth in population expected by 2051. Without changes, this means a tremendous consumption of the county’s financial resources.
The good news is that there is low-hanging fruit. This is in the form of active travel. With every percentage point of modal shift out of private-car travel, the wear on the county’s roads is massively reduced.
There are essentially two approaches to harvesting this fruit. The first is what I would call “merging and urging”. This is essentially asking bikes and pedestrians to mix with cars. It might be a too-small cycle lane, or a lane that forces pedestrians and cycles to cross sweeping junctions. The urging part is the ‘get on your bike’ stuff.
The second approach is to build totally segregated infrastructure for cycles and human-friendly junctions for pedestrians.
We can agree that the UK in general has done the merging and urging, while the Netherlands has done the ‘build it and they will come’. The differences are remarkable. And this is not an Oxford-centric thing – active travel is built into every town in the Netherlands and into the connections between them.
Oxfordshire Liveable Streets was created to help you, the county council, continue in your journey toward the latter approach. We plan to give you the support in your own districts for the hard steps that are required to create space for active travel. These steps will always stir a vociferous minority. Oxfordshire Liveable Streets is dedicated to making sure the more quiescent majority’s voice is behind you, supporting you. Please note – there’s a car in our logo! And it helps to know that the Netherlands has the highest rate of driver satisfaction in the world.
Lastly, I am inviting you, as councillors, to join me on a visit to Waltham Forest in London. We can see first-hand how the highway authority there has implemented a remarkable scheme to replicate what happens in the Netherlands. We will be writing to cabinet members shortly with some suggested dates.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.