What are the east Oxford low traffic neighbourhoods?
The east Oxford low traffic neighbourhoods, or LTNs, are a part of the UK government Active Travel initiative – which comprises a number of plans to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions and boost healthier travel choices for cities and towns across the UK. The schemes are inspired by models in the Netherlands including LTNs in Groningen, Utrecht and Amsterdam.
LTNs are being trialled in several cities and urban areas across the UK but are not a new concept. For example, an LTN was installed in De Beauvoir Square in Hackney in the 1970s to make the streets safer for children in the area.
We are trialling three LTNs in east Oxford: in Divinity Road area, St Clement's area, and St Mary's area. You can read more about them: Active travel
What is the history behind proposing the low traffic neighbourhoods, and what is the Active Travel fund that they are a part of?
In 2019, the UK Government published its Advancing our health paper, setting out plans for a modal change to healthier lifestyles being adopted during the 2020s. The paper acknowledges that while we have come a long way in technological terms, some of those improvements have also encouraged a more sedentary lifestyle than our bodies are designed to function with, and sometimes exposed us to other health risks.
In response to this the Government announced a £2 billion package to ‘create a new era for cycling and walking’ in May 2020, with £250 million of which allocated for an ‘emergency active travel fund’ – this fund comprising measures including wider pavements, and clearly marked bike lanes. These proposals are part of wider Government and local authority measures to promote alternative, healthier travel and reduce traffic congestion.
While average UK life expectancy has increased by 30% since the 1920s, the number of years people could typically expect to be living with compromising health conditions has also increased – especially in poorer areas. Good muscle health, bone health and heart health are all crucial to our bodies functioning as well as they reliably can for us.
Active Travel aims to facilitate better walking, wheeling and cycling opportunities for us, that work for our lifestyles, and help to rebalance the overall traffic density in a way that is intended to benefit all of us.
In 2020, the Council was successful in winning a £3 million bid to promote active travel. You can read how the funding was allocated on our website: Background to DfT Active Travel Fund
As a part of this, Oxford Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) sets out a policy to introduce LTNs in areas in Oxford where there is local support from residents and members. Three ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs)’ in Divinity Road area, St Clements area, and St Marys area – collectively known as East Oxford LTNs were consulted on between March and June 2021, through a series of workshops, engagement activities and a public consultation in June 2021. In July 2021, further engagement was recommended to adjust the proposed filters on Howard Street and Magdalen Road. You can read more - Active travel
Works to install the traffic filters will begin in mid-April through to the end of May. Signs for the traffic filters were installed in April 2022, and the planters and bollards were installed between 16-20 May 2022. The formal experimental traffic consultation launched from 20 May and will be open for a minimum of six months, before it is reported to the Council’s Cabinet for a formal decision on whether to extend the trial, make the east Oxford LTNs permanent or remove them.
LTNs support ambitious targets to increase cycling in Oxford by 50% by 2031.
Read more on our webpage Active travel
Why was east Oxford chosen for this?
There are a variety of key factors which recommend an area for a low traffic neighbourhood. These factors include poor air quality, urban density and lack of green space, high traffic volumes, number of vulnerable road users in the area – e.g. areas where there are a number of schools, lower than average access to public transport, and number of road traffic accidents in the direct road network.
East Oxford has a high population of young families and a mix of primary and secondary schools, as well as a large number of children travelling through east Oxford to schools in other parts of the city, and outside the city.
The area has direct access links to the city centre and to the southern bypass, both attracting a much higher level of traffic and contributing to slightly poorer air quality than some other regions of the city.
What is a traffic filter and what are low traffic neighbourhoods?
Traffic filters help to reduce the speed and flow of motorised traffic passing through a particular area – in this case residential areas. They are not intended to simply block cars from and pedestrianise individual streets, but to reduce speed and volume of traffic on neighbouring residential streets also: creating a low traffic neighbourhood – a wider residential area which is not impacted by dense traffic volumes or speeding vehicles.
Residents in the filter streets are still able to drive to their homes, as are people visiting them or delivering to them. What ‘can’t be done’ is that cars, vans, lorries etc. cannot drive through the road to get to another road.
The traffic filters are physically created by placing barriers in the road to discourage motor vehicles from driving through. The ‘barriers’ are planters and/or lockable bollards which are positioned to still allow access through for wheelchairs/other non-car mobility aids, pedestrians, cycles, scooters, and push-chairs/prams.
Read more about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on our Active Travel webpage.
Why are you putting all these traffic filters in?
The big issues are tackling Oxford’s air quality and its traffic congestion. Poor air quality impacts many of the world’s urban centres – even rural areas in some cases, and it is something we can, and are working to address as a matter of priority.
- Air quality:
The Local Government Association key messages arising from COP26 in October 2021 state:
‘Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to the public’s health, contributing to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases. It is costing the UK economy £20 billion a year and contributes to over 25,000 deaths a year.
Councils and Directors of Public Health are committed to making their local areas healthier places to live and are already delivering when it comes to tackling air pollution. They have introduced a range of measures such as clean air zones, encouraging the use of electric vehicles with recharging points and promoting cycling and walking.’
We continue to monitor the city’s air quality at several key locations around the city including near the Iffley Road/Donnington Bridge Road junction in east Oxford.
You can read more about air quality monitoring on Defra’s website here: Daily Air Quality Index - Defra, UK.
The UK Air - air quality information resource Air Pollution in Great Britain: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map (aqicn.org) is also available online helping pinpoint locations and share up to date air quality readings from Defra.
- Tackling traffic density:
We are a busy city and we need to keep Oxford moving sustainably. With the exception of lockdown, the traffic on UK urban roads has grown exponentially in recent years. Many of our urban centres and key areas of residential development are not built with the flexibility to simply widen and expand the roads – many of Oxford’s streets beyond the city centre were set out between 1870 and 1950 – not anticipating a norm of car ownership in the future. Much of the city’s later inner-housing is then fitted into spaces between the older housing – again with very limited road and parking space.
A number of our streets are already no-through roads – either because they were built as cul-de-sacs to encourage a feeling of community space and open air – such as on Nowell Road in Rose Hill, Sunnyside in Cowley and Cumberland Road in east Oxford; or because they have had traffic filters or permanent road closures installed in previous years to reduce rat-running – e.g. Dawson Street in east Oxford, or Barracks Lane, where the road becomes a footpath before meeting Bartlemas Close in east Oxford and Hollow Way in Cowley.
Although the benefits of being able to cut through some side streets mean we can miss blocks of traffic on arterial roads – as the traffic rejoins those arterial roads it can result in an extra pinch-point of traffic density, and one incident can bring the arterial and also the through roads to a standstill.
Where are you putting the traffic filters in?
Copies of the filter locations are available on our Active Travel webpage: If you require copies of the plans or any further information or assistance on east Oxford LTNs, please write to us at: email@example.com
How did OCC let people know about the road works for the east Oxford LTNs?
County council officers wrote to addresses in the east Oxford LTN areas in January 2022 to share that works would be undertaken, and again in March with a schedule of works and to share parking permission adjustments. These details were also published on our website, and shared with customer service points.
Statutory highways notices were placed in accordance with the requirements of an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO), and informal notices explaining the launch of the east Oxford LTNs are the consultation were fixed around the LTN area streets.
Why the mix of planters and bollards? Couldn’t you just choose one or the other for the filters?
Even through lockdown, and in today’s busy lifestyles, Oxford’s communities have continued as strong as ever, working together to look after one another and celebrate the positivity and care for others we are famous for. The planters give neighbourhoods the opportunity to do something more interesting with the barriers – we will be looking to work with groups of residents and businesses to plan ways the planters can serve people better – perhaps growing fruit or herbs or creating small sensory gardens.
So is this just good for the streets with the filters on? Oxford Road/Cowley Road is mostly residential after Manzil Way, up to and through Cowley – don’t those households matter too?
The intention is that by making it safer and easier for people to travel on foot, by cycle or wheelchair or scooter, it will mean more people can choose those travel modes who would not have before due to safety risks/lack of joined-up journey options/air quality impacts. In turn, it is expected that this will mean the overall volume of motor traffic on main arterial roads will also reduce – making the arterial roads safer and the air around them cleaner.
How is this being funded and is it contributing to a rise in council tax?
The Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are funded by the Department for Transport's Active Travel Fund, so it has no relation to council taxes. Active Travel is a central government initiative supporting plans to create an environment that is safer for walking and cycling. Oxfordshire County Council made a bid to the DfT to secure funding to enable us to deliver the initiative, with the fund then being allocated in two phases – you can read about Active Travel on our webpage.
The funding is completely separate from other council spending and is provided dependent upon it being used only for the Active Travel initiatives as agreed with the DfT. Whilst we are not allowed to divert the funding to pay for other services such as pothole repairs, we are reviewing a number of matters such as highway conditions to ensure we can make repairs to those (from the highways repairs budget) in line with delivering any installation of new road furniture for Active Travel
What consultation has been carried out so far?
The statutory consultation for the experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) on the east Oxford LTNs opened on 20 May, and will be open for a period of six months. Anyone can share their views via the survey and/or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to County Hall marking the envelope ‘East Oxford LTNs
A public consultation was held online between March and June 2021. You can find details of the report to cabinet and the cabinet member decision here: Issue details - Oxford: East Oxford - Proposed Low Traffic
Why are you installing the filters before opening a formal consultation on the east Oxford LTNs?
The LTN scheme is being introduced using an Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs). The benefit of an ETRO is that it allows people to get a feel for whether a scheme is likely to work in practice.
Changes to traffic flow and road networks have a complex relationship with multiple other factors – in particular this has included a mix of temporary and longer-lasting changes seen in traffic flow and density affected by pandemic restrictions in the last couple of years – and it can be better to try something that can be adjusted to better fit with how the area is used.
The ETRO consultation for the east Oxford LTNs began from 20 May, once the filters had been installed. The ETRO consultation will be open for a minimum of six months, during which you can provide feedback on the scheme. The outcome of the consultation will be reported to the Council’s Cabinet for a formal decision on whether to extend the trial, make the east Oxford LTNs permanent or remove them. Any decision will be made based on a range of factors including feedback received from the ETRO consultation, traffic congestion and air quality monitoring.
What disability and emergency access reviews were carried out at the beginning of the consultation?
A statutory Equality and Community Impact Assessment (ECIA) was conducted in 2021 which assessed the projected impacts of the LTNs on all protected groups (such as disability, age and gender). Through the consultation process so far, we have received considerable valuable feedback from people in these groups that we are working with as far as we can to help shape the LTNs plans so that the final result works for everyone.
Oxford is growing fast in terms of business innovation, economy and population. How are you balancing these modal shifts to support the city’s growth and not take steps backwards?
It can’t be denied that low traffic neighbourhoods have a very mixed reception. There is also an associated expectation that people will begin to change some travel habits – swapping short car journeys for bike, wheelchair or foot more often. Since the 2010s there has been an increasingly strong focus on our carbon emissions – workplaces now report their carbon footprint and adhere to strict sustainability guidelines, we are asked to seriously consider how we can improve our homes’ heat efficiency, and there are deep concerns about increasing volumes of motor traffic and associated air quality impacts.
Across the board, as a world, we are recognising the need to bring some balance into our growth and development. We cannot expand and reach new levels if we are burying ourselves in the by-products. What is really important about approaching Active Travel is facilitating ways for people to make modal changes in a way that works for them. It’s about improving journey options so they are safer, more intuitive and follow joined-up thinking. The aim is to rebalance the weight of the traffic, keeping Oxford moving.
What about traffic displacement – does this just move all the traffic and pollution onto arterial roads?
As a key part of our LTNs projects, we have to be sure that installing the traffic filters will not result in pushing air pollution and traffic jams onto other roads in the longer term. If this were the main result it would not work for anyone.
It is anticipated that many other longer journeys will divert onto the bypass rather than use the main radial roads inside Oxford. We have been monitoring the levels of traffic at several key locations around the city including near the Iffley Road/Donnington Bridge Road junction in east Oxford, and are continuing to monitor air quality and traffic dispersal on arterial roads and roads connecting to the roads with traffic filters on.
Following national and regional lockdown conditions in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, our decision to continue monitoring these factors is important to ensure we can get a longer stream of datasets and a clearer picture of more normalised travel patterns and requirements. This is also key as we have had a number of partial road closures for utilities works impacting traffic flow around the eastern arc of the city in the last couple of years
What vehicles are allowed to go through the traffic filters?
Pedestrians, wheelchairs, pushchairs, prams, mobility scooters, rollators, walking frames, the trial e-scooters, ability-adapted cycles, bicycles, tricycles, even unicycles! Motorbikes, cars and other motor vehicles are not permitted to pass through the traffic filters. Where necessary and practicable we may install ANPR cameras alongside some traffic filters in future to enforce using the roads responsibly.
I am concerned by recent RTAs that have happened in Oxford
We continue to work closely with other authorities and local cycling and walking groups to improve road safety wherever we can throughout the county. As a priority in this we are engaging with Cyclox to look at options to best put the Vision Zero policy at the front and centre of our Local Transport and Connectivity Plan. Cllr. Andrew Gant will lead on looking at immediate safety improvements we can also make, in conjunction with the county council’s Corporate Director of Environment and Place, Bill Cotton, in consultation with the chair of Cyclox. Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. It has been successful in other European cities.
Our current Quickways and Quietways schemes are intended to create safer cycling routes around the city. Works to implement 20mph zones and improved crossing facilities are due to begin in April 2022. You can find out more about Quickways and Quietways on our webpage Active travel
You can access statistics for highways accidents in the county in the last calendar year on our website: Road casualties | Oxfordshire County Council
How will waste services and emergency services access roads with traffic filters?
We have reviewed our street plans for the LTNs with waste services providers and are satisfied that the waste collections service should not be impacted by the traffic filters. All bollards installed for the LTNs will be lockable and will be accessible to waste and emergency services and can be opened if there are problems in the wider road network, by allowing specific keyholders to drop the bollards down when needed for access.
This means that we will be able to unlock and lock bollards for one-off access requirements where needed (all other required events permissions such as license for road closure etc. will still need to be obtained as usual).
During these events, the roads will legally remain as ‘no-through’ roads unless specifically signed by Oxfordshire County Council or Oxford City Council or by emergency services to show otherwise e.g. in the event of emergency road closures or road works, and fines for ‘rat-running’ will still apply.
We continue to review the accessibility of traffic filter locations so that we can look to implement adjustments if it becomes necessary and are continuing to consult with emergency services to identify and minimise any issues.
This will impact on my parking – I have a resident’s parking permit for my street, where do I park now?
The traffic filters have been placed within existing parking restrictions where it is possible to do so to minimise any loss of parking. We are monitoring the balance of parking displacement and we are extending individuals’ permit coverage to allow for parking in neighbouring controlled parking zones. These will be introduced as part of the LTN, ETRO and the street signs will be updated accordingly.
For more details of adjustments we have made to Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) and where you are also able to park as a permit holder for your street see the Controlled Parking Zone section.
You can see a plan of the changes.
How can I access my street in the event of works closing my road if the only available access remaining is closed with a traffic filter?
In the event of expected road closures, we will make necessary temporary arrangements to ensure traffic can still reach its destination as far as is practicable – such as by dropping bollards of a traffic filter to temporarily allow through traffic to pass along a different road if there is not a suitable alternative option. As far as is possible we will let people know of such works and temporary arrangements when works schedules are confirmed. You can check current and upcoming highways works in Oxford on our website.
Very occasionally there may be an emergency incident where critically ensuring human safety is first and foremost, and traffic diversions cannot be pre-communicated. As with such incidents, necessary changes and communications will be made as soon and as widely as is possible – usually through emergency services and local travel broadcasts.
Changing routes is not easy, on foot or on wheels, will the new filter arrangements work for me so I can still make my journey safely and confidently?
Changing routes and putting in new road furniture presents different issues for everyone, and a new bollard, or a dropped kerb can make a massive change – sometimes as an impact. Oxford has a steadily ageing population as well as an upwards growth in new people joining our city, and a number of residents, workers, commuters and visitors, who experience some mobility impairment. We are working to develop mapping that works for everyone to share key things including:
- which routes are most level
- which are most accessible with a mobility scooter
- where footways are wider
- easiest A-B journeys
Several of our local community groups have also developed safer walking and cycling maps
What is the point of me now driving round the block to go to local amenities instead of just driving directly through to them?
We appreciate that it takes time to adjust to new road layouts and ways of travelling. Where LTNs have already been introduced in other cities, evidence shows people have found it fairly simple to adjust their routes.
There are still multiple options to reach your destination locally. We are in the process of developing a series of route-finding maps that will highlight specific regular journeys and how they can be made easily with the restrictions from the traffic filters factored in.
Several community groups have produced their own really handy walking and cycling maps.
Many of my customers drive and stop by my shop as a part of their regular route – what if they now change route to an arterial road and take that business to chain stores?
Local businesses vary considerably in their reliance on passing trade and business success is often more dependent on wider macro-economic issues. It is difficult therefore to predict the impact on all local businesses. With more people walking and cycling, there may be opportunities to focus on that passing trade. We will monitor the impacts.
My child walks or cycles to a school just off a main road in Cowley/East Oxford area? Is their journey really going to be safer now?
By implementing the LTNs the intention is to create more options for students to safely use non-arterial roads as a quieter route where they can make their journey to and from school e.g. walking down Rymer’s Lane instead of Oxford Road/Cowley Road.
Who looks after the planters?
These are your neighbourhoods, the roads you live in and/or work in and use every day. We are looking to work with groups of local people to plan how you would like the planters to look and function and set out how they will be looked after. As a part of this, we will be producing ideas sheets as a starting point – such as growing herbs, small fruit-growing shrubs (e.g. quinces), or even mini-adventure or sensory gardens. The most important thing is that these are for everyone to enjoy and share the benefits of. We will be sharing more details of the planter care initiative soon