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Oxfordshire leaders address traffic filter misinformation

Mark Moran
20 December 2022
Cllr Liz Leffman, leader of Oxfordshire County Council and Cllr Duncan Enright, cabinet member for travel and development strategy
Cllr Liz Leffman, leader of Oxfordshire County Council and Cllr Duncan Enright, cabinet member for travel and development strategy

 

Oxfordshire County Council is seeking to reassure residents that the introduction of traffic filters will not amount to a form of lockdown.

Six traffic filters – designed to reduce traffic, make bus journeys faster and make walking and cycling safer – will be trialled in Oxford after improvement works to Oxford railway station are complete.

Staff and councillors at both councils have been subjected to abuse due to inaccurate information being circulated online.

Oxfordshire County Council says it takes the wellbeing of its staff seriously is taking steps to provide staff and councillors with support. For example, it is working with Thames Valley Police to report the most extreme abuse.

Misinformation about the introduction of traffic filters in Oxford has resulted in both the county and city councils receiving numerous calls and social media messages from worried residents.

To reassure residents, the council has produced a set of FAQs and a video. The film Cllr Liz Leffman, leader of Oxfordshire County Council and Cllr Duncan Enright, cabinet member for travel and development strategy, have released a video to clarify misunderstandings around how traffic filters will work.

You can view the full video here: Oxford traffic filters: what they really are and how they work

Further information, including maps and FAQs, can be found on Oxfordshire County Council’s dedicated website: letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/traffic-filters-2022.

The six traffic filters will be implemented under an experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) for a minimum period of six months. During the trial, the county council will assess the impact of the traffic filters by monitoring traffic levels, bus journey times and air quality as well as review any impacts on individuals and those with protected characteristics. A second public consultation will run during the first six months of the trial. A long-term decision about the traffic filters will be made towards the end of the trial based on monitoring data collected and feedback from consultation.

The decision was made by the county council’s cabinet at a meeting on 29 November. The decision follows extensive engagement with more than a hundred local businesses, organisations and community groups, including bus companies, hospitals, schools and universities. The county council also received 5,700 responses to a public consultation that ran from 5 September to 13 October 2022, with another 485 emails from members of the public and organisations. All these responses were analysed by an independent research company and changes to the proposals have been made following feedback from the consultation.

FAQs on traffic filters 

Will the Oxford traffic filters be physical barriers?
No. Oxfordshire County Council, supported by Oxford City Council, is proposing to install traffic filters as a trial on six roads in Oxford. The trial is currently planned to begin in 2024.

The traffic filters are not physical barriers of any kind and will not be physical road closures. They are simply traffic cameras that can read number plates.
If a vehicle passes through the filter at certain times of the day, the camera will read the number plate and (if you do not have an exemption or a residents’ permit) you will receive a fine in the post.  

Buses and taxis will be able to pass through the traffic filters freely at all times, people can walk or cycle through them at all times, and there will be exemptions and permits for blue badge holders, emergency services, health workers and both professional and non-professional care workers. People receiving frequent hospital treatments will also be eligible to drive through the filters.

Oxford residents (and residents of some surrounding villages) will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filters on up to 100 days a year. Residents living in the rest of Oxfordshire will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filter on up to 25 days a year.

The traffic filters work in exactly the same way as the existing traffic cameras in High Street, and are widely used in cities across the UK to manage congestion and support public transport.

Residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time – but in the future, during certain times of the day, you may need to take a different route (e.g. using the ring road) if you want to travel by car.

The reason we have proposed these changes is because – as everyone who lives and visits Oxford knows – the city has had awful congestion for decades. This is damaging both our economy and our environment, and is making the bus network unviable.

Our aim is to reduce traffic levels and congestion, make the buses faster and more reliable, and make cycling and walking safer and more pleasant.
Oxford needs a more sustainable, reliable and inclusive transport system for everyone, particularly for the 30% of our households who do not own a car.

The county council has already made amendments to the scheme after listening carefully to feedback from residents and stakeholders earlier this year.  

The scheme will be introduced as a trial, during which an additional consultation will be carried out to further refine the scheme. A final decision will then be made on whether or not the filters should be made permanent.
 
Will Oxford residents be confined to their local area?
No.  The misinformation online has linked the traffic filters to the 15-minute neighbourhoods proposal in the city council’s Local Plan 2040, suggesting that the traffic filters will be used to confine people to their local area. This is not true.

The 15-minute neighbourhoods proposal aims to ensure that every resident has all the essentials (shops, healthcare, parks) within a 15-minute walk of their home. They aim to support and add services, not restrict them.

For the benefit of Oxford residents, what we are aiming to do is to ensure that areas of the city such as Barton, Blackbird Leys and Rose Hill have all the essential services that areas such as East Oxford and Jericho already have.

Under the traffic filters, residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time – but in the future, at the times when the filters are operating, you may need to take a different route (e.g. using the ring road) if you want to travel by car.

Will Oxfordshire residents need permission from the councils to travel across the city?
No. Everyone can go through all the filters at any time by bus, bike, taxi, scooter or walking. Furthermore, residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time – but in the future, during certain times of the day, you may need to take a different route (e.g. using the ring road) if you want to travel by car.

There will also be exemptions to the fines for carers, blue badge holders, businesses, and emergency services.

Oxford residents (and residents of some surrounding villages) will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filters on up to 100 days a year. Residents living in the rest of Oxfordshire will be able to apply for a permit to drive through the filter on up to 25 days a year.

If residents in the permit areas are not using a permit or run out of permits, they will still be able to drive to any destination in Oxford or elsewhere, whenever they like, as often as they like. Depending on their location and destination, they might have to use a different route to avoid the filters, which would usually be the ring road.

The reason we have proposed these changes is because – as everyone who lives and visits Oxford knows – the city has had awful congestion for decades. This is damaging both our economy and our environment, and is making the bus network unviable.

Our aim is to reduce traffic levels and congestion, make the buses faster and more reliable, and make cycling and walking safer and more pleasant.

Oxford needs a more sustainable, reliable and inclusive transport system for everyone, particularly for the 30% of our households who do not own a car.

Have Oxford’s councils tried to secretly introduce the traffic filters? 
No. The concept of traffic filters was first introduced in 2015 in the Oxford Transport Strategy.

The proposals for traffic filters were first consulted on in 2019 and then updated in February 2022. Following this update, several months of engagement work was carried out with stakeholders across the city to inform further updated proposals which were announced in August 2022. A large number of changes were made to the scheme as a result of the consultation, including the introduction of 100 day passes for each resident, and reductions in the hours of operation of some of the filters.

A consultation on the proposals was carried out from 5 September until 13 October 2022 in which 5,700 people responded to the consultation survey and another 485 emails were received by members of the public and businesses, schools and other organisations. This engagement work included an in-person and virtual engagement session with members of the public, as well as meetings with businesses across the city.  

The responses were analysed by an independent research company and the feedback received resulted in a number of updates to the scheme. This was used to inform Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet meeting on 29 November 2022, where an extraordinary meeting was held and cabinet members made a decision on whether to proceed with the trial. 

The scheme will be introduced as a trial, during which an additional consultation will be carried out to further refine the scheme. A final decision will then be made on whether or not the filters should be made permanent.

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Urban Transport Group
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Policy and Research Advisor, Urban Transport Group
Urban Transport Group
Leeds
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