As the UK comes out of the current lockdown, we are being urged to avoid public transport where we can; and use cars or preferably bicycles instead. That is clearly a huge issue for the people of Eynsham, many of whom work in Oxford and would normally get the excellent bus service or train from Hanborough. Oxford can’t take an influx of cars - and even if it could, it would be a backwards step to encourage more pollution and congestion in the city.
What’s more, as schools reopen, it would be appalling if the school run was done by car. We don’t yet know what school bus services will be available, but we do know that parents dropping kids off by car is a huge polluter and congestion-causer, and dangerous for pupils on foot or bike.
So those who can, should get on their bikes. It’s fun, it’s healthy, and it’s safe.
The Department for Transport has made money available to local authorities to install temporary pop-up active travel areas. Around £250m will come to Oxfordshire. I am writing this on Tuesday 26 May, and hoping that by the time you read it, I will be proven wrong. Oxfordshire CC has produced a great description of its intentions but so far failed to deliver a single metre of new safe space. It is vital that these bold plans are put into fruition before there are too many cars back on our streets.
The process for these active travel spaces has been somewhat laborious. Pressure groups like the wonderful Cyclox and Windrush Bike Project have been making suggestions, and each County Councillor has been asked to give a list of possible areas for action in his or her ward. It is much easier to come up with suggestions in the city and larger towns like Witney than it is in villages like Eynsham. Nonetheless I am hoping that the places outside the City don’t get forgotten, and that in Eynsham we can see some improvements. For instance, I would like to see cars (other than belonging to residents) banned from the roads around the primary school in the village. I would make Back Lane and Clover Place one way for cars, and cone off half the road for people on foot or bike - that would leave the car park accessible but make active travel easier as the schools reopen.
I am always impressed by how many pupils go to school by foot and bike and how many often older residents use their bike to get round the village. Now is the time to be making that an even more attractive option and making the space for social distancing.
Now is also the time to look at better permanent facilities. We need a safe bike route to Farmoor and Botley on the B4044. We need a bike track to Hanborough Station, and a bridge at Bablockhythe would open up a whole new set of walking and cycling routes. The County has said it will be bold. My fingers are crossed that they mean it.
Contact your district councillors.