Traffic policies branded ‘racist’ with vote due on their removal

Oxford City Council will vote on a motion at a meeting on Monday calling for cancellation of the “divisive non-evidence-based transport policies” including traffic filters and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).

LTNs were made permanent in east Oxford with the intention of preventing traffic from taking shortcuts through residential areas and making streets safer for walking and cycling.

Oxford Mail: LTN in east Oxford.LTN in east Oxford. (Image: Ed Nix.)

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But the measures have been criticised for increasing congestion with some questioning why east Oxford – an area with a higher proportion of residents who do not have English as a first language – is seeing the “negative effects” of the scheme.

A traffic filter trial is also due to commence in the autumn, which will see private cars prohibited from driving through three areas of the city centre and three in east Oxford, under ANPR camera enforcement.

Shaista Aziz, an Independent Group councillor for the Rose Hill & Iffley ward and seconder of the motion, said: “These policies have not been created by anyone who looks like or lives the life of your average resident in east Oxford.

Oxford Mail: Shaista Aziz.Shaista Aziz. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

“The people protesting have overwhelmingly been working class people.”

Ms Aziz added she thought the project had been implemented in good faith at the start, but had now turned into a “bad faith project” due to “bad faith actors”.

Cowley Road Restaurateur Clinton Pugh said: “For the majority of traders English is a second language.

“I think it’s racist.

“These are attacks on the poor.

“And I’m going to end up going bust.”

Oxford Mail: Clinton Pugh outside his restaurant.Clinton Pugh outside his restaurant. (Image: Photo: Oxford Mail)

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesperson said a number of factors had been considered in making east Oxford the area of choice for LTNS, including urban density, a high number of vulnerable road users, and lack of green space.

He added: “Only 34 per cent of households in east Oxford own a car.

“The county council conducted a legal equalities impact assessment to fully assess the impact of LTNs.

“This included disability, age, gender, race, religion and other protected characteristics.

“These assessments are available for all to read on the council’s website.

“We continue to monitor the LTNs on a site by site basis and evaluate their impact.”

Ahmad Mohamad, owner of the Za’atar Bake restaurant on Cowley Road, said traders on the road were not always able to “write nice emails” and get support.

He added: “Cowley Road is a multi-cultural road – people from all over the world have their own shops here.

“I have lost almost 35 per cent of my customers.

“They don’t have these traffic policies in Summertown.

Oxford Mail: Ahmad Mohamad (right).Ahmad Mohamad (right).

“People in north Oxford can speak the language of the councillors and Oxford educators so they can write a nice email and get support.

“But Cowley Road business owners can’t always express themselves.

“They are actually nice people – they want to get on with their life and not lose business.

“I respect and love community, but the council doesn’t support me in that.”

Oxford City Councillors will vote on Monday on whether they would like to see the LTNs removed and traffic filters scrapped.

Green councillor Emily Kerr has suggested she will not be voting for the motion.

Oxford Mail: Emily Kerr.Emily Kerr. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

The St Mary’s ward councillor said: “What really alarms me about the motion is the fact that they claim there’s no evidence.

“A quick Google will show that there is a ton of evidence, from DfT, academics, public health experts, plus TfL & other transport authorities as well as two detailed reports by Oxfordshire County Council itself.

“To raise a motion like this and to have not bothered to do the most basic research is worrying to me: as policy makers we should be discussing the available evidence and the trade-offs not denying that evidence we don’t like exists.

“I know that the East Oxford LTNs have caused increased congestion inbound at the plain during rush hour in private school term-time, because that’s what the evidence says.

“Equally I know that the LTNs have seen traffic collisions halved, air quality improved, car use down 10 per cent, and cycling up 20 per cent because that’s also what the evidence says.”

Ms Aziz said she thought the remarks were “condescending”.

Oxford Mail: Anti-LTN protesters.Anti-LTN protesters.

“I do think the response really illustrates the problem crystal clear.

“It’s the epitome of privilege to be talking down at councillors who have consistently tried to stand up for working class communities.

“Of course, we have done the research, we are serious people,” she said.

Forwarder of the motion, Lye Valley ward Independent Group councillor Ajaz Rehman, added: “I’m not opposed to reducing traffic or congestion – I am opposing these policies because they are divisive and they don’t do what they say what they will do.”

City council Liberal Democrat leader Dr Chris Smowton will also be opposing the motion, but he said some aspects, such as the backing of School Streets, were welcome.

The Oxford Labour group, who have been criticised for not taking a clear stance around the issue, did not respond to a request for comment.

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