Details of the Charter

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1. Restrict vehicle access in high pollution areas


1. Restrict vehicle access in high pollution areas


Light duty diesels (cars and vans) remain particularly polluting, and even new ones are not necessarily much cleaner than the older ones. It is therefore almost unavoidable that light diesel access will need to be prevented or restricted in the most polluted areas of Oxford. Cleaning up buses and old black taxis is also a priority.


There are various approaches to restricting access to vehicles in high pollution areas. These can include an outright ban on the dirtiest vehicles based on compulsory stickers on vehicles indicating their Euro emissions level, for example. However there are other options, such as

  • Pedestrianisation (as happened many years ago in Cornmarket),

  • Parking restrictions and time limited restrictions on vehicle access (as happens in central Bath)

  • The introduction of Clean Air Zones that charge drivers to enter polluted areas, as well as schemes to restrict vehicle access for HGVs and buses.

  • ‘Car-free’ days, during which no cars would be allowed into parts of the city.

A more sophisticated approach would be to instigate a road charging system as in inner London, with charges graduated to deter the most polluting vehicles and/or incentivise the cleanest (see

The government is currently looking at Clean Air Zones – which have a slightly different approach to oxford’s Zero Emission Zone:


A full briefing is here:

2. Accelerate the development of Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone


The Zero Emission Zone planned for Oxford is an excellent idea. It would be a world first and recognises that electric transport is the future. But currently it happens in four phases with the final phase only starting in 2035. Areas such as St Clements will have high levels of pollution (if nothing else is done) for many years to come. Speeding up the deployment of each phase could bring in cleaner air faster. For full information on the ZEZS see:


A key part of this will be making use of electric vehicles standard. Councils can play a key part in facilitating and accelerating the installation of electric charging points along with reserved parking spaces, etc. for low emission vehicles.

3. Introduce workplace parking levies and parking charges to favour less polluting vehicles

Oxford is widely agreed to be a very densely developed city centre, reflecting its mediaeval origins. However, the inner city has a very large area of tarmac dedicated solely to the accommodation of parked vehicles. This in itself attracts more traffic into the city centre than is manageable,  and the land could be used much more productively if higher charges restricted the availability of on-street and private non-residential (PNR) parking.

A Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) is a charge on employers who provide workplace parking. Employers, rather than employees, are responsible for paying any WPL charge, although employers can choose to reclaim part or all of the cost of the WPL from their employees.  Oxford University currently charges staff for parking at a rate  that is on average 1.75% of their salary. In the UK, Nottingham has led the way in establishing WPL PNR charges (see here for example ). Not only has this helped to deal with its most acute traffic problems, but has also provided a new income stream that has been used to help fix other transport and environmental problems in the city (including buses and rail station redevelopment) and by acting as an incentive for employers to manage their workplace parking provision. More information about Nottingham here.


Oxford city Council and Oxfordshire County Council have been discussing introduction of workplace parking charges for some years. It is stated that the money coming from this “must enable a

strong, transformational, well-supported vision for the city” and its transport system.  Details are at:

A consultation on WPL is planned for autumn 2018.



4. Enforce a ban on idling by taxis, buses, tour coaches and school drop-offs


Idling (running a car engine while stationary) causes pollution while wasting fuel and money.  Rule 123 of the UK Highway Code states that “You MUST NOT leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.” Avoiding idling this is particularly important in locations where there are high numbers of stationary vehicles, such as outside schools and hospitals and by bus and coach stops.


Motoring organisations such as the RAC ( highlight the health impacts alongside bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians. Guidance from Public Health England (PHE) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) calls for “no idling” zones outside schools, care homes and hospitals. Westminster city council has already introduced £80 fines for drivers caught with idling engines. 

In Oxford the City Council and Oxford Friends of the Earth are cooperating on anti-idling work:

5. Develop infrastructure that promotes shift from private vehicle use to cycling, walking and public transport


Oxford has proudly proclaimed itself a ‘cycling city’, but in truth there is a big difference between a city with a lot of bikes and a world class cycling city. In reality, cycling infrastructure in Oxford is mostly quite poor and very limited, especially when it comes to dedicated and segregated cycle lanes. Dedicated road space is also very limited for buses and pedestrians owing to the constricted nature of the roads in the city centre. It will probably not be possible to address this problem without a radical reorganisation of motor traffic in the city centre such as proposed to the city council early in 2018:


We believe that some radical changes of this sort will be essential if Oxford’s air quality and other environmental problems are to be fixed. Another important point is that getting more people on bikes, buses or feet is fine, but it does not do anything for air quality unless some at least of these people have left their cars at home to travel more sustainably. That is, genuine modal shift is essential.


This involves creating safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists (see points 7 and 8) as well as discouraging car use through workplace parking etc. (point 3). It also involves ensuring that people have good and timely information about the ways in which they can make their journeys and long-term promotion of the various ways of getting around.  A third key point is land use planning to ensure that all new developments are well linked to public transport and have good cycle and pedestrian access, and that these are prioritised at the planning stage.


Modal shift is a long term process and should be built into all local council plans with targets for reducing car use.


6. Introduce a freight consolidation centre to enable fewer and cleaner delivery journeys


Freight Consolidation cuts the number of separate deliveries made in a city. Goods to one address from different suppliers are bundled into one pre-arranged delivery.  Setting up a centre for this near the ring road would cut the number of delivery vehicles in the city and cut pollution from the ‘last mile’ in the delivery journey.


This has been piloted by a partnership between Bath and Bristol councils and courier service DHL. They use electric vehicles instead of numerous diesel trucks. This helps to free up busy roads within these cities and results in cleaner air.  Bath and North East Somerset Council have traffic restrictions in the historic core of the which prevents vehicles on certain roads between 10am and 6pm but the Freight Consolidation service has been exempted from the restrictions.  For more information see:

Oxford is a sufficiently small city that a lot of deliveries from depots could be carried out effectively by bicycle couriers, using specialist pushbikes or electric cycles.  Pedal & Post are an Oxford enterprise already pioneering this work - they are the first in the UK to not require any public funding or support. They deliver 200 - 400 items a day.

7. Develop a programme to make Oxford (by 2025) the UK city where the highest percentage of people use walking and cycling for local journeys


Currently around 28% of people in Oxford (about 12.7% in Oxfordshire) cycle three times a week. That figure could be higher – in Cambridge it’s 40% and in the Netherlands over 40% of people cycle every day.


We’d like Oxford and Oxfordshire to take the lead on cycling at city and county levels.  To do that we need to:

  • Develop safer cycling routes in the city and across the county

  • Teach cycle safety and the three levels of ‘Bikeability’ in all Oxfordshire schools, which reinforce the relationship between cycling and personal/social development

  • Keep roads well maintained and tackle potholes

  • Implementing Cycling UK’s “Space for Cycling” and “Too Close for Comfort” campaigns across Oxfordshire


The ‘Claudia Charter’ for safer cycling in Oxford sets out much of what needs to be done.


Cyclox – Oxford’s excellent cycling campaign – have their own campaigns:


Full cycling information is here:

8. Make streets friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists and create ‘liveable’ streets’


Rethinking the way we get around can help tackle our air quality crisis and more. The evidence is in: people will use active and sustainable transport modes when those options are safe and reliable. In so doing, they not only improve their own health and those of people around them, they leave more space for the cars that need it. From a public policy standpoint, taxpayers win. Fewer single-occupancy car journeys mean substantially less wear on the road. More active journeys mean better physical and mental health. Safe space for cycling means more school trips by bicycle and healthier, happier children. Doing all this requires reapportioning road-space on main routes into Oxford, and designing neighbourhood plans that allow vehicular access to residents but not to through traffic.


More info at 

9. Work with national agencies to invest in upgrading rail services across the county


Oxfordshire has grown massively in the last sixty years but the rail network has shrunk. We badly need a rail network for the 21st century – one that can take more passengers and get them to where they need to be, as well as taking more long-distance freight.   Investment needs to focus on:

  • Increasing the capacity of the Oxford – Didcot rail line by developing it to four-track operation – this would allow for more freight and more local passenger services.

  • More local stations – the planned Blackbird Leys / Cowley branch line station is a start but we should also have stations to service the Milton training estate area and other new developments north of Oxford.

  • Improvement to the North Cotswold line. Many Oxford – London services come in to Oxford down this single track line which is frequently delayed.  This was built as a twin track line and should be restored to that capacity.

  • Electrification of the Oxford Didcot line should be moved forward once the increased capacity is in place.


More information on rail developments is under ‘current campaigns’ at:

10. Ensure that local transport plans focus on improving urban and rural bus services

Bus services are an essential part of the local economy – they get people to ‘where they make money and where they spend money’. While Oxford city bus services are better than in many comparable cities, rural services have suffered badly in recent years due to lack of financial support.  If there is no rethink it is likely that matters may get worse. The county and district councils need to cooperate and build bus service development into local planning, linking transport plans with each district’s Local Plan to ensure that access to public transport improves over the life of such plans, and committing funding to this.

Local bus news can be found at:

Ideas on how to improve bus use are at: &


©2018 by Oxford Friends of the Earth

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