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Column 10th March 2021

Getting active with travel needs proper support - not words

The phrase “Active Travel” seems to be very popular at the moment.

Oxfordshire County Council have an Active Travel Plan but at the moment, in the Vale of the White Horse, this seems to comprise of cutting back vegetation on various roads in Abingdon and installing more cycle racks in Wantage, Didcot and Faringdon.

Yes, they have recently completed the cycle way between Wantage and Harwell Campus but this has been planned since about 2011 so could hardly be called new.

Although the county has been granted £2.98 million by the Department for Transport (DfT) and further funding is available from OxLEP (Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership) very little, if any of this money will be spent in the south east corner of the County.

The latest Government briefing on Active travel states that “We need to create environments which promote physical activity as a normal part of everyday life. For example, walking should be a routine form of travel, but distances walked have fallen by some 30% between the 1970s and 2013.”

I would point out that many things have changed since the 1970’s.

In the 1970’s most work and shopping was local. Around Wantage and Grove you could use the very frequent and popular bus service to Harwell Campus which was where most people worked, shopping was local and people didn’t need to own a car.

If you go back a few years earlier you could also catch the train from Grove station.

Now the population of the area has doubled, people work further afield and commute longer distances, schools have been consolidated, bus services are reduced and the station was closed.

So cars are the only realistic means of getting to Didcot station or to any of the other places people from here travel to work.

The Government suggests that for most people, the easiest and most acceptable forms of physical activity are those that can be built into everyday life. Examples include walking or cycling instead of travelling by car.

To encourage people to do this, they need to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive.

Both would be easier if the speed limits were reduced and the link roads built so that traffic in built up areas was reduced.

Cycling would be easier if there were more, wider, safer, cycle ways to places that we want to get to – work, shops and schools.

Little prospect of that happening here anytime soon.


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