— David Nicholson (@rivergecko) October 11, 2017
In October 2017, the city of Oxford annouced its plans to improve air quality by curbing pollution from road traffic. The Oxford plan is different from any such plan elsewhere though:
- the very small 2020 zone is expanded in 2025 and then again in 2030 to cover most of central Oxford
- it bans diesel vehicles starting from 2020, sooner than any ban in the world (that wasn’t required by a court decision)
- it bans petrol vehicles too
- it bans all non-zero emission taxis, cars, light commercial vehicles and buses
- Only HGVs are exempt – until 2035
So why has Oxford gone for the earliest fullest vehicle ban in the world?
The aim of this plan probably goes well beyond improving air quality. The fact is the beautiful centre of Oxford is plagued by traffic that gets in the way of students, locals and tourists who travel on foot and by bicycle. So while air quality is a driver for action being able to exclude over 99% of UK traffic is a bonus. Becoming a test early test bed for electrified traffic research wont do Oxford any harm either.
- Reducing traffic pollution 10/10
- Sending a clear message that more polluting vehicles have no future 10/10
- A plan for other cities to adopt 3/10
- Targeting only more polluting vehicles only 0/10
If the broader aim is to cut air pollution and transform the centre of Oxford then the plan should be very effective. In air quality terms alone it is a classic “sledge hammer to crack a nut” with no targetting at all. It could inspire cities that have relatively small zones where cars are more of a hindrance to pedestrians and cyclists than a benefit to follow suit. Bath? Part of the city of London financial district?