Our monthly OxHums talk on Friday 18th May, was a very interesting presentation by Professor Danny Dorling on ‘Oxford in 2050’ where he gave us his thoughts and ideas for future developments for our area. Three of our members have sent in their synopsis of the talk:
“What a unique perspective on Oxford. To be brought up in the city, to leave it and then to come back many years later and see the city through the eyes of a geographer. And sadly the verdict did not seem to be a positive one. Relative to other cities Oxford seems to have ‘fossilised’ in recent years; constrained by the weight of history, or at least by the weight of its historic buildings and urban landscape? And with future house-building likely to be focussed on attracting London bound commuters rather than on the needs of the local people we need to staff our hospitals or drive our buses.
The interplay between homelessness, housing, schools and transport was well explained. What fascinated me was the simple idea that transport within the city could be freed up, and with hugely increased capacity for cyclists, merely by designating ‘one way’ roads either into or out of the centre. Out via the London Road and in via the Iffley road for example, with motor vehicles down the centre and space freed up for ‘dual’ [slow + fast] cycle tracks on both sides.”
“One thing that I do remember him saying at Manzil Way was that ‘the best predictor of the amount of drug dealing that goes on in a school is parental income’ He added that, if he had his way, all Oxford’s secondary schools would combine and that, for example, only one of them would have a super Chemistry laboratory which served all. This would be the only way to put private schools out of business.
Re traffic he suggested that roads should be one-way with two large cycle lanes and that one would be unable to cross the entire city – i.e. if the Banbury Rd would be going in then the Woodstock Rd would be leaving. So delivery vans could get to the shops but people would be unable to do anything but (essentially) leave by the route they entered”.
As I listened to Danny Dorling’s talk, I reflected on the fact that so many local organisations are discussing what could and should be done about traffic in Oxford.
I’ve been to talks at the Oxford Pedestrian Association, Cyclox, Pensioner’s groups and other local groups of concerned residents who, like Dorling, are coming up with very creative and positive suggestions, yet it seems nothing gets done except some tinkering at the edges. If only the County Councillors could be as imaginative and brave as some of these concerned citizens. Has Professor Dorling talked to the councillors? If not, why not?
One-way roads would go a long way to reducing the appalling traffic jams with the attendant pollution and frustration. Dorling’s idea of making Woodstock and Banbury roads one way up and down makes total sense.
I was reminded of seeing a film of a South American city – maybe Sao Paulo – where the mayor closed the massive main through- road every Sunday and in the weekday evenings so residents could stroll, cycle, play ball games and relax in the open air, free from all traffic.
I really warmed to Dorling’s idea of bringing all local secondary schools under one authority with each school offering the very best teaching and equipment in one major area of study. This might put a stop to the current problem of some schools being seen to be desirable and others undesirable. It might also convince parents who pay for private schools that the state sector is better. Then hopefully the private schools would dwindle and over time fold completely.
Dorling reminded us that the homeless men and women we see sleeping out in very public spaces are the brave and confident ones but there are many more rough sleepers hiding away in corners out of view who are ashamed and desperate.
Dorling brought fliers for his most recent book to be published in July, ‘Peak Inequality : Britain’s ticking time bomb’. I shall definitely buy it.
This was a very thought provoking and inspirational talk.