In what some are calling the first climate lockdown, the Oxfordshire County Council decided last week to divide the city of Oxford into “15-minute neighborhoods” by restricting Oxford residents from driving beyond their own community centers.
The new system will involve six “traffic filters”—busy stretches of road that filter one neighborhood into another. From 7 AM to 7 PM seven days a week, private vehicles that are caught driving past their own neighborhoods for “non-essential needs” will be subject to a £70 fine.
"It is about making sure you have the community centre which has all of those essential needs, the bottle of milk, pharmacy, GP, schools which you need to have a 15-minute neighbourhood,” said Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member Duncan Enright, according to Oxford Mail.
Councillor Andrew Grant, responsible for the county’s highway management, said the decision was based at least in part on environmental concerns.
“Currently, our roads are gridlocked with traffic, and this traffic is damaging our economy and our environment. Oxford needs a more sustainable, reliable and inclusive transport system for everyone. Traffic filters are an important tool to deliver a transport plan that works for all,” said Grant in a statement.
Private drivers who wish to travel through the traffic filters may apply for a permit for up to 100 days a year, which averages out to about two days per week. In a household that has multiple vehicles, a maximum of three permits will be allowed.
“Traffic filters are designed to deliver a safer, cleaner and more prosperous place to live, work and visit,” added Grant. “This is not a scheme to stop private vehicles in the city. Exemptions and permits available for residents and businesses will make car journeys faster while also improving alternative transport options such as public transport.”
All other vehicles, such as buses, coaches, taxis, vans, mopeds, motorbikes, and HGVs, will be allowed through the traffic filters at all times.
The traffic filter system is supposed to be a six-month trial, but residents are still expressing frustration at the decision.
"What we have is people making decisions that don’t live in the city centre or spend much time in the city,” Old Bank Hotel owner Jeremy Mogford told Oxford Mail. "We’re being dictated to by councillors who don’t live here.
According to The Epoch Times, 21 Liberal Democrats run the Oxfordshire County Council in an alliance with the Green Party and Labour Party.