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Oxford had a problem with cars in 1975

Oxford, Transport, — December 2022

This 1975 "Cars Without Chaos" documentary looks at the problems created by cars and what Oxford was doing to try to address them: "Oxford has gone some way towards solving its traffic problems". (The video is twenty four minutes long, but you can start two minutes in and skip the introduction.)

The amazing thing about this is how much of it is still relevant.

Road-building is topical and controversial: then it was across Christ Church Meadow; now it's from Didcot to Culham. Car numbers are seen as problematic, though then it was "one car for four persons" and now there are maybe 30% more people in Oxford, higher car ownership rates, and cars that are significantly bigger. And the broader plan is similar: "to start controlling traffic more effectively ... to give privileges to buses and taxis and to find ways of making much greater use of a much smaller number of cars". "It is the prospect of the closing of Magdalen Bridge which is so exciting and important."

Many things seem to have not changed much at all — the width of the roads, the layout of the lanes on Banbury and Woodstock Rds, the queues of commuter traffic on the A40, the "cathedral for a thousand cars" at the Westgate, even people walking around in cardboard "car frames" — and others have only recently changed — there is footage of the Broad St car park with commentary on how car parking "litters and disfigures every conceivable corner of the centres of our cities".

"Park and ride" was new and exciting. There were also trials and ideas that sadly didn't go anywhere but may be happening now: some kind of "shared taxi" system (now we have car clubs and car-sharing), "dial-a-ride" mini-buses in Carterton, a comeback for cyclists after they "have been treated like third-class citizens for the last twenty years" (sadly the 1970s cycling recovery in the Netherlands didn't happen here, and people cycling in the UK had another fifty years of being third-class citizens), and closing Magdalen Bridge to private cars.

There are no references to climate change, unsurprisingly, but there is a feel for the broader sustainability problem: "the senseless waste of it all, the waste of fuel, money, resources, and of time".

1 Comment »

  1. […] The BBC documentary “Cars without chaos” featured Oxford as a city with traffic problems, and taking some steps to solve them. A […]

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