Thousands took to the streets of Oxford on Saturday to protest the implementation of ‘Light Traffic Neighbourhoods’ and traffic filters to restrict who can enter certain areas of the city by car.
Approximately 2,000 people marched through several streets to protest the measures due to start later this year. The protest was organised on social media under the hashtag ‘Our Community Our Choice.’
‘Light Traffic Neighbourhoods’ were approved by the Oxfordshire County Council in November 2022. The zones include blockades on many residential streets to prevent non-residents from cutting through them and traffic filters to enforce restrictions on entering certain streets. For six streets in the city, only cars with a permit or exempt status will be able to enter during designated hours which extend from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on most of the restricted streets. Licence-plate-reading cameras will enforce the restrictions, along with fines of up to £70. The measures are part of ‘The 15-minute City’ concept designed to limit the movement of residents in cars to within fifteen minutes of their homes, often with draconian laws.
“We’re here to come together to say no to 15-minute cities, we’re here because we’re incredibly worried about the attack on our rights, the freedom of movement, and everything that comes from freedom of movement … Most people you speak to here are going to be all for a return to local economies. But this isn’t going to achieve that, it’s going to restrict people’s rights,” one protestor told the Oxford Student newspaper.
“We’re obviously in opposition to this rollout of 15-minute cities and the implications of what that means when you are effectively locking people into zones in their own hometowns,” another said, adding:
It’s made to sound like this wonderful idea because it would be fantastic if we have all these nice little community hubs with amenities within close reach, but the actual reality of what this means is that you are being tracked and traced within your own town. You’re looking at having to have permits to leave the zone that you find yourself in.
The actor and political activist Laurence Fox was also present, showing his support for the protestors.
“I’ve come here because I object to being told where I can and can’t move in society. I think it’s really unhealthy,” he told the BBC. “I think that what’s happened is that the government and the powers have gotten this desire to control our movement, our speech, everything.”
Not everyone on the council agrees with the new restrictions. Liam Walker, an Oxfordshire council member, said the plans were “hitting residents’ pockets and impacting businesses. Oxford is slowly being shut down under this anti-motorist coalition.”