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Oxfordshire County Council leader pledges zero tolerance on cyclist deaths

“Everyone from the ages of eight to 80” should be able to cycle in Oxford “without the fear of death or serious injury,” says Liz Leffman

The leader of Oxfordshire County Council has pledged “zero tolerance” on road traffic deaths after two women were killed while cycling in Oxford in recent weeks.

Liberal Democrat councillor Liz Leffman also said that the county should be somewhere that people should be able to ride bikes without fear of being killed or seriously injured.

Her comments come after the deaths of University of Oxford postdoctoral scientist Dr Ling Felce at The Plain roundabout last week, just three weeks after Reuben College administrator Ellen Moilanen was killed close to Oxford Parkway station.

> “One month, two dead cyclists”: Oxford’s cycling city sign defaced after second death

“It has been heart-breaking to learn of the tragic deaths of two young women killed while cycling in or near Oxford over the last few weeks,” Ms Leffman said.

“I’ve been moved by the unwavering commitment of the bereaved families to cycling. In both cases the relatives have insisted that a fitting legacy would be a safer cycling city. A city where everyone from the ages of eight to 80 can cycle without the fear of death or serious injury.

“I am constantly impressed by the hard work and dedication of cycling advocate groups across the county,” she continued.

“They represent a wealth of talent and expertise that is impossible to ignore, and we are extraordinarily lucky to have.

“I know that, in particular, Cyclox, is keen for the county to put the Vision Zero policy at the front and centre of our Local Transport and Connectivity Plan.

“Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.

“It was first implemented in Sweden in the 1990s and has proved successful across many important European cities. I would like to see it made a success here, across Oxfordshire.

“Of course, we will need to look hard at whether there are immediate measures that we can take and our Cycling Champion, Cllr Andrew Gant, will lead on this work in conjunction with the county council’s Corporate Director of Environment and Place, Bill Cotton, in consultation with the chair of Cyclox.

“These women who tragically lost their lives while cycling on our roads must not be forgotten and their legacy will be a radical commitment to a transport network where we take a zero tolerance attitude to having anyone else killed or seriously injured,” she added.

At a vigil for Dr Felce this week, Dr Allison Hill, chair of the local cycling campaign group Cyclox, said: “We all should be calling for a ‘vision zero’ which is about total intolerance of any road user death because it is just awful for any road user to lose their life.”

She added that the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, currently under consultation, gave an opportunity to create safer roads for cyclists.

“That involves a large number of different actions,” she said. “It involves things like reducing speed and reducing traffic volume, which is utterly crucial because people see the huge number of cars and just feel too intimidated to get on their bikes.

“It involves making safe, segregated cycle routes that are separated from traffic because that is the only way people will feel safe.”

The post of Oxfordshire County Council’s cycling champion was scrapped by the county’s former Conservative administration in late 2020 when the previous holder, Dr Suzanne Bartington, resigned from the position.

> Oxfordshire ‘cycling champion’ role binned after previous holder complained she was powerless to effect change

The Conservative councillor said it was impossible to act as the local authority’s “face of cycling” while not having any say in transport decision-making at the council, such as having a seat in its cabinet.

“It's seemingly impossible to enact positive change in Oxfordshire without a portfolio or budget responsibility,” she said at the time.

“I felt that what I would like to make happen was very difficult to do without being a cabinet member for the council.

"It is the cabinet who make decisions for the authority and I am a back bencher. It is very difficult to be the person who is the face of cycling and funding it but doesn't actually have any responsibility for decision making around transport,” she added.

The council changed control last year and is now run by the Liberal Democrats in partnership with Labour and the Green Party.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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