Piers Corbyn travelled to Oxford yesterday, in his bruised and battered 1995 Vauxhall Cavalier, emblazoned with a huge poster protesting London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, to tell local councillors that “man-made climate change does not exist” and that they should scrap plans to introduce a traffic filter scheme designed to “reduce traffic, make bus journeys faster, and make walking and cycling safer”.
The controversial climate change denier, anti-vaxxer, 2021 London mayoral candidate, and brother of former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was permitted to speak by Oxfordshire County Council’s leader Liz Leffman at a cabinet meeting called to discuss trialling six traffic filters which will stop most drivers in Oxford from using certain routes at peak times.
The council says the filters will help cut unnecessary car journeys in the city and instead make cycling, walking, and public transport the “natural first choice” for Oxford’s residents, the BBC reports.
However, according to the Oxford Mail, Corbyn called on the council’s cabinet to shelve the trial, along with any other “green measures” currently in the pipeline.
“I have spoken around the world on climate and solar matters and I’m here, councillors, to convince you of two things,” the 75-year-old, wearing his now-trademark yellow anti-lockdown t-shirt, said yesterday morning.
“One, that man-made climate change does not exist and secondly, that being the case you should drop all of these green measures and other green measures that you are doing on other committees.
“The point is that the basis of these documents is false: man-made climate change does not exist and if you don’t believe me, look at the sky.
“You should have a special meeting to discuss whether man-made climate change exists or not.”
Responding to the former Labour councillor’s claims, the council’s cabinet member for highways management, Andrew Gant, said: “Mr Corbyn said climate change is not real – this council has formally adopted a position that climate change is real. Mr Corbyn, you are wrong, we are right.”
Despite Corbyn’s intervention, the cabinet gave the green light to the traffic filters trial, which will commence in January 2024 following the planned revamp of Oxford railway station, with filters set to be placed at Thames Street, Hythe Bridge Street, Marston Ferry Road, St Cross Road, St Clements, and Hollow Way.
The scheme will operate for seven days a week between 7am and 7pm – except those on Marston Ferry Road and Hollow Way, which will only operate during rush hour from Monday to Saturday – and unauthorised drivers caught going through a filter will be handed a £70 penalty.
“Oxfordshire is leading the country in doing this and it will leave a lasting legacy,” says Zuhura Plummer, the campaign director for Oxfordshire Liveable Streets.
“The official analysis of the scheme found that it will mean 35 percent less traffic, road casualties down 9 percent, rush hour buses running 15 percent quicker, and air pollution down at 91 percent of locations.
“This will save lives and make our city more pleasant now and for future generations.”
However, some local councillors have sided with Corbyn’s criticism of the scheme, with Liam Walker, the Conservative shadow cabinet member for highways, claiming that the plans – approved by the council following a consultation involving 5,700 locals – were “hitting residents’ pockets and impacting businesses”.
“Oxford is slowly being shut down under this anti-motorist coalition,” Walker said.
Meanwhile, Thames Valley Police told the council during the consultation process that it has “concerns” about the enforcement of the filters which, the force argued, officers “must not be responsible for”.
Of course, Oxfordshire County Council is certainly no stranger to vocal, co-ordinated opposition to its active travel schemes.
Last week, road.cc reported that campaigners in favour of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Oxford released footage of bollards being driven over, removed, and even set alight by opponents of the traffic-calming measures.
LTNs have been in place in various parts of the city since March 2021, though the scheme has been blighted by what some have described as a “civil war”, with activists opposed to the council’s supposed “anti-car agenda” frequently staging protests and submitting petitions, while some have resorted to carrying out vandalism on the planters and bollards installed at the entrance to the LTNs.
Despite the fierce opposition to the scheme and the consistent acts of vandalism, in July councillors voted to make the Church Cowley, Temple Cowley, and Florence Park LTNs, originally trialled in 2021, permanent.
Oxfordshire County Council also confirmed earlier this month that it will spend around £100,000 installing new steel bollards to replace the destroyed plastic ones after what it described as “unprecedented levels of vandalism”.
Meanwhile, Piers Corbyn’s intervention in Oxford’s local affairs isn’t the first time that the conspiracy theorist has neglected to take into consideration the safety of cyclists.
During his ill-fated attempt to become London mayor last year – he finished 11th in the poll – Corbyn was filmed almost left-hooking a cyclist while driving, talking to camera, and holding a Ribena carton during a six-hour-long ‘fly-on-the-wall’ livestream of one of his days on the campaign trail.
Here’s why you don’t do pieces to camera whilst driving. Left hooking a cyclist? Shame on you, Piers. It’s not funny, it’s bloody dangerous. Please RT so we can find the cyclist if he wants to complain. @MetCycleCops @theJeremyVine @peterwalker99 @carltonreid @simonmacmichael pic.twitter.com/RN4NRgkPRa
— CyclingMikey (@MikeyCycling) May 6, 2021
In the clip, featured on our live blog, the cyclist can be heard shouting in fear as Corbyn simply mutters “cyclist”, much to the amusement of his cameraman, before driving off.
Later that day, Corbyn – unsure of where he should be going – announced that he was “going to block a cycle lane”, before abruptly parking his car in the lane.
“It seems we are now on foot, so it seems the cyclists are now safe, as far as I know,” the cameraman said as the pair emerged from their illegally parked, and presumably creaking, Vauxhall.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.