THINGS are changing slowly; more people are using bikes. All councils in Oxfordshire agree we are in the middle of a climate emergency. We will be encouraged to drive less and cycle more, however gradually.

Just like an Oxford campaign to change the way people travel in the east of the city has said: “The zeitgeist is with us.”

More than £8,000 has been pledged for a campaign to turn part of Oxford into a ‘Mini Holland’ – a nation where there are more bikes than people.

The drive, which has raised money from 73 groups or people, seeks to ‘achieve a step-change in liveability in East Oxford’ that would make it easier for people to get around by bike or walk.

The usual suspects are the biggest problems: cars and other polluting vehicles. As anyone who has cycled in the city would know, it is a battle between cyclists, those vehicles and narrow streets, especially in the city centre.

The Oxford ‘Mini Holland’ campaign wants to ask people how changes to the way people get around in Florence Park could be adopted – by using methods used in Holland and, less obviously, in Waltham Forest.

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Studies in 2018 found ‘Mini Holland’ schemes in London had boosted cycling and walking.

An academic study led by Westminster University found people were cycling and walking around their area for 41 minutes more every week than they had done before the changes.

Introduced by Boris Johnson when he was London mayor, schemes in Waltham Forest, Enfield and Kingston have been praised from further afield for making a welcome impact. They were introduced as an outer London equivalent of ‘cycle superhighways’ that were built in the centre of the capital.

The work to change has included some separated lanes on main roads – just like Oxford has – but other important work meant some streets were access-only for cars and other vehicles, while bikes could carry on through, regardless of the direction their riders wanted to travel.

As part of an interview on BBC Radio Oxford, the deputy leader of Waltham Forest Council, Clyde Loakes, said: “What we’ve achieved are filters, which have taken out thousands upon thousands of daily commuters rat running – through traffic, however you want to describe it – from neighbourhoods, ensuring that those neighbourhoods are returned back to the local residents who live there.”

He added: “It is so much easier for them to walk, cycle or scooter for their local needs. That could be to the local shops, local leisure centres and to neighbours. They’re able to do that without thousands and thousands of cars blocking their way and making it really, really difficult.”

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Mr Loakes continued: “If you’re a local resident you can drive around your local area but you can’t drive through it all the way, so you can’t use it as a shortcut to bypass the proper traffic management systems that are on our main roads. By doing that we’ve taken commuter traffic out of our residential streets.”

Scott Urban, a key driver of potentially developing a ‘Mini Holland’ in Oxford, said he had been inspired by Waltham Forest.

He said: “It is not [just] about Florence Park but Oxford and the county as well. Florence Park is just one part of the how we are considering it."

While he said the work could be ‘highly controversial,’ he said he wanted to know what people thought, positive or negative.

Funds raised by the ‘Mini Holland’ campaign in Oxford will now pay for a proposal about what could be done to ensure Florence Park is a ‘low traffic area’ in the future, with the hope it would ‘serve as a nexus of walking and cycling routes connecting residents and amenities across a much wider catchment of East Oxford'.

Other money will go towards paying for a special weekend to celebrate the possibilities of improved cycling network around Oxford and a promotional video.

The group continues: “We have gathered interest and support from a wide area for this project. Many have stepped forward with pro-bono offerings of expertise and talent.”

They include Original Field of Architecture, an Oxford-based firm that has given thousands of pounds towards the project.

The statement continues: “We must heed the many imperatives of building liveability into our surroundings: climate change, air poisoning, inactivity, social isolation and more.

“The inspiration for this project is the group of low-traffic neighbours designed into the streetscape of Waltham Forest, London. These started life as a ‘Mini Holland’, a reference to the liveability designed into most Dutch towns and cities. This project is a stepping stone.”

In some cities in Holland, cycling is a way of life, especially in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. About 25 per cent of people across the country cycle to work.

In Oxford, known by some as a cycling city, just under 20 per cent of people cycle to work, university or school. Change might be on its way.