The Oxford Pedestrians Association (OXPA) has recently carried out a protest on Oxford’s Oriel Square to highlight the lack of operational bollards in the area. Regular traffic is usually prohibited from driving through the square between 07:30 and 18:30 BST.
Three campaigners stood on the square for an hour, acting as ‘human bollards’, preventing oncoming traffic from coming through. About 70 vehicles tried to pass through illegally during this time. The protesters said that they were abused, threatened and driven at by some of the drivers.
A spokesperson for OXPA told the BBC that the bollards and traffic cameras “have been broken for around four years, and cars have become accustomed to driving through, knowing they will not be stopped or fined”.
A statement on their Facebook page also said that they were “immediately confronted by drivers from all sides, who revved towards us and demanded we move so they could break the law.”
“When we refused, they first tried to argue ‘legitimate’ reasons (e.g. “I’m picking up my child”, “I need to go to the pharmacist”), and when that didn’t work they became livid.
“Many argued that they had urgent reasons to pass, but then decided to sit in their cars threatening us for the entire hour-duration of the protest rather than find an alternative route.”
The protesters noted on the post that drivers “blared their horns for minutes on end, swore at us” and that one drove at a protester “forcing her out of the way so that he could pass”.
In a comment to Cherwell, an Oxford County Council spokesperson said: “New rising bollards have been installed together with ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) and CCTV cameras at each of the five sites in Oxford (Turl, Oriel, Cornmarket, Broad Street and Aristotle Lane). The council needs the ANPR camera to work so that vehicles with a right of access, emergency vehicles and residents, can get through the bollards without delay. The CCTV cameras are required to ensure that, when we need to remotely raise and lower the bollards, we can do so safely and not cause a safety issue to other road users.”
“The systems need a robust broadband system to work coherently together. The council has been testing the available internet bandwidth to ensure that we are addressing the correct issue. If new broadband connections are required, we will order this immediately after testing is complete. At the same time, motorists must obey all signs and refrain from driving into prohibited areas at specified times. Failure to do so could result in enforcement by the police.”