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Broad Street junction works aim to improve safety

The University has worked with the County and City Councils to remove the defunct traffic signals and install a raised table across the junction of Broad Street, Holywell Street and Parks Road. This will help reduce vehicle speeds, making the junction safer and more pleasant to use for cyclists and pedestrians.

By bringing the road surface up to footway level, the changes also reduce trip hazards for pedestrians and make it far easier for wheelchair users or those pushing buggies to cross the road. The Estates Services Environmental Sustainability team provided crucial financial support for the development, contributing £35,000 from the Green Travel Fund, which uses the proceeds of the University’s parking scheme to support the delivery of its Transport Strategy.

The County and City Councils both contributed £15,000, with the City Council carrying out the work. Nick Brown, Chair of the Buildings and Estates Sub-committee (in the centre of the picture), joined councillors to declare the new-look junction open in late September. ‘The Broad Street junction is a key gateway to the University's Science Area and the Clarendon Building and Weston Library fronting it are major attractions in their own right,’ he said. ‘The University used its Green Travel Fund to support this substantial improvement to the safety and convenience of walking and cycling for the University community, local people & visitors, whilst also creating a more attractive street scene in keeping with this historic part of Oxford.’

National Infrastructure Commission visits Oxford to talk transport

Members of the Environmental Sustainability team played a key role in organising a successful visit to Oxford by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) in July. Lord Adonis, Chair of NIC, met William James, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources, along with Director of Estates Paul Goffin and other senior figures from the University and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. They toured the newly-built Big Data Institute at the Old Road Campus, speaking about the transport challenges facing Oxford and the University, and the measures needed to address them.

A key point of discussion was the urgent need for better sustainable transport options. At present the lack of affordable housing means many people cannot afford to live in the city and are pushed out into nearby market towns, offering limited transport choices. This seriously affects the University’s ability to attract and retain staff, particularly early-career academics. The University believes that significant investment of some £600 million in sustainable transport is needed to fund improvements in rail, cycling networks and express bus services. This would transform the options available for getting to work sustainably, improving staff recruitment and retention as well as helping the University and city achieve their environmental targets.

The Sustainability team also organised a productive follow-up meeting with Andrew Gilligan, former Cycling Commissioner for London. Andrew was appointed by the NIC to advise how to maximise the potential of cycling to support transformational growth in the Oxford-Cambridge corridor. Representatives of the University, local government, bus operators and local cycling organisations met him to discuss how to deliver more cycling within the city while also improving safety.

Sustainability Showcase salutes University’s green progress

Sustainability Showcase event in Divinity Schools.

The University of Oxford celebrated its sustainability stars at a prestigious awards event in June. The Sustainability Showcase recognised the work of staff and students over the last year under various schemes aimed at reducing the University’s environmental impact.

These included Student Switch Off, an awareness-raising initiative in which the University’s students once again had the best engagement figures in the country, and the Green Impact scheme aimed at empowering people to make their workplaces more sustainable. Held at the Sheldonian Theatre and then the Bodleian Library’s Divinity School, the Showcase drew 200 guests. Professor William James, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources and Jack Hampton, President of Oxford University Student’s Union, hosted the evening. There were awards for the work of nearly 300 people in Green Impact teams across the University, as well as prizes for the top performers in the 2016-17 Student Switch Off competition and for the successful teams in the Carbon Innovation Programme.

The Environmental Sustainability team are now planning next year’s event. Over the last four years the event has grown steadily, and plans for the biggest ever for 2018 are already in the pipeline.

Oxford’s third Incredible Edible garden opensIncredible Edible

The third Incredible Edible plot has opened in Oxford, giving staff and students the opportunity to grow and harvest their own fruit and vegetables.

A new outdoor break area has been installed outside the Malthouse, home of much of Estates Services. It includes benches, tables and planters created by the DLO Joiners, and one of the planters has been earmarked for Incredible Edible. It is probably too late in the year to expect much of a harvest now, but if all goes to plan in 2018 the large planter will be providing fresh, healthy produce for all who would like to pick it. Keep an eye on the Environmental Sustainability team’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds for updates on what is ready to pick, and ideas on how to cook it.

The first plot was installed in 2016 outside the Earth Sciences building, and then earlier in 2017 a second followed outside the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies on Bevington Road.

More training from Environmental Sustainability

The Environmental Sustainability team are partnering with the Oxford Learning Institute (OLI) to deliver training courses in negotiation and time management for all those who support sustainability programmes such as Green Impact and Student Switch Off. It is planned that other partners including Oxford University Innovation and the National Union of Students will provide further training, some of which will be delivered online via Sharepoint.

New Science Transit Shuttle route opensScience Transit Shuttle Bus

The Science Transit Shuttle network has expanded with the addition of a new route in May. Known as ST3, it connects the John Krebs Field Station at Wytham with the Science Area and the JR Hospital. It is intended to help Zoology staff remain connected to the Science Area following their relocation to the field station after the closure of the Tinbergen Building. The service is open to University staff, students and visitors and employees of Harwell Campus. To use it, register your University Card at www.ox.ac.uk/SciShuttleRegister, select ‘journeys charged to a cost centre’ and enter ‘Tinbergen’ when prompted. 

To encourage takeup, the service will initially be free; this will be revisited in the autumn to bring fares into line with the existing ST1 and ST2 routes. Staff and students from Zoology and Experimental Psychology will be exempted. To find out more about the new service, including routing, stops and timetables, visit the Science Transit Shuttle page.

New abandoned bike procedure now in effect

The University has moved to a new method of dealing with abandoned bikes, with Oxford City Council officials taking over the task of monitoring and removing them where necessary. The first culls of abandoned bikes recently took place. The process involves first labelling bikes that seem in poor condition or have not moved recently; if the labels have not been removed when officers return in eight weeks, the relevant bikes are taken to a storage facility in Cowley Marsh. If they are not claimed within a month after that, they are either scrapped or given to a charity for resale, depending on their condition. The new policy should ensure that more cycle parking spaces are available around the University estate.

New PV installations at SBS and Plant Sciences

Said Business School PVs

The Environmental Sustainability team recently finished installing an 87.6kWhp (kilowatts per hour at peak) system of solar panels on the roof of the wings of the Saïd Business School (SBS). Alongside the 50kWp system installed in 2016, this will generate an estimated 105,351kWh (kilowatt-hours) a year. This will allow SBS to avoid energy costs of around £10k a year. The old system will still continue to receive feed-in tariffs – government payments designed to encourage sustainable power generation – which will be used to fund more sustainability projects. Every usable part of the SBS roof now carries solar panels.

A few weeks earlier, the team also installed 59 panels on the roof of the Plant Sciences building. These produce 20 kilowatts at peak capacity; on average they are expected to generate 17,000kWh a year, saving the department around £2,000 over the same period.

New cycling portal set to boost Oxford bike use

The University has signed up to take part in the pilot year of a new project that aims to get more people cycling. Love to Ride UniCycle is a partnership project run by Love to Ride, NUS and the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC). Staff and students are invited to register, ride and encourage their fellow colleagues and friends to experience the joys and benefits of riding a bike. They will get free access to a web portal on which they can track cycling statistics such as how far they’ve cycled and in how long, compete with friends and colleagues and win prizes. A year-round programme of events will launch soon, accessible at www.lovetoride.net/unicycle.

Transport Survey shows sustainability progress

Headline data from the University’s detailed Transport Survey, undertaken every five years, show that the University is making headway in encouraging staff to travel to and from work in a more environmentally-friendly way. More than 30% of those who responded said they usually cycle to work, and another 20% take the bus. Only 16% drive on their own – nearly 6% share a car with others – while more than 13% walk and nearly 10% travel by train. Overall, more than three quarters of all University staff travel to work in a sustainable way. There are several improvements compared to the results of the last major transport survey in 2012-13 when 21% of staff drove in on their own and just 7% took the train. The results of the survey will inform future versions of the University’s Transport Strategy.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Sustainability team will be holding pop-up events at departments throughout Michaelmas term to raise awareness of the sustainable transport initiatives they promote, including the Science Transit Shuttle, Oxonbike cycle sharing scheme, car sharing, and discounts on public transport.

 IARU Fellow helps Estates Services understand energy behaviour change

Undergraduate Rupert Stuart-Smith has been working with the Estates Services Environmental Sustainability team, which he joined on a temporary placement as an International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) Fellow. He has been researching questions around how universities can persuade people to make long-lasting changes to their behaviour around energy use. His work suggests that much of what universities do in this area has limited benefit, and that we need to move from ad-hoc interventions to a more evidence-based approach.

He has identified several characteristics of successful behaviour change interventions. It is vital to:

  • educate people about what to do and why
  • provide social or financial incentives to change how they act
  • take advantage of opportunities for change such as the introduction of new technology
  • give people enough control over their surroundings that they can make a difference
  • remove institutional barriers to cutting energy use, such as perverse rules forbidding staff from shutting down equipment when it is not in use
  • make sure there are people who have already changed their behaviour in the desired way to act as models for others

Rupert studies at St Hilda’s, and is President of the Oxford Climate Society. His work will help steer the University’s future efforts to make long-term sustainable changes to the behaviour of staff and students. 

Swift Tower competition winner announced

 The winner of the competition to design Oxford’s new Swift Tower has been announced after a public vote. The University will now build Jonathan Wheeler’s design in the University Parks, subject to consultation and planning permission. The design echoes the birds’ distinctive shape and will provide space for dozens of swifts to raise their young.

Launched in May, the competition is part of the two-year Oxford: Swift City project, led by the RSPB and supported by organisations including the University, the Museum of Natural History and Oxford City Council. Funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

These much-loved birds are under threat from the destruction of suitable nesting sites – building renovations often block the small holes under eaves that they need to find a place to rear young. The Swift City project aims to help by creating new nesting spots to replace those that have vanished. All competition entries will be on display in the Town Hall from 13 November 2017 to 2 January 2018. 

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