"To every complex problem there is a simple solution, startling in its simplicity, piercing in its clarity, and hopelessly and completely wrong" - Gore Vidal.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Access to Headington - my response

I have sent this as an email response to the County's consultation on Access to Headington.

Here is my personal response as a Headington resident to the current “Access to Headington” (A2H) consultation.

Through my involvement with some local community organisations I appreciate the problems traffic congestion causes to employers, businesses, residents and visitors in the general Headington area. I agree with the basic objectives of LTP4, of which A2H is an early part, to effect significant modal switch away from car journeys to public transport and active travel (cycling and walking).

I am therefore broadly supportive of the A2H scheme as it is currently envisaged. As a cyclist I welcome the creation of continuous cycle tracks along the main roads in A2H. It is important that when these are built they really are continuous and are well thought through in terms of on- and off- carriageway and any necessary transitions between the two. Signage is also important – it needs to be clear and at an appropriate height. Road markings need to be intuitive and clear - southbound on The Slade is currently a good counter-example! Other features in the current design also have my full endorsement: advance cycle boxes at every light-controlled junction, advanced green lights for cyclists, raised platform crossings of side roads with clear priority for cyclists over traffic entering and leaving the side roads.

I understand the objectives behind the A2H proposals for bus lanes. I don’t know enough about the traffic modelling you have used to comment on the detail and whether the proposals will meet the objectives. Others will no doubt have stronger opinions for or against.

I welcome the plan to replace the double roundabout at Marston with a signal-controlled junction. I think the current arrangement is dangerous for all users, and welcome the improvement the new scheme will bring. It also makes sense to change the direction of flow of the service road outside the Marston shops as part of these changes. I think comments I have seen elsewhere about the dangers of lorries loading and unloading while facing uphill are exaggerated: the gradient is not extreme and drivers must be well used to coping with far worse conditions.

I welcome too the conversion of the JR access junction to a signal controlled junction with the timings on the lights at the foot of Staunton Road (toucan crossing on the NE Quiet Cycle Route) linked to the rest of the junction. Flows in and out of the JR at busy times are notoriously congested at present, creating problems for staff, patients, visitors, ambulances and buses. If signals can improve this, so much the better.

In Headington centre the diagonal crossing is a good idea and will, I think, be popular. There is a current issue with the timing of the light-controlled pedestrian crossing outside Sainsbury’s where pedestrian waiting times are too long. If road traffic has not been interrupted for, say, 90 seconds, the pedestrian lights should start their cycle immediately the button is pressed. This is not true at present, which a) encourages people to cross before they get a green light, and b) reinforces the perception that people on foot have low priority – which given the way the London Road through Headington shops has been designed and engineered is exactly the opposite of what should be the case.

The same comment about timing of pedestrian lights applies to the Headley Way crossing near Woodlands Road.

I hope you will take the opportunity to look at the design of the junction of Windmill Road, Margaret Road and Mattock Close. The Margaret Road -- Mattock Close crossing is a desirable route for cyclists between Thornhill and the Nuffield/Churchill sites, and has been (is being?) considered as part of a designated quiet route. For less confident cyclists (who are most likely to be attracted by a quiet route), the westbound crossing from Margaret Road to Mattock Close is particularly cumbersome, needing a dismount, crossing Margaret Road, a walk/push to the lights and a walk/push back to Mattock Close before remounting.

I think any other thoughts I may have on the rest of the scheme (Old Road, The Slade, Horspath Driftway) will be covered by the general flavour of what I have already said.

I would now like to turn to the problems I see with A2H as it now stands. These chiefly relate to the real problems of loss of amenity and on-street parking which have already sparked considerable local opposition.

There are some grass verges and trees which make a great contribution to the attractive green nature of parts of Headington and Marston: the top (south) end of Headley Way for instance. It would be a great shame if such features were lost to a traffic scheme. But there are others (Osler Road for example) where the grass verges are in my opinion of little value. If – and it’s a big if for local residents – Osler Road is to continue to be used for bus access to the JR then losing the verges makes considerable sense.

Public opinion at present is at an “all-or-nothing” stage based on little or no detail. I think the County needs to say much more strongly that these details can only take shape after the next stage of site investigations, especially of conditions underground. A public commitment that the Consultants drawing up the next stage of the plan will be briefed to come up with designs that keep loss of green amenity to an absolute minimum would help.

As for the loss of on-street parking, even though I would concede that no-one has an inalienable right to use the public highway to store their personal property, I know there are bound to be plenty of genuine cases of hardship among people whose parking spaces are under threat. These cannot be ignored or dismissed, and again I think the County has to come up with some reasonable offer to them. The sooner this can be done the better, as the present state of uncertainty only fuels the opposition.

Thank you for reading this far. To summarise, I think the A2H proposals are mostly good, but there are some genuine problems which need to be addressed if public opinion is to be won over. A communication programme going further than the usual “we are listening to all comments” would be a good investment for the County.

Anti-Access to Headington petition in Marston

Independent councillor for Marston Mick Haines is running a petition supporting Cherwell Drive residents' opposition to the Access to Headington plans as they affect Cherwell Drive and the Marston junction. The Oxford Mail report is here.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Councillors object to Access to Headington

Letter in The Oxford Mail: Plans are being inflicted on us for questionable benefits/.

Headington Headlines #224

Here's my weekly round-up of local news for 20 - 26 July.

The Post Office is definitely moving to the Co-op.

The Headington Shark's fame has spread as far as India. It features in a list of "Unusual monuments around the world you have not heard of" in India Today (link c/o @RuthWilk).

The Marston Meatshop is going to become a greengrocer. Shame about the spelling.

Some new wooden posts with cryptic signs have appeared in Headington Hill Park. Apparently they are part of a scheme by @runengland to promote running and jogging.

Retirement home Douglas Veale House in Trafford Road has joined twitter @DouglasVealsHse.

Old Marston Parish Council @OldMarstonPC has published its comments on Access to Headington on its facebook page.

The @Oxonbike station at the Churchill is open and operational.

Headington Farmers' market opened on Saturday for the first time. It will be weekly, every Saturday, from now on.

For the first time since Headington Headlines started the were no posts on the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum this week:

I cover news from the OX3 postcode in Headington and out as far as Barton, Sandhills and Risinghurst (see map). To feed into next week's summary you can comment on this article, or tweet either with the hashtag #ox3 or @mentioning @TonyOX3.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Headington Headlines #223

Here's my weekly round-up of local news for 13 - 19 July.

A job fair in Barton on Wednesday attracted over 300 people.

The hospital porters' strike I mentioned last week is going ahead on Tuesday this week (21 July). They are striking against FTSE100 outsourcing company Carillion plc, which proposes to cut their pay and jobs.

Headington's LibDem councillors have arranged three more chances for people to find out about the Access to Headington scheme being put forward by the County Council. Details here. If you still don't know what this is about, start here.

If you couldn't go to the exhibition last week, the artist's impressions* of the first phase of @BartonPark_ housing have been released. Comments reported in the paper are generally favourable.
* = architects' computer graphics images

Remember @QuarryVelo's Quarry-Roubaix ride a month ago? Here are some photos by @Howard_S.

There's been a very lively discussion about the @HeadingtonPlan and in particular about long-distance buses on the e-democracy forum this week.

Active posts on the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum this week:

  • Headington Plan: TCS5
  • My Comments on the New Headington Plan
  • Oxford Keyworker Housing Policy
  • £12.m transport improvements for Headington: exhibitions and consultation
I cover news from the OX3 postcode in Headington and out as far as Barton, Sandhills and Risinghurst (see map). To feed into next week's summary you can comment on this article, or tweet either with the hashtag #ox3 or @mentioning @TonyOX3.