Headington Headlines #310

Your weekly round-up of local news for 20 – 26 March.

The heatpipe roadworks in Headington’s residential streets have finished and all closures and diversions have been lifted*. Work continues on Churchill Drive, affecting the 700 and 900 bus routes. Stagecoach has published this schedule of diversions.

*Correction – apparently not. Work still happening in All Saints Road!

The ‘missing link’ is the London Road crossing, of which I gave details a month ago. Vital Energi has confirmed that they will be working on this 7 days a week. Weekend working hours will be 0900 – 1600 on Saturdays and 1000 – 1600 on Sundays. The work starts on 3 April and is scheduled to run until 28 April.

All my posts about the project are under the ‘Energy Project’ tab in the main menu, and there’s a page of links and contact details here.

As reported last week, plans for the next roadworks were presented on Thursday: the next phase of Access to Headington will be on The Slade and last for about six months. The latest drawings downloaded from the County’s website are here

A man was stabbed in Barton Road on Tuesday. Three men were arrested; two were later released without charge.

The largest piece of public art in Oxford so far was installed on the Old Road Campus. It is by sculptor Julian Wild and is titled “Origin”.

Photo: Julian Wild

Sadly the other recent public artwork, the Narnia carvings in Bury Knowle Park, were trashed by vandals. The row of small figures alongside Aslan was badly damaged (Mr Tumnus lost his head) and some trees and plants were also targeted.

My favourite Headington-related tweet of the week is this video of the famous can-can legs being installed at the old (Not The) Moulin Rouge in New High Street:

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

  • Hospital Parking
  • Cost of petrol and diesel in Oxford

Headington Headlines #309

Your weekly round-up of local news for 13 – 19 March.

The heatpipe work on Sandfield Road has finished and the diversions have been lifted.

The death of Van Coulter, Labour City Councillor for Barton & Sandhills, has attracted tributes from all over the city. His funeral will be on 30 March at the Bayswater Road crematorium.

New play equipment has been installed in the Margaret Road recreation ground.

A new mosaic celebrating the history of Wood Farm was unveiled in Atkyns Road on Tuesday.

The next phase of Access to Headington will be on the Slade from Old Road to the Corner House roundabout. The latest version of the plans and timing will be on display at the Bullingdon Community Centre (Peat Moors/Bulan Road) on Thursday 23rd March between 2pm and 6pm. The work “will focus on providing of off-road cycle lanes, side road entry treatments and improved crossing facilities on both sides of the road”.

Thanks to John Clarke for pointing out I showed the wrong building in my note last week about Old Marston Vicarage. I showed the Hall. This is the Vicarage.

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

  • London Road cycle path
  • Hospital Parking
  • Cost of petrol and diesel in Oxford
  • Putting up posters

Headington Headlines #308

Your weekly round-up of local news for 6 – 12 March.

The Headington Neighbourhood Plan got its final go-ahead on Thursday. There will be a referendum on 4 May, the same day as the County Council elections. Expect a big publicity drive, and if you live in Headington please take the time to look at the Plan and VOTE! More as always on the Headington Plan website.

As expected, the East Area Planning Committee approved the planning applications on the Jack Russell & Ampleforth Arms pubs. To remind you, the application for the Jack Russell is for

“Demolition of public house, erection of 16 flats (6 x 3-bed, 8 x 2-bed, 2 x 1-bed) on three floors. Provision of 19 car parking spaces.”

and for the Ampleforth

“Part demolition of the existing public house. Part redevelopment and conversion to create a new community run public house at basement and ground floor level and 1 x 1-bed, 3 x 2-bed and 2 x 3 bed residential apartments over ground, first and second floors. Erection of 1 x 3-bed dwellinghouse.(Use Class C3). Provision of private amenity space, landscaping, car parking and associated infrastructure.”

The Aldi store on Horspath Driftway (alongside Homebase, ex- Curry’s) opened at 8am on Thursday.

As one door opens, another closes. The W H Smith local store in Headington is for sale for £615k freehold, and is reported to be closing on 23 March (Thursday next week). Thanks to @headingtonnews and @DarrenGrant_UK for spotting this.

Last October the British Legion planted 456 daffodils at ‘the Final Turn’, the corner at the entrance to the JR on Headley Way; one daffodil for every member of the UK Armed Forces killed in the Afghanistan campaign. The daffodils are now flowering. See HH289 for the original story.

456 daffodils at the Final Turn
456 daffodils at the Final Turn

A pupil at @HeadingtonSch has been selected to play hockey for England U16s.

In an article in the Guardian @Bill_Heine‘s son explains why he bought the Shark House.

The Oxford Diocese has put in a planning application (ref: 17/00393/FUL) to demolish Old Marston Vicarage in Elsfield Road and replace it with a 4-bedroom house. The existing building is said to be structurally unsound. Consultation closes on 28 March.

The dispute between the City and flat-owners in the Northway and Wood Farm tower blocks over the cost of refurbishment and renovations (see HH 244 and HH282) moved forward after a tribunal ruled that the owners would not have to pay for some parts of the work. There’s still another ruling to be made later this year, and it seems the City’s right to charge for other parts of the work has been upheld.

My favourite Headington-related tweet of the week:

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

  • Marston Medical Centre
  • Reply marston medical centre
  • Proposed abolition of Oxford City Council
  • Silent Auction at Townsend House
  • Hospital Parking
  • London Road – cycle path
  • Headington Plan – what’s next?

Headington Headlines #307

Your weekly round-up of local news for 27 February – 5 March.

After @TomBedford12 pointed out the problem with the new short cycle path on Old Road and on which I reported,  Cllr @RuthWilk sprang into action. Contractors Skanska were on the job on Monday making a dropped kerb.

What they have put in place is far from ideal, but we’re told it’s only temporary as the cycleway will be continued up Old Road in a later phase of Access to Headington.

Meanwhile the County announced that this phase of Access to Headington is ‘largely complete’. The next phase will start in The Slade, they say by ‘late March’. No details yet though. Whether this is before or after the bus lane work in Roosevelt Drive up to Churchill Drive isn’t clear.

On Wednesday this week the east Area Planning Committee will consider planning applications on:

  • The Jack Russell Pub – demolish and build flats – recommendation to agree;
  • The Ampleforth Arms – part demolition, part conversion to community pub – recommendation to agree;

The full agenda is here. Once again the application to develop on land next to the C S Lewis Nature Reserve is not on the agenda.

Southern Gas is working in Staunton Road replacing old metal gas pipes with modern PVC. Excavation is going on along one side of the street and connections to individual properties are to be disconnected for a while. Then they’ll need access to each property to test all gas appliances. Residents have raised concerns about possible damage to the Council-owned green space which is being used as a site storage depot. The number for enquiries is 0800 912 1700.

The Headington Neighbourhood Plan is up for final approval by the City Executive Board on Thursday 9 March. Assuming it gets the green light as expected, the way is clear for a local referendum on 4 May.

@HeadingtonNews reported that Temple Bookbinders is moving out of their Stephen Road premises to Yarnton.

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

  • Loss of trees in Headington Quarry
  • Reply re Headington quarry

Cycle Path Signs – How High?

Cycle route sign, Warneford Avenue
Cycle route sign, Warneford Avenue

Last week I had a moan about the new cycle route signposts installed at the Gipsy/Warneford/Roosevelt/Old road junction, complaining that they were set too high for cyclists to see them. This sparked quite a debate on twitter, with some people saying it was ‘the regulations’ and me asking for chapter and verse.

I can’t believe I’ve been spending time on this, but here’s what I’ve found out.

The definitive source of everything statutory about road signs is the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016. Astonishingly for such a vast and comprehensive document, it is silent (as far as I can find) on the matter of height above ground.

We then turn to the Traffic Signs Manual. This Government publication says

The Traffic Signs Manual is intended to give advice to traffic authorities and their agents on the correct use of signs and road markings. Mandatory requirements are set out in the current version of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions; nothing in the Manual can override these.

The Manual comes in several chapters. Chapter 2 (Informatory Signs) would appear to be the relevant one, but it is still in draft. However the Manual web page for this chapter says

The current advice on the design and use of directional informatory signs is published in Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/94.

So (noting it’s 23 years old) I went to LTN 1/94, only to find that it too is silent on the question of mounting height.

But back in the Traffic Signs Manual I found that both Chapter 3 (Regulatory Signs) and Chapter 4 (Warning Signs) do have something to say. In Ch.3 1.21 and Ch 4 1.24 I at last found this:

The normal mounting height measured to the lower edge of a sign or backing board (or any supplementary plate) is between 900 mm and 1500 mm above the carriageway alongside. The greater height should be used where vehicle spray is likely to soil the sign, or above planted areas. Careful consideration should be given to any proposal to mount signs at a low height, such as on railings or bollards, as there is a risk of drivers not noticing them, especially at night or when they could be obscured by parked vehicles or pedestrians. Where signs are erected above footways, or in areas likely or intended to be used by pedestrians (e.g. pedestrian refuges), a headroom of 2300 mm is recommended, with 2100 mm as an absolute minimum. A clearance of at least 2300 mm should be maintained over a cycle track or shared cycleway / footway.

This must be where Sustrans get their recommendations from. In their handbook “Cycle Network Signing” (July 2013) they say

4.2 Carriageway and cycle path signs should normally be set back to give a clearance of at least 500mm from the edge of the carriageway or cycle path. Where signs are located closer to or on a cycle route, they reduce the effective path width available for cyclists.
The best level to fix a sign in the verge for visibility by cyclists is between 900 and 1500 mm off the ground, although care must be taken not to obstruct the visibility of children on footways adjacent to highways with low level signs. Mounting a sign at this level however reduces its visual intrusion. However, where signs might overhang cycle or walking routes, the mounting height should allow a minimum of 2.1m clearance for pedestrians and 2.3m for a cycle track. The minimum clearance for equestrians is 3.4m. Mounting heights should also have regard to possible vandalism and theft – higher posts are recommended where such problems are expected. p.31, with thanks to @SafetyG1rl for the reference.

To see if there is any research to justify the 2.1/2.3 metre policy and its implications of head-banging cyclists and pedestrians I searched the publications of TRL, the now-private company that used to be the Transport and Road Research Laboratory (TRRL). I found nothing. It just seems to have worked its way into the system, probably by a route invoking Health & Safety.

Where does this leave us? The 2.1/2.3 metre standard for signs over a footway or cycleway seems to be advisory rather than statutory, but I imagine it would be a brave highways engineer who did something different. But there is no reason why cycle route signs which don’t overhang walking or cycling paths shouldn’t be lower; Sustrans’ 0.9 – 1.5 metres above ground for example. It means wherever a new sign is needed an effort should be made to find a location which would allow the lower height option. Cycling signs higher than two metres should only be used when there’s no alternative.

So here is my message to the highway engineers working on the next phases of Access to Headington: take the time to look around, be imaginative, and see if you can’t find a way to do this.

Acknowledgements. My thanks to these people on twitter who joined in the conversation with suggestions and comments: @DarrenGrant_UK, @KarlWallendszus, @RichardF, @RuthWilk, @SafetyG1rl.

Headington Headlines #306

Your weekly round-up of local news for 20 – 26 February.

There was a further heatpipe meeting with Vital Energi on Thursday. They are making good progress with just a few delays. My note about this and how they will manage the London Road work is here.

All my posts about the project are under the ‘Energy Project’ tab in the main menu, and there’s a page of links and contact details here.

After Jacobs Chop House became Jacobs Brasserie, another restaurant has changed its name. What was Bar Meze is now Desi Lounge Thali & Grill House. According to Wikipedia, thali is an Indian style of serving a selection of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent & spicy foods on one plate. The Oxford Times carried an article about it including some words from the owner.

Vandals did some damage with cans of paint and smashed a defibrillator at Marston Saints Football Club in Boults Lane, Old Marston last week. It happpened overnight on 13/14 February.

At its meeting on Tuesday the West Area Planning Committee approved the installation of a memorial to Oxford men who died in the Spanish Civil War. The memorial will be erected at the bottom of South Park by the International Brigades Memorial Trust (IBMT) @IBMT_SCW who are raising funds to pay for it.

Artist's impression of IBMT memorial

As expected, the County Cabinet voted to sell the Harlow Centre site in Marston to the Government and contribute £2m towards the construction of a new free school – the Swan School – on condition that the Education Secretary seals a funding agreement with the River Learning Trust.

The roadworks at the junction of Old Road and Gipsy Lane are virtually complete, but there are a few snags which I think could have been avoided with better supervision of the work.

The new Aldi is going to open on 9 March. It’s where Curry’s used to be on the small trading estate on Horspath Driftway where Homebase is.

I don’t know when it started, but Aviva are running a ‘new’ bus route through Headington, the X8. It follows a similar route to the 280 joining Thame to Oxford Railway Station, but unlike the 280 it misses out Wheatley. Two early buses run Aylesbury – Thame – Oxford, missing Haddenham as well as Wheatley, with two making the return trip to Aylesbury at the end of the day. The Aylesbury – Oxford journey is 7 minutes shorter than the 280; the Thame – Oxford trip 6 minutes shorter.

Bus stop showing X8 bus route
X8 bus route through Headington. And X13?

This twitter conversation harks back with regret to the good old days of the Manor Football Ground and the pubs fans used to visit.

Police helicopter action over central Headington on Saturday prompted some chat on twitter, culminating in an appeal from the police for information about a missing man. He was found safe on Sunday.

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

  • Hospital Parking
  • London Road cycle path
  • Disruption

Cycle Paths and Signs

The first of the roadworks under the Access to Headington project is just about finished – changes to the junction of Old Road, Gipsy Lane, Warneford Lane and Roosevelt Drive. I went down to have a look. On the whole the junction looks good (it will be better when the Skanska work-site has gone). There are new traffic signals with advance cycle boxes on all four sides. We’ll have to see how the junction works in practice, especially when the next stage means all traffic leaving the Churchill will go this way.

But – and you can imagine my heavy sigh – once again it’s lack of attention to detail that spoils the final effect. @TomBedford12 was first on twitter to point out that the off-road cycle path (good) on Old Road approaching the junction can’t actually be reached without getting off and lifting your bike up a six inch kerb (very bad). That just isn’t going to happen.

The other issue is that the smart new cycle route signs are – once again – much too far off the ground. Cyclists’ eye-line tends to be horizontal or lower, and their focus closer than a motorist’s. They need to look at the ground to avoid obstacles and potholes in a way motorists don’t. Signs for cyclists need to be at about their eye-level.

This is a point I and others have made before. The first I remember locally was when the “NE Quiet Route” signs went up on the route from the Headington Roundabout via Old Headington and the JR to Jack Straw’s Lane and on to the City. I know for a fact that I and several others made the same point in the various consultations on the overall Access to Headington project1. Yet here we are with brand new signs well over 2 metres from the ground.

I’ve tried to find if there are any regulations about the height of traffic signs but I’ve not found any2. So why are these signs placed so high? My guess is that it’s a lack of detailed and intelligent supervision on the construction site. The drawing says “put this sign here”, so a standard pole is stuck in the ground and the sign put on top of it. All it needs is someone with sense to be saying “Hang on, it’s a cycle sign. Use a short pole instead.” Similarly, intelligent supervision would have seen that the Old Road cycle lane needed a dropped kerb.

I just hope we can get the message across in time to avoid a huge crop of problems of this kind when the really big works are done.

1. See for example my response (July 2015) to Access to Headington and Oxford Civic Society’s response (Oct 2015) to the Oxford Transport Strategy. I’ve made the same point in face-to-face discussions with the Highways engineers at consultation events.

2. I’ve searched the up-to-date TSRDG2016 (Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016) and the out-of-date Manual for Streets, but despite minute detail on the height of lettering, the size of sign panels, even the colour of poles, I couldn’t find anything fixing the height off the ground. So signs for cyclists can indeed be put at a sensible height.