Access to Headington Overnight Road Closures

The roadworks at the junction of Old Road, Gipsy Lane, Warneford Lane and Roosevelt Drive are getting closer to a finish. So that the roads can be resurfaced with new tarmac there’s a programme of overnight road closures from 6 – 13 February. The roads will be closed in turn between 7pm and 6 am, Here are the details from the County Council.

Monday 6 February – Old Road will be closed in both directions. The diversion will be via Windmill Road, London Road and Gipsy Lane.

Tuesday 7 February – Warneford Lane eastbound and Gipsy Lane (in both directions). The diversion will be via Morrell Avenue, Headington Road, London Road and Windmill Road.

Wednesday 8 February – Warneford Lane westbound and Roosevelt Drive (in both directions) will be closed. Access to Roosevelt Drive will be via Churchill Drive. The diversion for Warneford Lane closure will be via Windmill Road, London Road, Headington Road and Morrell Avenue.

Thursday 9 February – Old Road will be closed in both directions. The diversion will be via Windmill Road, London Road and Gipsy Lane.

Friday 10 February – Warneford Lane eastbound and Gipsy Lane (in both directions). The diversion will be via Morrell Avenue, Headington Road, London Road and Windmill Road.

Saturday 11 February (rescheduled from Monday 13 February) – Warneford Lane westbound and Roosevelt Drive (in both directions) will be closed. Access to Roosevelt Drive will be via Churchill Drive. The diversion for Warneford Lane closure will be via Windmill Road, London Road, Headington Road and Morrell Avenue.

The work we are carrying out can be noisy and we do apologise for this. We have a Section 61 agreement in place with Oxford City Council whereby we are only permitted to carry out certain work until 11pm.

After 11pm we will only carry on with the less disruptive work in order to cause as little disturbance as possible.

New Part-Time bus lane at the Churchill

In Headington Headlines #300 I reported

the County Council has published plans under the Access to Headington scheme to make an eastbound bus lane in Roosevelt Drive between the Old Road Campus and Churchill Drive. The lane would operate between 3pm and 6pm, Monday to Friday, and during those times only buses and emergency vehicles will be able to leave the Churchill site by that route. All other traffic will have to leave via Roosevelt Drive westbound to the Old Road junction. Consultation on this plan is open – the county says “objections to the proposals and other representations, specifying the grounds on which they are made, may be sent in writing (quoting ref: AK/12.6.320) by 3 February”.

Churchill bus lane - Roosevelt Drive to Churchill Drive
Churchill bus lane – Roosevelt Drive to Churchill Drive

Then I started wondering “What about cyclists?” So I went back to the county’s papers on their website. Apart from the formal name of the Order that will bring this new bus lane into force, not a mention. Which is puzzling but sadly not unexpected. Even though getting people out of cars and onto cycles is a key objective of Access to Headington (transport planners call it ‘modal shift’) it hardly seems to figure in the Highways department’s consciousness.

I asked the county if cyclists would be allowed to use the bus lane to leave the Churchill site while motorised traffic has to go west to the Old Road junction. The good news is “Yes”! In this respect the bus lane will be like most others of course, but it’s good to have it confirmed.

bus lane tweets

Work begins on Access to Headington

The first phase of the first stage of works under the Access to Headington project started as planned on Monday 17 October. This initial work is to remodel the junction at Old Road/Warneford Lane/Roosevelt Drive/Gipsy Lane. Four-way traffic lights have been set up, manually controlled during working hours but inevitably causing significant delays to traffic in the area. I took these photos at a quiet time on Saturday 22 October.

The junction from Roosevelt Drive towards Gipsy Lane
The junction from Roosevelt Drive towards Gipsy Lane

Contractors Skanska have taken over the end of Grays Road as their site management area. The main work at the moment seems to involve excavation on the south side of Old Road to allow the road to be widened and an off-road cycle path created.

Excavations on south side of Old Road
Excavations on south side of Old Road

Apart from predictable delays to traffic and the No. 4 buses another impact of the work involves Oxford University’s Science Transit Shuttle service which runs between the science area in the city and the Old Road Campus. This normally runs via Morrell Avenue and Warneford Lane to Old Road. The university says that “from 31st October 2016 until such time as reliable journey times return” the service will “instead circulate via Lime Walk / Stapleton Road / London Road. The private service uses 16 seater minibuses running every 30 minutes between 7am and 7pm”. Highfield Residents’ Association is querying the use of Stapleton Road, which is narrow and has on-street parking as well as skips and tradesmen’s vans competing for space.

On the north side of Warneford Lane only a short distance from the junction an old highway stone is set against the iron railings of Cheney School grounds. Blue paint marks on the pavement pass less than a meter away. This I believe is the stone described in the Headington website as “a mileway stone near Cheney Lane dating from 1667 marking the point to which the city was responsible for the old road to London”. I hope the contractors will take care not to damage this piece of local history! [I added this picture later the same day.]

Highway stone and blue paint, Warneford Lane
Highway stone and blue paint, Warneford Lane

Access to Headington starts 17 October

The hotly-debated and much-anticipated work on the Access to Headington scheme finally starts on 17 October and involves the reconfiguration of the junction of Roosevelt Drive, Old Road, Gipsy Lane and Warneford Lane. This first part is expected to last until mid-February. A small public exhibition on 30 September and 1 October gave people a chance to meet some of the project team, ask questions and leave feedback.

Access to Headington Exhibition panels
Exhibition panels

The work itself will be carried out in three phases each with a different temporary road layout. Four-way traffic lights will be in place throughout, manually controlled during the day to minimise traffic delays.

Once the work is finished there will be advance stop lines for cycles at all the traffic lights, two car lanes out of Roosevelt Drive, and on Old Road a new off-road cycle lane city-bound and an on-road cycle lane towards the Churchill and Old Road Campus. The full plan drawing is here.

You can find more information including FAQs and keep up to date with progress on the County Council’s website, where you can also sign up for a fortnightly email newsletter. These links are also under ‘Useful links’ on the right.

Access to Headington – Cabinet Member to decide

On 9 June the County’s Cabinet Member for Environment (which includes Transport) will decide the final form of the Access to Headington scheme. The Agenda papers for the meeting are here and the main paper with the officers’ recommendations is here.

The officers’ recommendation is that the latest proposals should be accepted, which means that some parking will be kept on Headley Way and Windmill Road. If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know that I am against keeping this parking, but it now seems very unlikely that the decision will go against the recommendation.

There’s a very telling sentence tucked away in the Cabinet Member’s paper. In para. 24 it says

Officers believe that this approach is the best compromise between the safety of cyclists, keeping some on-street parking provision, working with limited available carriageway widths and a desire to reduce the potential for any further loss of trees and grass verges.

In other words the County is prepared to compromise cyclists’ safety for the sake of car parking. This won’t help achieve the long-term objective of cutting congestion and pollution by getting more people to cycle, as one of the main reasons non-cyclists give for not cycling is that they don’t feel safe. Let’s remember this when the first cyclist gets knocked off their bike by someone opening a car door without looking.

I can’t go to the meeting but members of the public can attend and address the meeting for a strictly limited time. If you want to do so you have to inform Committee Services by 9am on the day of the meeting (9 June). This page tells you what to do and what to expect. You can apply online from there too.

Parking or no parking? Headley Way & Windmill Road

Comments on Access to Headington – Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) – Other Options

This consultation is on specific modifications to earlier TROs for Headley Way and Windmill Road implementing the Access to Headington scheme. The modifications allow for the retention of some car parking on both those roads from which earlier plans had removed all on-street parking.

Detailed drawings of the proposals can be seen here:

These comments relate exclusively to the combination of cycle lanes and car parking which would feature in both roads if these proposals were implemented and have been submitted to the County.

The County’s Transport Strategy LTP4 and its application to Oxford City recognises it is essential to find ways of encouraging people to shift away from journeys by private car and onto public transport and active modes, i.e. cycling and walking. To this end the County has decided to implement a network of Super and Premium cycle routes in the City. As we know from the much more cycle-friendly cities of Europe, and now increasingly in London, “build it and they will come” applies to high-quality cycle routes.

In LTP4 Headley Way and Windmill Road are designated as Super Cycle Routes. This means they should be continuous, segregated as much as absolutely possible, with priority at side junctions and “a minimum width of 1.5m, with 2m the default for the busiest sections”. The original proposals were broadly welcomed by cycling groups and many others.

The latest proposals fail to live up to these good intentions. In Headley Way where the cycle lanes pass parking spaces the width drops to 1.25m “with 0.75m buffer”. The plans do not say but I assume the “buffer” is hoped to keep cyclists apart from car doors and occupants. In Windmill Road there seems to be no buffer, but cycle lanes generally 1.5m wide expand to 1.8m around the parking spaces. No explanation is given for the different treatment, but it emphasises the recurring problem in Oxford that there is no accepted design manual for cycle provision. Each new portion is treated as individual, designed and redesigned, ultimately delivering a mish-mash of incoherent and inconsistent cycle routes that are unnecessarily difficult to navigate.

Parked cars are inherently dangerous for cyclists. Doors on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side can be opened unexpectedly. Cars may pull out without the driver having fully checked for approaching traffic – including bikes. SMIDSY – “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you” is no consolation (or excuse) for a broken collarbone or worse. If the cycle lane is on the road (shared, not segregated) cyclists tend to give parked cars a wide berth, moving out into the main traffic flow – a safety manoeuvre which aggravates some motorists.

This danger is recognised in, for example, the Government of Wales’ Design Guidance for Active Travel, incorporated into the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. This says:

6.21 Car parking / loading and Cycle Lanes DE015

Kerbside vehicle parking or loading can often be dangerous for cyclists especially in a street with high vehicle turnover rates as there is a high risk of vehicle doors being opened into the path of cyclists within the cycle lane. It is therefore necessary that any cycle lane must pass parking areas with a sufficient dividing strip (buffer zone) or else be of sufficient width to enable cyclists to travel in the cycle lane away from the parking.

These latest compromise proposals are therefore a retrograde step and a further watering-down of the aspirations of LTP4. As such they will be less attractive to the potential new cyclists whom the County recognises need to be persuaded to give up their cars, and so less successful in achieving less congested and less polluted routes into and around Headington. I urge the County’s engineers and councillors to be bold and put the interests of the wider public ahead of the small minority affected by the removal of parking (for whom provision nearby has been arranged) and revert to their earlier proposals to remove all on-street parking on the two roads.

However, if this is not to be then all care should be taken to make the cycle lanes as safe as possible. This means running the cycle lanes inside the parking spaces. This has been recognised in Transport for London’s draft Cycling Design Standards of 2014 – see the relevant extract here. (The complete chapter from the full document is at )

Cycle lanes and parking - Transport for London
Cycle lanes and parking – Transport for London

It will also need the cycle lanes to be clearly delineated with physical features such as angled kerbs, raised blocks a few centimeters proud of the surface, or ‘armadillos’ (others will be better able to advise), not just white paint. Such physical features help all road and footpath users identify and respect the areas which they should naturally use.