Access to Headington – Headington Action & Headington Transport Group comments

Headington Action and Headington Transport Group Joint Response to Access to Headington Consultation. Submitted to Oxfordshire County Council  on 7/8/2015

1. The Consultation Process
Headington Action and Headington Transport Group welcome the aims of Access to Headington to manage growth in car traffic by shifting to walking cycling and public transport. However we are concerned that our local councillors and community have not been involved at the outset of the project when the basic design was being determined. We suggest that the process of engaging with local councillors and local communities on such projects in future should be reviewed to find ways of involving the local community from the outset.

2. Aims and Outcomes
The aims should deliver the policies of the LTP in particular Policy 24 which seeks to avoid negative environmental impacts of transport and where possible provide environmental improvements (LTP4 Vol.1 p.73). More information is required on the intended outcomes of the scheme, for example on the predicted reduction in traffic flow through Headington and on levels of air pollution in Headington Centre. It is important that clear success criteria are provided so that the level of achievement of the aims can be demonstrated.

3. Speed Reduction Measures
To reduce the environmental impact of transport (Aim 4) the project should be extended to include physical speed reduction measures on the side roads. This is essential as traffic accessing the major sites cuts through residential areas and is under time pressure so often exceeds the 20mph limits.

4. Junction Improvements
We welcome the proposals to improve the junctions along Headley Way. The diagonal crossing at London Road/Windmill Road should include a counting down facility so that people setting off can see how many seconds there is left to make the crossing. An advanced stop line for cyclists travelling westwards should be provided at this junction. We welcome the bus only exit from Churchill Drive and suggest that the top of Churchill Drive is adopted by the County Council to ensure that this restriction can be enforced. Consideration could be given to making the bus-only restriction time-dependent, for example only between the hours of 7am and 7pm.

5. Trees and Verges
We realise that a balance must be achieved between providing improved cycle ways and retaining trees and verges. Nonetheless we are concerned at the scale of the loss of trees and verges. This seems to conflict with Aim 4 which is to reduce the environmental impact of transport .There is particular concern at the proposal to remove a large number of mature trees and verges to provide a short length of bus lane on Cherwell Drive. A comprehensive consultation exercise carried out for the Headington Neighbourhood Plan confirmed that the top priority for local people is the protection of green spaces including trees and verges. This priority is now realised in the draft Headington Neighbourhood Plan policies.  We therefore request that data showing the number of trees and the area of grass verge affected by the proposals be incorporated into a detailed analysis of the environmental costs and benefits so that the impact of these changes can be reviewed and a rational balance struck.

6. Provision for Cyclists
We suggest that as well as the cycle routes along the main arteries, a set of alternative “quiet” cycle routes to be used for access from outside Headington to the major sites is prepared. This will include the access routes within the sites themselves. Improvements to “quiet” cycle ways should be based on this strategic plan. In many cases this will involve routes on the minor residential roads which will require only marking, signing and regular maintenance. Further engineering works which remove trees and verges will not be required in these quiet routes. However the condition of the road surface may require improvement as too often a combination of steep camber, potholes and sunken drains makes the edges of the carriageways uncomfortable for cyclists.

The provision of mandatory cycle lanes in both directions, linking with the cycle route along Marston Ferry Road is welcome. However, it is disappointing that no alteration is proposed to facilitate and/or prioritise the connection of the excellent off-road Marston Ferry cycle path to the proposed mandatory on-road new cycle lanes on Cherwell Drive. Very little work would be necessary to remove the convolutions and discontinuity in the Summertown – Headington cycle route at this point and the necessity for cyclists to negotiate separate but very closely-spaced junctions on both Oxford Road and Cherwell Drive, so we would wish to see the proposals extended westwards to include appropriate improvements at this point.

7. Provision for Pedestrians
Whilst we welcome the project’s broad aims ‘to improve access to Headington’s major employment sites particularly by public transport, walking and cycling’, we find very little specifically in the way of encouraging people to walk. We believe that there is a clear need for an additional pedestrian crossing of London Road to join Lime Walk to Osler Road.  This is an important walking route for people travelling between the main hospital sites. It might be incorporated as a Toucan crossing into the existing bus gate.  There is also a need for an additional crossing to make access to Bury Knowle Health Centre easier (and also for people living in the ‘Trees’ estate/ Hawthorn Ave to cross London Rd to catch a bus to the City Centre).  If a pedestrian crossing is not feasible then at least a central refuge would be helpful here.

The timing of pedestrian lights needs to be revised to accommodate those who cannot walk quickly and to show that pedestrians are not always at the bottom of the hierarchy.  At the pedestrian crossing which replaced the subway in central Headington pedestrians can wait up to almost two minutes for a green light as the lights are coupled to the central traffic lights. The intention to mark the diagonal crossings at the central crossroads is welcome but the timing of the pedestrian phase will need to be altered to accommodate those who cannot walk quickly. As suggested in 4 above a countdown facility should be provided.

In several places there is proposed ‘Carriageway widening into existing footway’.  Whilst we accept that the pavements in central Headington are, in many places, of a good width they tend to be cluttered.  Any narrowing should be accompanied by a removal of clutter.  The two metal boxes controlling the traffic lights that obstruct the pavement directly in front of Barclays Bank in central Headington are an example.

A proper programme of road drainage is also needed to avoid the soaking of pedestrians by passing vehicles that occurs in times of heavy rain.

8. Car Parking
We are concerned at the impact on residents’ car parking. For example the removal of on street parking along Windmill Road will displace permit holders to St Leonards car park as an alternative thereby reducing its availability to shoppers. The removal of parked cars will encourage speeding and as a consequence further speed reduction measures may be required, for example build outs and chicanes. We request that a detailed study is carried out in order to minimise any reductions in parking and provide suitable alternative arrangements where appropriate.

9. Financial Incentive
Physical action to upgrade pedestrian, cycle and bus routes must be complemented by action to ensure that there is a strong financial incentive to use the park and ride rather than to drive in to Headington and seek parking spaces there.

10. Summary
While Headington Action and Headington Transport Group welcome some aspects of the proposed scheme we request that:

  • The process of Community Engagement is review and amended.
  • Success criteria are set out and information on the predicted outcomes are provided.
  • Speed reduction measures are provided on side roads in residential areas.
  • The London Road/Windmill Road junction improvement includes advanced stop lines for cyclists and traffic light count down for pedestrians.
  • Data is provided and a detailed analysis of the environmental costs and benefits of removing trees and verges is carried out. 
  • In addition to the super/premium cycle routes along the main roads, an alternative cycle route plan is designed and implemented using minor roads where practicable.
  • The proposals are extended westwards to include the improvement of the Cherwell Drive/Oxford Road junction for cyclists.
  • More attention is given to the needs of pedestrians including the provision of a pedestrian crossing at the Osler Road/ London Road junction, retiming of pedestrian lights and improved road drainage.
  • The impact on residents’ car parking is reassessed.
  • Financial incentives are provided to encourage the use of park and ride.