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.