Transport Strategy – Friends of Old Headington response

The Friends of Old Headington have kindly agreed to me copying their response to the County’s consultation here. For other local organisations’ views see the other posts on the ‘Transport Strategy‘ page.

The Friends write:
The aim of the Friends of Old Headington is to retain Old Headington as a village, with special emphasis on preserving its lanes, walls, grass verges, and trees, and ensuring that new buildings and alterations are in keeping with the existing character of the village. This is a community project in which local residents work with the Oxford Preservation Trust and the City Council in their declared policy of preserving the village.

Here is what they submitted to the County Council:

The Friends of Old Headington would like to make the following comments with regard to the Headington Transport Development Strategy.


The Old Headington Conservation Area Appraisal (July 2011) makes clear the vulnerability of the conservation area to traffic. The following is taken from p. 67:

“The village’s road network is not designed for the needs of modern transport and concerns have been expressed through the consultation process about the negative impact of traffic at peak times – noise, movement, appearance. Indeed, the threat of an increase in traffic to the character and appearance of the conservation area was identified in 77% of responses received to the consultation draft of the appraisal.”

The number of responses to the consultation draft of the Appraisal was unusually high, reflecting the degree of public concern about the effects of traffic (and particularly the
‘rat running’ variety) on the conservation area and on the quality of life of those who live there.

Observations and suggestions

1. Ensuring that traffic using the main arteries of London Road, Headley Way, and Marsh Lane flows freely at all times will be key to preventing rat running through the conservation area, reducing drivers’ desire (or need)  to cut through the narrow roads and lanes of Old Headington.

‘Rat running’ during rush-hours has adverse effects on the conservation area daily, and  (particularly in St Andrews Rd. and Old High Street) causes regular traffic jams since there are long stretches which become single-lane when cars are parked. Traffic taking shortcuts via these roads includes large commercial vehicles which increase the existing risk to cyclists. This is a problem likely to increase now that the Oxford cycle strategy has routed cyclists down St Andrew’s Road. The high kerbs mean that cyclists cannot take evasive action in an emergency.

2. Traffic-calming measures should be considered for the most vulnerable streets in the conservation area, for example in Old High Street, where a substantial single-lane stretch between the Black Boy and the corner of North Place encourages drivers to accelerate hard before someone comes the other way. This kind of scenario is a prime cause of the frequent flouting of the 20 mph limit in this and other parts of Headington.

Improving traffic flow on those main roads surrounding this part of Headington, together with the adoption of such traffic calming measures as would be appropriate in the context of the conservation area could achieve a significant improvement in the quality of life, safety and well-being of the community as well as a reduction in the deterioration of the physical environment (road surfaces, kerbs, and listed buildings).

Residential streets both inside and outside the Old Headington conservation area could benefit considerably from these two measures alone.

3. The barrier allowing buses access to the John Radcliffe Hospital via Osler Rd must only be opened for permitted vehicles. When this is broken, many vehicles access the lower JR car parks through Old Headington and Osler Rd. generating a marked increase in traffic. The use of buses in small residential streets should be reconsidered, as should the size of vehicles allowed to use (or try to use) the narrower roads in this part of Headington. There is no grid-pattern here, but narrow pavements and roads, sharp bends, and houses fronting traffic just a few feet away.

4. Planning permission should only be given for new developments in Headington which are designated as car free. Traffic is already at such a level that even small increases in traffic will place intolerable pressure on the local road network. Developers should as a matter of course be required to make substantial contributions to support the local infrastructure – including traffic-calming measures, as has happened elsewhere in Oxford, e.g. in Jack Straw’s Lane – as a condition of planning permission being granted.

5. There should be no further increase in parking spaces at any of Headington’s disproportionately large number of hospital and University sites. The expansion of these facilities, and the transfer of the Radcliffe Infirmary to the area has already resulted in an increase in staff traffic, outpatient and visitor traffic that is unsustainable in a residential area.

6. Alternatives need to be considered and encouraged: more effective campaigns to persuade people to cycle, supported by the implementation of measures that force motorists to slow down to a safe speed, and by the creation and maintenance of properly designed and safe cycle tracks, separated from car lanes wherever this is feasible, should be included in the Transport Strategy. Car-sharing schemes should be publicized and the benefits made clear. Design and maintenance are both significant: poor repair is the cause of minor accidents, as well as preventing people adopting a healthier mode of transport.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate; we hope that there will be further opportunities for consultation and community response as the transport strategy for Headington is developed.

Friends of Old Headington, 10th October 2013.

Transport Strategy – Oxford Civic Society response

This is the response submitted by the Transport Study Group of Oxford Civic Society, reproduced with permission.

What solutions do you think could form part of a strategy to address the transport issues identified?

Absence of wider strategy 

This invitation to comment differs from the normal process since at the moment there is nothing substantive to respond to. Instead we are asked to submit perceived problems and suggested improvements. In one way this is to be welcomed, as all too often the public are only involved in consulting on the details of schemes, not on which schemes get put forward or implemented.

However, we are very concerned that the HTS is being carried out BEFORE developing a clear strategy for the city, the Eastern Arc, or indeed the whole matter of people movement in the eastern part of the County, including origins and destinations of journeys and the modes of transport used. The first question is therefore ‘What are the wider planning and transport assumptions against which any proposals for Headington are to be assessed?’ Are strategic choices embedded in these assumptions which really ought to be the subject of public debate before more detailed local issues area addressed? Is this not ‘putting the cart before the horse’? We think it potentially a waste of money to make sub-optimal detailed changes in a small area whilst not planning changes at a broader level. We understand that this approach is driven by central government funding processes, but nevertheless feel it important to say this is wrong.

Non-holistic approaches 

A less than optimal process can be seen at a more localised level. As an example, the scheme to improve the London Road between Headington and the A40 roundabout has the objective “to provide bus priority along this important route into Headington”, which is a worthy objective. This hopefully will encourage more people to use buses, but if it reduces congestion on London Road it may also encourage more car journeys. For cyclists the scheme merely seeks “to maintain the current level of cycling provision without making the situation worse than it already is”. This is an unworthy objective, especially given the County and City policies of encouraging cycling as a modal choice. The needs of pedestrians (fit commuters, parents with children and buggies, school and college students, shopper, the elderly, the disabled) are not considered at all.

We believe this is wrong, and urge the County to address this issue in any future Transport Strategy. Transport Plans and Strategies should be developed that improve the quality of life for all, whether they are car drivers, bus users, cyclists or pedestrians. This needs a step change in the way transport schemes are drawn up.

The set of small things is vital 

We also believe that the quality of life in an area depends not just on how long-term strategies develop and are implemented, but also on getting all the small things right. For example, even the newly rebuilt sections of London Road suffer from puddles, so pedestrians get splashed by passing vehicles. Sometimes unrepaired collapsed rains are the cause, other times the profile of the re-laid road surface is to blame – a failure of engineering supervision.

Another example – signs have been installed along the ‘North-East quiet cycle route’. Quite a few of them are in the wrong place, at the wrong height, or point in the wrong drection, which shows a lack of attention to detail. These are just two of many examples.

If we want to get significantly more people choosing to cycle or to walk instead of going by car or bus, we need to make walking and cycling a MUCH better experience. This means both designing schemes with all users in mind from the outset, and caring enough to get the little things right. Get them wrong, or ignore them, and people’s experiences won’t improve, and behaviour won’t change. Get them right, and we might achieve something worthwhile.

Transport Strategy – Councillors’ response

This is the response to Oxfordshire CC’s Transport consultation  by Headington Ward’s LibDem Councillors (reproduced with permission). The original of this document is here.

As City Councillors for Headington Ward, we welcome the opportunity to help shape the work on a transport strategy for the area. We are acutely aware of the problems residents and workers suffer because the transport system is near capacity and it is high time that official responses moved from being reactive to being strategic. We hope that the commitment to developing a strategy is more than just political window-dressing and is, instead, real, determined and long-term. It is also essential that the strategy is owned by the whole community, not just by the Councils and the big employers. We are, of course, pleased that you have taken our advice and are gathering responses from the residential community. We urge you to show your commitment to an on-going partnership with Headington’s residents and their representatives. 

What do you consider to be the transport issues and problems in the study area (includes Barton, Headington, Marston, Risinghurst and Wood Farm)?

There are several well-known structural issues that are the root causes of the acknowledged traffic problems in the Headington area:

Headington is a major employment hub for the city, with five hospitals, a University of Oxford research centre and Oxford Brookes University, along with several independent schools.
For various reasons, the area has high accommodation costs, so some employees live well outside the area and commute to work in Headington.
The major hospitals have constraints in terms of access from the ring road, as they are located in areas of Headington adjacent to protected sites: for example, the JR is near the Old Headington Conservation Area, and the Churchill is adjacent to the Boundary Brook and Lye Valley SSSI.
Headington is also the gateway to Oxford for visitors from London and the airports, and many residents commute to jobs in London and the Thames Valley.
All these factors contribute to the problems:

Road congestion at peak times, rat running through residential roads, and deterioration of road surfaces particularly in London Road, Osler Road, and Latimer Road.
Headington has two air quality hotspots as measured by Oxford City Council (Air Quality Action Plan summary).
Transport issues and problems for pedestrians include:
A well-used but dangerous crossing point in London Road at the junction with Osler Road
No audible signal for visually impaired pedestrians to cross at Headington Carfax, confusion between pedestrians and drivers about who has right of way at raised entrances to residential roads off London Road
An articulated need for a second pedestrian crossing in Windmill Road from the Bateman Street area to assist children in their travel to school.
Transport issues and problems re cyclists include:
Fragmented cycle lanes and confusion over priority with pedestrians in shared spaces
Cycling on pavements by those who are less confident (and often are adults)
Many cycle to and from major employment and study destinations in Old Road and perceive this road to be dangerous
Failure to observe highway rules e.g. failing to stop at pedestrian crossings or red traffic lights.
Public transport issues and problems include:
Bunching of buses in London Road
Routing of buses through a residential road which is not fit for purpose (Osler Road)
Unmet demand for buses to Summertown from Headington Centre
Night shift hospital staff unable to get on the busy no. 4 service at the Churchill stop in morning peak time
Buses and coaches in London Road swerving to avoid the rutted road surface
The removal of bus services from the Franklin Road area to Headington and Oxford.
Coaches and traffic to/from independent schools cause congestion and generate parking problems in Latimer Road and London Road. There is a stated need by these schools for shuttle buses from Thornhill and the railway station.
Vehicles stuck in traffic queues in London Road heading east pull out into the centre of the road and cut corners into Lime Walk and Latimer Road causing near misses
Motorists perceive some junctions to be dangerous:
The All Saints Road/Lime Walk junction where traffic is unexpectedly encountered coming from a counter-intuitive direction
Headington Carfax where vehicles get stranded in the centre of the junction trying to turn right, and sometimes move only when the green man is showing for pedestrians
Heavy congestion and/or avoidance of perceived hazardous junctions results in rat-running in (a) Barton Lane/St Andrew’s Road/Dunstan Road  (b) Highfield Area, including Latimer Road from Old Road  (c) Sandfield Road/Woodlands Road to Headley Way from London Road  (d) via Headington Quarry to avoid delays at Green Road roundabout
There is speeding at off-peak times in Windmill Road, Lime Walk and London Road, and vehicles exceed the 20 MPH limits in residential roads including Dunstan Road, and roads off London Road and Old Road.
The exit from Barton onto the Green Road roundabout causes problems for drivers as there is no traffic light to help them. Vehicles merging from slip road filtering left from Green Road roundabout to Cowley-bound eastern bypass sometimes cause near-misses.
Taxis pulling in at Dorset House mount the pavement and obstruct line of sight for motorists immediately in front of a bus stop and pedestrian crossing
Motorists have difficulty exiting from residential roads into heavy traffic e.g. Windmill Road from Langley Close and Rock Edge, London Road from Latimer Road, Lime Walk
Parking issues can cause transport problems:
Lack of short stay parking means those using cash dispensers or visiting only one shop park on DYLs and in side streets causing congestion
The RPZ areas need revising – some residents with permits can’t find spaces and have to park on corners or on DYLs e.g. Gardiner Street, Windsor St. areas.
Commercial and retail staff swap around cars and vans every two hours to avoid car parking charges causing shortage of 2 or 3 hour parking for visitors e.g. in Old High Street.

What solutions do you think could form part of a strategy to address the transport issues identified?

It has to be accepted that not all the solutions to Headington’s traffic issues are in the hands of the Local Highway Authority (LHA). There are, though, many actions the LHA can and should take. Those actions should be guided by the following seven principles:

Develop any strategy in engagement with the whole community, including residents and small businesses, not just the top three employers. This can be best done through constructive dialogue with the Headington Transport Group and the Headington Neighbourhood Forum as it progresses the Neighbourhood Plan.
Establish clearly the transport capacity of the Headington area and be ready to object to planning applications which put intolerable strain on the transport system.
Recognise that the route through Headington is perceived as the gateway to Oxford and so give it the priority it requires. As a first step, make urgent repairs to the carriageway between the Headington cross-roads and the Green Road roundabout.
Accept that many of the streets of Headington are residential and were not built to sustain large vehicles. As far as possible, respect the residential nature of those streets and do not subject them to inappropriate usage.
Ensure that any strategy balances the needs of all road-users – pedestrians, cyclists, bus-users and car-drivers. Wherever possible, give each category of user dedicated road space.
Tackle the issues which limit the use of public transport. The introduction of cross-ticketing has certainly helped but more needs to be done to encourage travellers to choose buses over cars. This is particularly the case when a journey involves changing from one bus to another.
Ensure that effective quality control mechanisms are in place to guarantee the standard of work undertaken in any changes. Specifically, review contract arrangements to ensure that there is rigorous comeback on contractors for shoddy workmanship.
Specific actions that should be taken include:

a)      Collect and analyse origin and destination survey data to establish the purpose and direction of travel through Headington, and the start and end locations of those journeys.

b)      Encourage Oxford City Council to set up more air quality monitoring points and determine what action would be taken if the air quality reaches a level that is less than adequate

c)       Rebuild surface of London Road from Green Road roundabout to Headington Carfax as a top priority for the City.

d)      Further develop Thornhill Park & Ride, recognising that it is used both by commuters into Oxford and Oxford residents commuting to London. Make it more attactive by further expansion and a fairer pricing regime. In particular, support the introduction of shuttle buses from Thornhill to the independent schools and major employers, reducing through-traffic and parking problems

e)      Carry out improvements to improve safety. These may include:

Improve signage of priority at raised junctions
Investigate whether the roadway and pavements in Windmill Road could be redesigned so that pedestrians don’t have to walk into the road to pass queues at the bus stop
Put in yellow boxes in London Road and Windmill Road at junctions with residential streets
Erect a bollard in the centre of both Latimer Road and Lime Walk near the junction with London Road so that drivers cannot cut corners when turning right off London Road
f)       Re-arrange pedestrian crossings on London Road in order both to help pedestrians and improve traffic flows. In particular,  establish a safe pedestrian crossing point at the junction of London Road and Osler Road

g)      Establish further pedestrian crossings to improve safety and help pedestrians:  introduce an additional pedestrian crossing between New Headington Bateman Street exit across Windmill Road to help traffic from side streets pull out into Windmill Road, deter speeding at off-peak times, and help parents and children travelling to school using an alternative route to London Road.

h)      Establish two joined up cycle routes through Headington, one for confident cyclists and one for under-confident and learner cyclists. Ensure that there are well-planned cycle routes to schools, major employment sites, and health centres. In particular, identify space for off road cycle track down Old Road, through liaison with the University and OUHT. Plan and implement cycling routes from Barton West to Old Road area,  Headington Centre and Library, and the JR with Highways s106 from Barton West development

i)        Set up cycle proficiency training with adult cyclists. Give errant cyclists the choice of a FPN or attendance at cycle proficiency training. Work with employers, TVP and schools to improve cycle training.

j)        Work with bus companies to the following ends:

Take up bunching issues with bus companies.
Set up direct bus services between district centres e.g. Headington and Summertown so that passengers don’t need to travel into Oxford and out again (this could reduce the number of bus journeys required).
Bring pressure to bear on bus companies to re-route buses away from Osler Road to Headley Way.
Set up specifications for bus contracts in such a way that double decker buses are used only at peak times in residential roads. Involve local councillors at officers’ specification design stage.
Require improved passenger collection data so that accurate records are kept of passengers using parts of journeys.
k)      Ensure that bus laybys are large enough to accommodate two buses rather than allowing queuing in the line of traffic.

l)        Investigate traffic calming in residential areas where there is rat running and speeding, and work with residents to achieve this. Investigate placing of parking slots in residential roads in such a way that parking is on alternate sides of the road to slow down traffic and make the roads less attractive to use

m)    Increase parking enforcement in side roads off the London Road (initially self-financing in Kennett Road and Stephen Road). Identify possible locations for short stay and visitor parking. Prioritise revision of RPZs in Headington. Investigate maximum limit for visitor permits and review Highways policy on visitor permits in Headington. Identify alternative parking areas for trades and commercial vehicles

Residents have also raised further suggestions with us which we forward to you for consideration. Their listing here does not imply our support for them.  We should need to consult our residents more widely and acquire more information before forming an opinion and declaring a view.

i.            The establishment of link roads from the ring road to the JR and to Old Road

ii.            Consider the possibility of running London and airport buses from hubs at Park and Rides e.g. Thornhill or re-routing a proportion of each long-distance service away from Headington

iii.            Land swaps to relocate a major employers’ site:  use vacated area to improve infrastructure/access and allow for affordable housing and growth? Promote car-sharing and car clubs by liaising with employers, and designating some parking slots for shared cars only.

iv.            Consult residents of Osler Road on possible repositioning of parking spaces and / or re-design of the road

v.            Consider other options to manage traffic at Headington Carfax, including a shared space solution 

David Rundle
Ruth Wilkinson