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:
- Headley Way – https://consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/gf2.ti/-/692706/20511845.1/PDF/-/Headley_Way_proposals.pdf
- Windmill Road – https://consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/gf2.ti/-/692706/20511877.1/PDF/-/Windmill_Road_proposals.pdf
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 https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/draft-london-cycling-design-standards/user_uploads/ch3-cycle-lanes-and-tracks.pdf )
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.