Cycle Paths and Signs

The first of the roadworks under the Access to Headington project is just about finished – changes to the junction of Old Road, Gipsy Lane, Warneford Lane and Roosevelt Drive. I went down to have a look. On the whole the junction looks good (it will be better when the Skanska work-site has gone). There are new traffic signals with advance cycle boxes on all four sides. We’ll have to see how the junction works in practice, especially when the next stage means all traffic leaving the Churchill will go this way.

But – and you can imagine my heavy sigh – once again it’s lack of attention to detail that spoils the final effect. @TomBedford12 was first on twitter to point out that the off-road cycle path (good) on Old Road approaching the junction can’t actually be reached without getting off and lifting your bike up a six inch kerb (very bad). That just isn’t going to happen.

The other issue is that the smart new cycle route signs are – once again – much too far off the ground. Cyclists’ eye-line tends to be horizontal or lower, and their focus closer than a motorist’s. They need to look at the ground to avoid obstacles and potholes in a way motorists don’t. Signs for cyclists need to be at about their eye-level.

This is a point I and others have made before. The first I remember locally was when the “NE Quiet Route” signs went up on the route from the Headington Roundabout via Old Headington and the JR to Jack Straw’s Lane and on to the City. I know for a fact that I and several others made the same point in the various consultations on the overall Access to Headington project1. Yet here we are with brand new signs well over 2 metres from the ground.

I’ve tried to find if there are any regulations about the height of traffic signs but I’ve not found any2. So why are these signs placed so high? My guess is that it’s a lack of detailed and intelligent supervision on the construction site. The drawing says “put this sign here”, so a standard pole is stuck in the ground and the sign put on top of it. All it needs is someone with sense to be saying “Hang on, it’s a cycle sign. Use a short pole instead.” Similarly, intelligent supervision would have seen that the Old Road cycle lane needed a dropped kerb.

I just hope we can get the message across in time to avoid a huge crop of problems of this kind when the really big works are done.

1. See for example my response (July 2015) to Access to Headington and Oxford Civic Society’s response (Oct 2015) to the Oxford Transport Strategy. I’ve made the same point in face-to-face discussions with the Highways engineers at consultation events.

2. I’ve searched the up-to-date TSRDG2016 (Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016) and the out-of-date Manual for Streets, but despite minute detail on the height of lettering, the size of sign panels, even the colour of poles, I couldn’t find anything fixing the height off the ground. So signs for cyclists can indeed be put at a sensible height.