Report Published

I have received a copy of the Consultants’ report on the Headington Transport Strategy. It is in two parts, which you can download from the links below. I haven’t had time to absorb it yet but first impressions are that it describes the present situation rather than setting out a strategy for dealing with the acknowledged problems. Indeed, the main report describes itself as a “Baseline Conditions Report”. There’s plenty of tables of data and quite a few maps: how up-to-date and reliable I can’t yet say.

As far as I know the County Council has not yet announced any public consultation on the report. I will post more on this when I can.

Baseline Conditions Report Jan 2014 (6.31Mb pdf)
Growth Pressures & Appendices Nov 2013 (672Kb pdf)

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.