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