Making the case for safer roads in Headington Quarry
A little while ago a handful of people sat round a table in the Masons Arms and wondered how our local roads could be made safer and more enjoyable for local people to use, particularly on the journey to and from our schools. Would it be possible, they wondered, to come up with a traffic scheme for Headington Quarry that would minimise rat-running, reduce traffic speeds and non-resident parking, create safer streets and help create a more liveable local environment. Over a number of weeks they pondered and discussed, wandered and scribbled before arriving at a possible solution: three lines on a map.
The context of the problem
At peak hours, particularly at the beginning and the end of the school day, there are high traffic flows on the narrow streets and pavements of Headington Quarry, one of the most historic villages now part of the city of Oxford. This traffic brings regular traffic jams and frequent conflicts between road users of all kinds but most alarmingly pedestrians, including parents and small children, exposed to risks of motor vehicles driving on pavements on a daily basis. Among local residents there are growing fears for the safety of children, pedestrians and bike users through the Quarry, particularly for those making their way to Quarry School and Windmill Primary School.
A previous proposal
In 2013 the Friends of Headington Quarry drew up and published an excellent proposal for a traffic scheme to address many of these issues [available via friendsofquarry.org] but five years on there has been little sign of the scheme being adopted by the relevant local authorities, local government budgets have been further diminished and traffic has increased.
Local traffic evolution
Data from a recent traffic survey has yet to be published but anecdotal evidence and local observation suggests that traffic flows through the Quarry have increased. The many developments within and around the Old Road Campus, Headington’s numerous hospital sites, the many departments of the Old and New universities make Headington a vibrant and exciting place to be but more people are travelling to and from Headington every day, and many of them seem to want to drive though the Quarry.
In June 2018 some emergency work carried out by Thames Water provided an unintended pilot project for traffic filtering. With the Green Road entrance/exit to Risinghurst blocked by water main excavation, traffic flows within the Quarry dropped noticeably, suggesting that a significant flow of rat-running from the A40 through Risinghurst and across into and through the Quarry. For a couple of weeks the roads of the Quarry become a slightly more pleasant place to be.
This temporary respite encouraged a few to remember the precious few weeks a few years previously when major resurfacing of the London Road closed Gladstone Road to all traffic and a sizeable part of the Quarry experienced the joys of almost car-free roads.
The national context
All this discussion about Headington Quarry is happening while the national debate on traffic is changing rapidly. Government proposals to build more roads in an effort to cope with traffic growth are increasingly recognised as expensive and fruitless solutions. Poor air quality is now recognised as a major public health issue. Initiatives to close roads outside schools at drop-off and pick-up are being piloted and implemented. Mini-Holland schemes are transforming local areas and local communities.
How do you filter traffic?
There are various ways of filtering through-traffic. In London they have the congestion charge. In Oxford city centre there are time restrictions (eg on the High) with vehicle recognition cameras, traffic gates (eg near Park Town) and rising bollards (eg the Turl and the Broad). Around the shark in New Headington there is a mixture of traffic gates, one-way streets and carriageway restrictions. Traffic lights, speed humps and ‘local traffic only’ signs could all be seen as some form of traffic filtering.
In the case of the Quarry, this proposal involves a time-limited trial of filter points using a mixture of bollards and planters to allow the passage of road-users on foot or bikes but preventing cars and other motor vehicles.
What would this mean for Headington Quarry?
Traffic filtering involves restricting the movement of motor vehicles through a particular area. Local traffic would be unaffected and all parts of the area would remain accessible.
Potential impact of filtering:
- Remove through-traffic
- Facilitate/encourage walking and cycling
- Safer roads for schools
- Reduction in traffic flows
- Reduction in traffic speeds
- Reduction in non-local parking
Potential benefits of a simple filtering project:
- Only three filter points required
- Low-cost implementation (bollards and/or planters)
- Temporary barriers to enable a 12-month trial
[Posted by Ian Callaghan and Jonny Ives]