Headington Liveable Streets

A proposal for a new way of living

In spite of the enormous hardship of the Covid-19 lockdown, there were some unexpected benefits. Air and noise pollution were significantly reduced – in fact levels of nitrogen dioxide in Oxford city centre fell below the legal limit for the first time in generations during the strict lockdown period.  Residents of all ages were able to walk and cycle more safely around their streets. Communities also benefited as the quieter roads drew more people out onto their streets to chat to neighbours. Headington Liveable Streets would like to ensure these benefits are maintained post-lockdown, so that people can continue to adhere to social-distancing guidelines and safely travel around their neighbourhoods.

The Covid-19 crisis amplifies what has been a long-standing issue in Headington – the steady rise in traffic travelling through and around the area. Our neighbourhood is both a vital employment hub and a gateway to Oxford as a whole – 40,000 vehicles travel through Headington each day [1]. Our main roads suffer from congestion, while the surrounding side roads face speeding and short-cutting as drivers attempt to bypass queues. People in Oxford suffer illness and premature death due to high road traffic volumes: e.g. roadside air pollution in Oxford stunts lung growth in children by 14.1%; particulate air pollution accounts for 55 deaths per annum in Oxford. This isn’t a satisfactory situation for anyone, regardless of where we live or travel. Add to this the projected 25% increase in commuting journeys to and within Oxford by 2031 [2] and the impact of major new housing developments in our immediate vicinity and it’s clear that doing nothing about traffic isn’t an option.

We believe that most people in Headington want the same things –

  • A thriving community and street life
  • Buoyant cafes, restaurants and shops
  • Clean air
  • Access to essential services
  • Safer and quieter streets
  • Clear steps to address climate change

Keeping these aims in mind, Headington Liveable Streets advocates the introduction of school streets, as well as low-traffic neighbourhoods – a recognised way of reducing the overall volume of traffic in an area that is currently being implemented in cities around the country.

We’re also keeping ourselves abreast of other measures being implemented by the City and County Councils in and around Oxford (including the proposed central Oxford bus gates, which may help reduce traffic volumes in Headington), and will support our major employers in the steps they could take to reduce the number of people travelling to their sites by private car.

What’s a low-traffic neighbourhood?

Low-traffic neighbourhoods use connectors [3] (also known as ‘modal filters’), to prevent through-traffic (short-cutting), whilst still allowing residents, visitors and emergency services to access everywhere within the neighbourhood by car. Reducing traffic to access-only traffic creates quieter, safer, less polluted streets for those who live there and travel through by foot, bike or mobility scooter. This idea has also become known as ‘liveable streets’.

These measures encourage people to reconsider how they travel and make journeys on foot or bike more attractive. There’s a proven effect of ‘traffic evaporation’ [4] – that can reduce motor traffic overall, bringing benefits to arterial roads too.

What’s a school street?

As Mums for Lungs explains:

School streets are a simple idea – to temporarily close the roads around schools at drop-off and pick-up times.

Only pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised vehicles are allowed to use them at school pick-up and drop-off times. Signs are put up to inform drivers of the road closure, and barriers or cameras can be used to enforce it. Residents, local businesses and blue badge holders are able to apply for exemptions.

Benefits of school streets demonstrated in successful trials

A significant portion of morning rush hour traffic in Oxford is attributable to the school run, leading to both further congestion and increased air pollution outside our school gates and around the city. This UNICEF ‘Toxic School Run‘ report highlights the serious health consequences of this for children. Closing roads near schools to motor vehicles can help reduce car journeys, as it provides a safer and more pleasant environment in which children can walk, scoot or cycle to school, and also enables them to build some exercise into their daily routine.

Several London boroughs are now implementing school streets permanently following successful trials that have been welcomed by parents and local residents alike. Find out more about school streets at schoolstreets.org.uk.

END NOTES

[1] Based on 2018 data for London Road, The Slade and Beaumont Road in Headington Quarry
[2] Oxfordshire County Council, Connecting Oxford
[3] See other examples of connectors here
[4] London Living Streets Evaporating traffic? Impact of low traffic neighbourhoods on main roads

About Headington Liveable Streets

Headington Liveable Streets was formed in May 2020 by residents from across Headington who share an interest in reducing traffic in the area and are inspired by the model of low-traffic neighbourhoods.

We want to build a wide, community-led movement that

  1. Engages Headington residents
  2. Unites those already working to achieve this change, and
  3. Supports the implementation of low-traffic neighbourhoods with the aim of reducing the overall volume of traffic in the area

Different issues motivated us to get involved. We include parents, concerned about safety for our children travelling to nursery and school and their exposure to air pollution, other residents who have seen how quieter, safer streets have strengthened community ties and benefit local shops and businesses, and others who are interested in how we can preserve cleaner air post-lockdown. Some within our group have been working on traffic calming in Headington for many years.

Our vision is for community-led liveable streets across Headington, where active travel is made easy, playing out is safe, air quality is improved, neighbourhood connections thrive and rat-running is no longer an option.

We comprise a steering group, a team of community volunteers, and welcome further supporters who share our aims. If you’d like to join us, please get in touch by emailing us at headington@oxlivsts.org.uk and/or join our mailing list to receive updates on events and developments in Headington.

We aim to be an inclusive community-led organisation that informs residents about and promotes low-traffic neighbourhoods in Headington. Our aim is that any introduction of LTNs is informed by the experience and needs of local residents. Please email us if you’d like to read our constitution.

You can find lots more information on the evidence and experiences behind low-traffic neighbourhoods in our Frequently Asked Questions – please download the FAQs and open the PDF in your web browser to use the hyperlinks in the document.

If you’d like to receive updates on events and developments in Headington, please join our mailing list.

We’d like to welcome further supporters who share our aims. If you’d like to join us, please get in touch by emailing us.

Contact us at headington@oxlivsts.org.uk.

View our data processing notice for information on how we handle the data we collect.

Latest developments in Headington

The idea of reducing the impact of traffic in Headington isn’t new. Resident groups around the area have grappled with solutions for tackling the continuous rise in traffic in their different parts of the neighbourhood over the past two decades. Headington Liveable Streets would now like to start a wider discussion to ensure a joined-up solution is found to the problems of short-cutting, speeding and heavy traffic in the central Headington zones most prone to them.

Central government has recognised the benefits of low-traffic neighbourhoods for improving public health and is urging local authorities to prioritise them and other measures to facilitate active travel and space for social distancing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside funding via a new ‘Emergency Active Travel Fund’. Oxfordshire County Council also passed a unanimous motion in July supporting the implementation of low-traffic neighbourhoods. Headington Liveable Streets supports Oxfordshire County Council’s response, as a first step, to trial low-traffic neighbourhoods in our neighbouring areas of Church Cowley, Temple Cowley and Florence Park, starting this August/September (County Council information ).

As a growth area, our neighbourhood draws in commuter traffic to our major employment sites and beyond. Oxfordshire County Council agreed with the submission made by Headington Liveable Streets along with groups from other Oxford neighbourhoods that our areas shouldn’t miss out on a share of this funding and we welcome the County Council’s bid to the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, submitted on 7 August 2020, to also trial low-traffic neighbourhoods in Headington and other Oxford suburbs.

We await the specific details and outcome of the County Council’s bid. If it were successful, Headington Liveable Streets would support the approach taken in our neighbouring areas of trialling temporary measures alongside a public consultation.

We recognise that, whilst many residents are in favour of low-traffic neighbourhoods, some people may also have concerns about how they will be impacted. We’ve gathered together information and resources about low-traffic neighbourhoods – including experiences of people living in areas where they’ve been implemented – which we’d like to share with the community through our Frequently Asked Questions (see box, top right) and provide further updates on the situation in Headington via our mailing list.