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Unintended consequences: will East Oxford LTNs make streets less safe?

It is wise to consider the unintended consequences of traffic schemes. East Oxford LTNs have been introduced without proper consultation and we explore impacts the planners have failed to foresee.

There is a charming picture of Magdalen Road on a now expired website about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) that shows it as an architect’s dream – people sipping lattes outside the Rusty Bicycle, wide pavements and no cars! No bicycles either for that matter or even any walkers (active travel has been suspended!). Trees drawn in this picture are smaller than the real trees that exist on Magdalen Road today.

Artist's impression of life with LTNs on Magdalen Road, Oxford

This was how the LTNs were being sold in Oxford back in 2019/20 in a discussion to a small charmed circle of supporters.

It illustrates the gulf between the PR campaign and the grimier reality. There will still be cars parked on Magdalen Road and some of these side roads will experience an increase in passing traffic – including large delivery lorries diverted to navigate their way past a nursery school.

East Oxford Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. St Mary's Location of Traffic Filters

Look at the map and consider a delivery lorry coming into this end of St Mary’s area from the Iffley Road. It will enter either Magdalen Road or Howard Street, both will be two way traffic – with parked cars, two motor traffic flows and bicycles (and scooters).

Having made its drop where does the delivery lorry go?

If it came up Howard Street it will turn left into Golden Road then Hertford Street, drive past Comper Foundation School and Nursery, and return to Iffley Road via Magdalen Road. If it enters via Magdalen Road it will turn right into Hertford Street (also passing the nursery) and return down Howard Street.

Magdalen Road looking towards Hertford Street, Oxford

Above: Barriers will force traffic coming up Magdalen Road to turn right into Hertford Street past this tree. How long will the tree survive turns being made by large delivery vehicles? Chicanes, barriers and two way traffic will make this anything but a ‘quietway’.

Comper Foundation School in Hertford Street, Oxford

Above: Comper Foundation School – will become a through route for diverted traffic. The best schemes protect schools – this one actively channels traffic past it.

Catherine Street, Percy Street and Charles Street will also be affected if traffic gets caught up and people start looking for a way out, and by lorries trying to navigate unsuitable turns. U-turns are impossible on either Magdalen Road or Howard Street.

Hurst Street and St Mary’s Road are also vulnerable to new streams of traffic. These roads are currently relatively quiet but narrowed by parked cars on either side. Under the new plan anything that enters from Iffley Road via James Street or Bullingdon Road can pass down Hurst Street and leave by Magdalen Road or wiggle through to Howard Street. Anything entering from Cowley Road can make a similar manoeuvre down St Mary’s Road. Some traffic may do this just to try to bypass jams on the major roads.

The scheme is sold to people living in St Mary’s as making these streets quiet (even if it pollutes Cowley Road and Iffley Road) but that may turn out to be a fiction.

And remember that these streets are also being advertised as “quietways” for cyclists. The likelihood is they will become less quiet and less safe for cyclists than they are now.

Magdalen Road, Oxford
Howard Street, Oxford

Pictures above show Howard Street and Magdalen Road. There are no turning places and the chicanes, parked cars and the speed bumps make safe two-way traffic difficult to envisage. These pictures were taken on a weekday morning between 7 and 8 am before LTNs. Note the lack of traffic.

What is true on this side of Iffley Road may also be true on the other side. Will traffic try to avoid queues on Iffley Road by using Parker Street, Warwick Street and Stratford Street?

It is wise to consider the unintended consequences of traffic schemes. This scheme has been introduced without proper consultation and with impacts the planners fail to foresee. In an age of supermarket and internet deliveries, and bin lorries forced into reversing (e.g. Leopold St & Crown St), it is highly unlikely that the PR sales pitch of an area with no traffic will be achieved.

Vote John Skinner, Independent



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Notes from Your Doorstep 20/2/2022
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