Jack Straw lane is a narrow road, just big enough for two cars to squeeze past. It also provides a short cut from the city centre to the J.R. Radcliffe Hospital. Because traffic in Headington is often very congested, this minor road provides a convenient short cut, and is popular with taxis and other drivers. I’d heard that the Oxford city council had experimented with road markings to try and change drivers behaviour – providing road furniture which encourages slower speed, and discourages overtaking of cyclists.
The new road markings. I like it!
Richard Mann of cycling campaign group Cyclox said:
“We think the designs are excellent. Jack Straw’s Lane has a problem with being a bit of a rat run.
“We have always looked to the Netherlands and to Denmark. Sometimes the ideas work in our context and sometimes they don’t, but it is great that the county council is trying these things.” (Oxford mail)
I went to have a look and see whether it has made much difference.
The aim is that the more unusual road surfacing will make drivers more reluctant to overtake and keep to a slow speed. When I was there, quite a few were obeying the 20mph speed limit, but about 20% weren’t. I could tell they were speeding because there is one of those 20mph speed cameras (well not really a camera, just a sign comes on to say 20mph!) You probably won’t even spot it in photos, but it is there.
There was quite a high % of cyclists using the road. The hill is quite steep, so the cyclists fly down, but struggle up. Cars do overtake cyclists going up the hill, but then some cyclists are doing 5mph up the hill. To be honest, if you’re struggling up a hill, you don’t really want a car revving its engine, impatiently behind you. It’s best if they overtake with plenty of space.
The most testing moment was when two cars pass mid-way, there isn’t much room to breathe, and one taxi flying up the hill was a bit impatient. The 20mph warning sign flickered on, but it seemed little deterant.
Back down the hill, I saw some cyclists get boxed in by parked cars and cars coming down. That’s the problem with small sections of road calming measures, they are only partial to the road.
Overall, I think it’s worth a try. If I came across this road whilst driving, I think it would have the impact of reminding me this was a quiet back street and one to be taken slowly. As a cyclist, I wouldn’t expect much difference. But, if it makes a few drivers overtake more carefully, then it is worth it.
It also reminds me of:
Naked street experiment - removing road signs. Hans Monderman sought a radical approach to traffic management. He is famous for testing the validity of his schemes by walking backwards into moving traffic. His philosophy was the importance of putting the responsibility onto the road user, rather than trying to direct motorists. Hans said:
“We’re losing our capacity for socially responsible behaviour. The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people’s sense of personal responsibility dwindles.”
Cycle path and road markings at bottom of Jack Straw lane and Marston road.