8:20am Thursday 1st March 2012 in Leader
Motorists were understandably baffled by the appearance of double yellow lines painted across some road junctions in Headington.
That was hardly surprising as the lines had no legal basis and were simply confusing.
That said, the lines, which were part of the New Headington Transport Improvements scheme, which began in October last year to make the area’s roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists, were put in place with the best of intentions.
Those intentions, according to the county council, were to make the junctions look more residential and deter drivers who are less familiar with the area from using side roads as a rat-run”. That instantly sparked a debate on our website about precisely what is a ‘rat-run’.
One viewpoint is that drivers who have a properly taxed and insured vehicle have every right to drive along whatever road they choose.
The opposing view is that some roads were not designed as major thoroughfares and should only be used by those who live along them.
That conflict is played out on a much larger scale every day across the county.
In West Oxfordshire, for example, the major arterial route is the A40 carrying the bulk of traffic to and from the west.
But during the morning and evening rush-hours, the A40 slows to a snail’s pace and drivers, understandably, use alternative routes to get in and out of Oxford.
Anyone who watches the crocodile of cars making its way over the Swinford toll bridge daily, or crawling nose-to-tail along the A4095 through the villages of Long Hanborough and Bladon, recognises that those routes were never designed to carry such a weight of traffic.
But is it fair to blame the drivers using these country road ‘rat-runs’? After all the vast majority are simply trying to get to and from work.
Is there an alternative? From Witney there probably is, with a frequent bus service, though that is jam-packed during the rush-hour. But if you live in a village you have little option but to use a car.
It is against the background of a hopelessly overloaded road network that a light rail system, which on the face of it looks hugely expensive, is worthy of fresh consideration.
Almost £500,000 has been spent on the New Headington Transport Improvements scheme alone over the past five months, but it has already emerged the council is reviewing elements of the work after residents raise safety concerns.
The Headington lines, not surprisingly, are to be removed.
But the simple truth is that the challenges faced by the creaking infrastructure of the county’s transport system was never going to be cured by a pot of paint.