REDUCE THE SPEED LIMIT ON LOWER ROAD!
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Please reduce the speed limit, exclude aggregate lorry traffic and facilitate cycling on Lower Road.
Lower Road is a narrow, winding, unclassified country road, which runs from the A4095 junction east of Long Hanborough to the Eynsham roundabout on the A40. In recent years, it has become a busy traffic corridor due to massive growth in population and intensified business and commerce activities nearby and further afield. It is also being routinely used by aggregate lorries and increasingly by drivers trying to avoid traffic congestion elsewhere. Because of its nature and condition, Lower Road is unsuitable to carry such large volumes of traffic. The current national speed limit of 60 mph is totally inappropriate. Lower Road is dangerous! The imminent expansion of Eynsham will make matters much worse. Urgent action is required!
Geometry and engineering: The road is narrow, has poorly defined verges, no proper drainage and is susceptible to flooding. It has a number of blind bends at precarious locations. The narrowing under the railway bridge is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other, but not enough for a car to pass a lorry, particularly a tall one that has to move into the middle of the road in order to fit under the height restriction. Furthermore, the bridge is on a bend making oncoming traffic invisible until the last moment. The approach to the busy junction with Church Road, is through a long and hidden incline; making traffic coming from the north invisible to drivers who are turning right from Church Road towards Eynsham; this junction is also located on the blind bend. Lower Road accesses farms and a substantial number of businesses including, Willow Cottage Nurseries, attended daily by 71 children, the Wolfram Centre, and a significant number of other business units within the Hanborough Industrial Estate. Furthermore, the road provides access to twenty residential dwellings. Most of these entrances are either near blind bends or are concealed. Pulling in and out of these entrances is extremely dangerous. Finally, since the road verges are poorly defined it is challenging to drive in the dark or during inclement conditions; the central white lines are present near bends, but not along straight segments, leaving drivers in limbo. The visibility at the junction with the A4095 and the stone wall of the Hanborough Creek bridge, which is also located on slight bend is poor at night. Over the years, all these hazardous sites have become accident hot spots.
Traffic volumes: A survey conducted in 2015 showed nearly 7000 vehicle movements per day. Since then, traffic on Lower Road has increased substantially, due to the recent rapid increase in population in the local area. In the last five years, over 600 new homes have been added to the villages of Hanborough, Freeland and North Leigh; hundreds more are being added to Woodstock and Witney. This has been taking place in the absence of any significant road infrastructure investments and transport improvements. The planned 3000 house expansion of Eynsham at Eynsham West and Garden Village, the latter of which will contribute two major entrances to Lower Road, close to one of the blind bends and further improvements to Hanborough Rail Station will increase Lower Road traffic massively.
Speed: The current speed limit along Lower Road is 60 mph. This is inappropriate considering the traffic volumes, the nature of the road and its condition. Many roads nearby, such as B4449, B4044 and A4095 and others have a 50 mph limit. Lower Road is one of the few rural roads in the area that still has the national speed limit. At least four 40mph zones should be considered; near the railway bridge, close to the Church Road junction, at Willow Cottage Nurseries, and finally at the blind bend near the Mill Lane entrance, close to Eynsham Roundabout, where the accesses to the Garden Village are planned. Currently most of these sites have a ‘slow down zone’, which is commonly ignored. Speeding is a real issue on Lower Road. The 2015 road survey indicated that close to 5% of vehicles break the current speed limit, though it is believed that this is an underestimate due to the position of the reader. There have been 26 reported accidents resulting in 33 casualties within the last 10 years. However, many accidents, involving only damage to vehicles or property go unreported. Residents routinely recount frequent incidents of reckless driving not only due to speeding but also overtaking vehicles slowing down or waiting at the junctions or entrances and ‘close shave’ overtaking of cyclists. Virtually everyone, who uses the road regularly experiences frequent near misses. Some are truly terrifying. Lowering the speed limit to 50 or 40 mph would lead to a 40 to 80 sec increase in Lower Road travel time, which is trivial compared to traffic delays on other roads.
Heavy aggregate and other rigid and articulated freight lorries have made Lower Road a part of their permanent travel routine instead of using the A40, thus flouting the Cassington gravel extraction site planning conditions and the Oxfordshire County Council Freight Strategy recommendations. The vast majority of lorries appear to travel with a speed well in excess of their allowed 50 mph. The speeding lorries present a great danger to other Lower Road users, particularly during adverse weather conditions, when they splash large volumes of flood water onto windshields of oncoming vehicles, and cyclists. Heavy lorries moving at high speed are eroding the road edges, creating potholes, and generally wearing out the road surface. The Department of Transport estimates, that the infrastructure cost of a lorry travel per mile on a road like Lower Road is 7 times higher than on A road. This is the cost to the council and the taxpayers. Calming down lorry traffic by reducing their speed limit to 40 mph would significantly increase safety on Lower Road.
Cycling: Due to proximity of Oxford and the Cotswolds, Lower Road used to be a popular route for cyclists, who either commuted along it daily or used it for local travel or recreation. However, over the recent years the number of cyclists has plummeted due to heavy traffic moving at high speed and the poor road conditions. During the first pandemic lockdown, cyclists came back in large numbers. It would be great to see them stay. Our local communities would benefit enormously from a proper cycle path along Lower Road. Sadly, none of the local large housing estate developers have made any contributions towards it. Oxfordshire County Council could take advantage of the current government drive to encourage cycling and secure funding for this project. Cycle path along this road is bound to be a great success.
What the residents say: “Our parents and their children are very conscious of the number of accidents that have happened on Lower road over the past 25 years. It is highly important that they are able to travel safely to the nursery”… says Julie De-Banks, Manager for Willow Cottage Nursery…”traffic has significantly increased since the new housing has been built recently… There are more heavy lorries, cyclists (with currently no cycle lane provision) and a vast amount of pot holes and regular flooding”.
The vast majority of local residents, who use the road routinely consider it extremely dangerous to drive. Two petitions asking to bring the speed limit down, one in 2008 and another in 2015, gathered 450 and 250 signatures, respectively. Hanborough Parish Council has also been very supportive of the speed limit reduction. None of these ever brought ANY positive outcome. The argument reproducibly being lack of funding for a survey, road signage and enforcement.
Reduction of the speed limit on Lower Road is essential and urgent! Considering the current economic situation and further imminent large increases in local housing and traffic, appropriate speed limit is the most realistic option for achieving a higher level of road safety on Lower Road, as well as providing a safer environment for cyclists. For now.
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