Sunday, January 30, 2011

Car-sick Oxford cul de sac

The view from my window



This is a fairly typical image in Oxford. An ordinary cul de sac in Headington (Horwood Close, OX3 7RF, if you're interested).

Oxford is a 2-university city. With this comes students - lots of students. In turn, buy-to-let landlords and letting agents move in, either out of financial self interest, or a strong sense of social responsibility. Or maybe an element of both.

To accommodate the student population, and to extract the most rent from their investments, it's common for these to "renovate" properties to house more people than originally intended.

This is visible in the photo above. See the house in the background, with the white garage door? Every house in the close started off like that. One by one, the garage doors have been bricked up, adding a bedroom and making these 5 or even 6 bedroom properties.

That's what the building site in the photo is about - renovating another student house.

With no garage and 5 or 6 students per house, you'd expect a few parking problems - and you'd be right. I'd estimate there's 2 cars per household - the photo doesn't show the scale of the problem, as it's a Sunday morning and some of the cars are off running errands etc.

Oxford Brookes' campus is 1km away. The older Oxford colleges - 2km. Perfect for cycling.

Yet this cul de sac has a major car problem, and no cycle parking. (There are a couple of Sheffield stands up at the far end of the cul de sac, but nothing at this end).

What is needed is parking for maybe 30 bikes. This could replace 3 parking spaces. Nothing fancy, just Sheffield stands, perhaps with a bus-shelter style roof over the top. (I can dream).

Pehaps when local councils approve building alterations, as they have done in this close over the last 10 years or so, they should require that the property developers also put in the necessary infrastructure to suit the changing use of the housing?

So, when family homes for 4 people, with garages, become student households of 5 or 6, the developers should pay for on-street bike parking. Like how big housing developers may be required to build a school when they want to build 500 homes, but on a smaller scale.

Next post - my stop-gap interim solution.

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