Transport for London (TfL) has unveiled plans to pedestrianise Europe’s busiest shopping street. Oxford Street in London currently receives 4m visitors every week, however the downside to all this trade is the pollution created by the waves of buses and taxis that ferry the visitors along this congested shopping artery. The new plans will see all traffic banished from Oxford Street as part of a three phase scheme which will start in December 2018 and conclude in 2021.
Commenting on TfL’s plans London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “This is a hugely exciting moment for the capital. Oxford Street is world famous with millions of visitors every year, and in just over a year the iconic part of the street west of Oxford Circus could be transformed into a traffic-free pedestrian boulevard.
“We want to make Oxford Street an attractive destination that is fit for purpose for the 21st century. Clever design can also minimise the risk to shoppers from terrorists.
“Whether you’re a local resident, a business, or shop in some of the area’s famous stores, our plans will make the area substantially cleaner and safer for everyone, creating one of the finest public spaces in the world”.
The idea of pedestrianising Oxford Street has been proposed in the past however the huge amount of bus routes that converge on the street have made any plans extremely difficult to implement. However TfL are now determined to go ahead with the scheme as concerns about levels of air pollution continue to grow.
The first stage of the project could happen as soon as December next year. Most of the western half of the road, between Oxford Circus and Orchard Street will be closed to vehicles. The road surface will be raised, to match the pavements and there could be a 800m long work of public art to improve the overall look of the street. A year later, the stretch east from Oxford Circus towards Tottenham Court Road station should follow.
The scheme has been timed to coincide with the arrival of the Elizabeth line, part of London’s Crossrail scheme. The line will run beneath Oxford Street, with hugely expanded stations at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. This will free up space on the currently congested Central line – which, in turn, will hopefully mean less demand for east-west travel by road.
TfL has been reforming its bus network in preparation for this scheme for some time and has already cut the numbers running along Oxford Street by 40%. Two routes (6 & 13) have been diverted south via Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner. Several others (73, 137, 189) were curtailed, so that they terminate at either Oxford Circus or Marble Arch. This strategy of curtailing, diverting or scraping some routes altogether will continue until all the bus routes have been diverted.
Earlier this year, almost 12,000 people responded to the first public consultation on the transformation of the Oxford Street district. More than 60% supported the plans but many raised concerns about access for local residents and congestion.
The second public consultation closes on 17 December, 2017.
The public’s concerns focus on the fact that traffic will be taken out of an almost 100% commercial area and pushed through the surrounding residential streets. Objectors say this will shift congestion, pollution and road safety issues rather than tackling them at source.
Reclaiming our urban streets has been an area that World Architecture News has covered for some time and it will be the core focus of the WAN Urban Challenge in 2018.