By Caroline Mawer
Pedestrianising Oxford Street may sound like a great idea. The Mayor of London made it his
manifesto commitment and the plans are being drawn up. But it needs to be a great idea for local residents and businesses as well as the global tourists the Mayor is apparently hoping to attract.
We don’t want to have the surrounding streets even more congested, polluted and less safe than they already are. So we need to speak out — not to complain — but to say what we actually want.
The first consultation ended on 29 July, and especially if you missed that, you need to make sure you don’t miss your chance to have a say. Keep reading for some ideas about how you might do that.
Pedestrianisation is planned to start at the eastern end sometime in the middle of 2019 from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus. Then it’s the western section up towards Marble Arch. Around Marble Arch itself is going to come last.
The bus traffic-jam along Oxford Street is apparently going to be sorted out by a “paradigm shift”: with “interchanges, turn-backs and changes to the routes”; and by having a Hopper ticket, so you can get on and off buses for one price.
Although it’s not at all clear where else they might go, the Deputy Mayor Valerie Shawcross has said that it’s not about “all the buses simply running down Wigmore Street”.
There has been some discussion about disabled access. There are going to be two accessible Crossrail stations at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street. But many less mobile pedestrians won’t want to (or can’t) walk, and carry their shopping, between these.
Thinking around this needs to be as radical as with the buses. Just adding taxi-ranks in the side streets, and having taxis circling for a place in the ranks is going to further increase congestion as well as reducing road safety. Since the Mayor has much less power over taxis, this is a very significant issue.
Then there’s pollution. We have very high levels of pollution locally. Well above the recommended levels for health. Sadiq Kahn has been clear that reducing pollution levels is a priority for him. Surely we want more than just a local fight-back against pollution increasing when buses and taxis are displaced from Oxford Street?
The paradigm shift needs to extend from transport to actually reduce pollution across the West End. The London Assembly and the Mayor must consider health, disability, road safety, and business needs. Most importantly, they need to actually listen to local residents and business people — not just tell people that a consultation period has closed.
Take action now: email Valerie Shawcross (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tweet @valshawcross and email Sadiq Kahn (Mayor@london.gov.uk) tweet @SadiqKhan. For tweets use the hashtag: #oxfordstreet.
Say if you want to be personally informed about any future consultations. Describe your good ideas — you will have some! Say what you are specifically concerned about: is it pollution, road safety, disability access, or business working? Say what your special needs are: have you got children, breathing problems, reduced mobility, or a business to run? Ask for a reply. And if you don’t get one, let Fitzrovia News know!