By Barbara Corr

A group of residents in City of Westminster want the council to make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists and help maintain social distancing ahead of any lockdown being eased.

Map of Fitzrovia West.
We are asking Westminster Council to make changes to improve the streets for social distancing.

Fitz West and Westminster Healthy Streets want to hear suggestions for improving the streets and have produced a map to which anyone can contribute. They will then ask Westminster council to explore the improvements put forward with a view to adopting them as quickly as possible.

Currently we have an amazing opportunity. Since the Covid-19 lockdown we have the lowest levels of pollution in Central London that anyone can remember. Here are the latest measurements of Nitrogen Dioxide:

Nitrogen Dioxide levels across Westminster

The table below shows nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels between 24th March and 22th April in 2019 and 2020 at Westminster’s automatic air pollution monitoring sites.

Monitoring site Type of site 24/03 – 22/04 2019 NO2 24/03 – 22/04 2020 NO2* % change
Marylebone Road Kerbside 59.8 30.5 – 49
Horseferry Road Urban Background 43.4 25.6 – 41
Oxford Street Kerbside 59 28.6 – 51.5
Strand Roadside 80.2 38.5 – 52
Covent Garden Urban Background 44.2 24.5 – 44.6
Cavendish Square Roadside 51.3 29 – 43.7
Oxford Street East Roadside 64.4 35.9 – 44.3
Buckingham Palace Rd Roadside 56.6 25.8 – 54.4

*2020 data has not yet been fully ratified and calibrated and may be subject to subsequent adjustments.

Before the lockdown, 85 percent of Fitzrovia West residents either walked, cycled or travelled by public transport to work.

As far back as 2014 FitzWest was saying to Westminster city Council: “We would like cyclists and pedestrians to have the advantages to which motor vehicles are presently accustomed. We do not wish just a few streets in central London to be safe for cyclists- we wish all streets in central London to be safe for cyclists and pedestrians and therefore safe for everyone. We would like children to be safe cycling to school.”

At FitzWest we took inspiration for ways to improve our streets from Barcelona where they have introduced a system called ‘Superblocks’ in which heavy traffic and public transport is confined to the big main roads and the smaller streets contained within the Superblocks have no through traffic and are protected for those on foot or cycle.
The superblocks model is based on a plan that was implemented in Barcelona.

This Superblocks model would suit Fitzrovia very well. In this area the main traffic of buses, cabs and heavy traffic would be confined to the following main roads: Marylebone Road, Oxford Street, Portland Place and Tottenham Court Road.

FitzWest map.

In the map above the roads highlighted in turquoise show the outer limits of the Fitzrovia Superblock. (There’s a bit missing in the North West corner) Yes, Portland Place is in Marylebone but, like FitzWest, is also in Westminster.

Off these could then be the following secondary roads (without buses) within that rectangular block: New Cavendish Street, Mortimer Street, Cleveland Street and possibly Great Portland Street. These secondary feeder streets would allow access to the smaller streets but filtered to prevent through traffic.

All our other smaller streets could then be filtered at one end to make through traffic impossible and to allow access only for cabs, deliveries, emergency vehicles etc. If car parking was then moved to underground car parks our streets would be pleasant places to walk and cycle with plenty of room for safe distancing and we could keep some of the clean air which we have wanted for so long.

It would, too, have a knock on environmental impact in discouraging traffic in surrounding areas. Cities such as Milan, Paris, Barcelona and Dublin are now doing this — even other parts of London such as Hackney. Let us not be behind the curve on this.

Here’s the interactive map. Zoom in to see the Fitzrovia part of Westminster in more detail and to see some suggestions. Let us know what you think!

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