Map of proposed new layout for the junction of Oxford Street and Rathbone Place.
Motor traffic restrictions at the eastern end of Oxford Street between Rathbone Place and Tottenham Court Road will mean more drivers passing through Fitzrovia. Image: Westminster Council.

Westminster Council’s new, and very complicated, plan for Oxford Street will likely drive more motor traffic into Fitzrovia’s narrow streets and does nothing to improve conditions to enable safe cycling.

The eastern end of Oxford Street between Great Portland Street and Tottenham Court Road is currently open to all traffic in both directions, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Westminster Council now proposes a bus, taxi and cycle only restriction from 7am to 7pm every day of the week between Rathbone Place and Tottenham Court Road.

This will remove the eastern end of Oxford Street as a through route and therefore push more motor traffic onto the parallel routes to the north.

Westminster Council is proposing to make Mortimer Street two-way for its entire length and so providing drivers with a continuous eastbound and westbound route along Goodge Street in the east and Wigmore Street in Marylebone to the west.

The westbound restrictions on Oxford Street will likely mean more motor traffic along Gower Street, Torrington Place, Howland Street and New Cavendish Street heading west. The new permitted right turn for westbound drivers along Mortimer Street is predicted to increase traffic on Great Titchfield Street.

Since there will be more motor traffic heading east and west along the Wigmore-Mortimer-Goodge carriageway it is likely that it will increase eastbound traffic onto Clipstone Street, Maple Street, University Street and on to Gower Street.

There is already a rat-run of drivers heading south along Bolsover Street, Greenwell Street and Cleveland Street. The Oxford Street plans are likely to make this route more congested as drivers queue along Maple Street.

The plans also propose “more parking in the East Marylebone and West Fitzrovia area” and “more direct vehicle routes”.

There is nothing in the plans to improve safe cycling along Oxford Street or in Fitzrovia apart from the white paint of advanced stop lines. In fact the plans will likely make it worse for cycling as space on the carriageway is constrained particularly when one-way streets (which could have cycle contraflows) are made two-way for all traffic.

There are some improvements for pedestrians but these are mostly for shoppers on Oxford Street whose landowners and businesses will have more public space to colonise as a trading environment.

Most of the private vehicles in our neighbourhood are through-traffic, yet I see nothing in the plans to restrict driving through the area. Where are the proposals to mitigate the effects of displaced traffic? Why isn’t there a low traffic neighbourhood planned for Fitzrovia?

Very few of Fitzrovia’s 8,000 residents use a car to get around. Only about 20 percent of households in the neighbourhood have access to a car or van according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Some motor traffic across the Oxford Street district may “evaporate”. But the main effect of Westminster Council’s plan is to make Oxford Street a reduced traffic neighbourhood and make Fitzrovia a convenient network of through routes bypassing the shopping street (much like Camden Council’s West End Project which reduces motor traffic on Tottenham Court Road but displaces it into residential streets).

It’s a better proposal than the previous Conservative council’s plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street and divert buses and taxis through the neighbourhood.

But Westminster Council’s new Labour administration doesn’t seem very keen to include people in Fitzrovia as part of a “Fairer Westminster”.

Instead it’s socialism for the New West End Company and capitalism for those of us living here.

Westminster City Council: Shape the future of Oxford Street. Share your views on the Oxford Street Programme. Consultation open until 31 August 2023.

Westminster City Council: Report on the Oxford Street Programme including the Business Case and proposed draw down of additional funds from the programme budget.