Plans have been unveiled this morning (6 November) for the removal of vehicles from of one of London’s busiest roads – Oxford Street – in a bid to make the area one of the city’s ‘most pedestrian friendly environments’.
Health and sustainable transport groups have welcomed the plans, which have been described as an ‘important step towards tackling air pollution on one of the UK’s busiest streets’.
Launched for consultation by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Westminster city council’s deputy leader Councillor Robert Davis, the proposals would see a 0.5 mile area of road closed to east-west traffic between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus, whilst maintaining north-south routes through that section.
Coming into effect from December 2018 to coincide with the opening of the Elizabeth Line rail service, the plans would also see the carriageway raised to be level with existing pavements to make the area more accessible for walking. Further plans are also in place to remove vehicles from Oxford Street to the east of the current zone by December 2019, and to the west after 2020.
According to the Mayor’s Office TfL has been working since 2016 to reduce the number of buses operating along Oxford Street by 40%.
Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in the country, attracting around 220 million pedestrians per year.
However, the road also regularly breaches national and European limits for air quality and has been singled out in the past as having among the “highest NO2 levels in the world” (see airqualitynews.com story).
Announcing the proposals today, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, 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.
“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.”
Commenting on the proposals, Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This is an important step towards tackling air pollution on one of the busiest streets in the UK. Initiatives like this encourage people to walk and be active, which not only cuts emissions but also helps people lower their risk of heart disease and stroke.”
Xavier Brice, chief executive of walking and cycling charity, Sustrans, added: “The transformation of Oxford Street will give Londoners room to breathe in the heart of the city. This is a crucial step forward in freeing up space for people, instead of metal boxes. Making this iconic destination free of traffic, free of exhaust fumes and open for all to enjoy is vital at a time when London is facing an air pollution crisis.
“Through this project Transport for London and Westminster city council are starting to create streets that are safer, cleaner and fairer places to be, which we very much support.”