Call to pedestrianise Oxford Street
Living Streets has launched a call for the next London Mayor to pedestrianise Oxford Street so that it becomes an iconic, safe and enjoyable place to shop – especially at Christmas.
Each December crowds of people take to Oxford Street to visit the biggest stores so that they can find the best Christmas presents for their loved ones.
Yet the amount of space available for us all is getting smaller as more and more shoppers flock to the capital’s major high street, making it a more dangerous place.
Sarah Williams, Living Streets’ London Campaigns Manager says: “The situation is about to reach breaking point on Oxford Street. As it is, it’s horrendously overcrowded but with Crossrail due to open in 2018 we’re looking at a significantly bigger problem. We must act now to reduce overcrowding, sky high pollution levels and an unsafe environment.”
The 1.2 mile stretch is already Europe’s busiest retail street and is especially crowded at Christmas time. In fact, throughout the year the street is predominantly visited by people looking to shop (60% TfL survey 2013). Sadly every six days a person gets hit by a vehicle along Oxford Street. In fact, one in four of London’s collision hotspots are in, or around, Oxford Street.
Sarah Williams says: “For many, the experience of crowds and crowds of people on Oxford Street puts them off going altogether, especially at Christmas. Oxford Street is a very uncomfortable place for pedestrians, leaving them feeling restricted and people say the change they’d most like to see there is less traffic. Those who do take a trip along it end up feeling flustered, frustrated and fed up. What is this going to mean for future Christmas shopping on Oxford Street if nothing changes?”
Oxford Street is at the heart of London and should be an iconic place for tourists (who make up 50 per cent of visitors) and residents to enjoy. But current projections by TfL are that without a radically different approach to our transport system, there will be increases in congestion of 60% in Central London and 25% in Inner London by 2031.
So will London be a mega city choked by traffic, with polluted, hazardous town centres and streets? Or will it be a world-leading city with the freedom to walk, breathe fresh air and experience our iconic streets, public spaces, and fantastic, thriving town centres.
Walking offers a simple solution for our future. By rethinking our attitude towards transport and prioritising and investing in walking, London can be a world-class city to live, visit and do business in.
Together we can create a city that puts walking first. A new Mayor has the power to make this vision a reality and the first step is by pedestrianising Oxford Street.
When Oxford Street went vehicle-free for the Christmas lights switch on, on 1 November 2015 Living Streets asked shoppers what they thought of the road being just for pedestrians: Julio Del Rio, from London said: “I work in Soho and normally never walk down Oxford Street but today it’s really cool. Normally it’s a nightmare. If it was like this (with no vehicles) I’d walk down here a lot more.” Andrea Nistoresu, 24, from Walthamstow said: “You normally have to be really careful when walking down Oxford Street because it gets so busy but today it’s really good. I feel much safer walking down here today.” Matisse Ghaddaf, from London said: “I like it (being vehicle-free). I work on Portman Square, just off of Oxford Street and today is like coming out in the morning before work when it’s nice and quiet and there are less vehicles. It’s brilliant. It gives more people more chance to walk around, especially those with families like us. It’s beneficial for people and the streets. It’s less squashed and much more enjoyable. It’s something we’ve discussed before, that it would be much nicer without vehicles. Normally this street is like the M25 for walkers, very cramped and chaotic.”