THE BLOG

Lumiere London - Shining Light on Pedestrianisation

17/01/2016 18:03 | Updated 17 January 2017

On Thursday, London's iconic architecture was transformed with 3D projections and interactive installations from the world's most exciting artists for the start of Lumiere London.

The light festival takes place across the city for four nights and is being allowed to really shine thanks to the roads being closed to vehicles and opened to people on foot.

At Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, we have been campaigning to make this the norm. As a starting point we want to see Oxford Street pedestrianised.

Lumiere London has shown what is possible - and desirable - when streets are closed to traffic and walking put first. It is a great example of how we can bring the magic back to our streets and show how our streets can be enjoyed when they are not traffic-dominated.

We spoke to people as they wandered freely around Lumiere London about the street openings.

Therese from London, speaking at Oxford Circus said:

"I definitely support pedestrianisation of this street. I came down to Oxford Street to see the Christmas lights. I was on a bus but when I got here I didn't dare get off because of the congestion. In fact, I was scared to get off.

"It's so dangerous with all of the congestion along Oxford Street; I'm surprised more people don't get hurt. I come from Sydney originally and they have the Sydney Vivid Festival which started off like this (Lumiere London) and got really big. They are now closing the main street, George Street, to vehicles, which I fully support."

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 with those who do take a trip along it, like Therese, ending up feeling flustered, frustrated and fed up, what does the future of shopping and the retail business on Oxford Street look like if nothing changes?

Pedestrianising Oxford Street will hugely reduce the amount of pollution hanging over London's most iconic high street. By putting walking first here, and elsewhere, we can reduce congestion and pollution in central London to make it a cleaner and brighter world-class destination. More importantly, we can keep people safe.

London is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. High pollution levels are associated with asthma, impaired lung development in children, premature births and low birth weight, along with lung cancer and heart disease. It is estimated that over 9,000 people die prematurely from exposure to high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide in our capital city alone.

Just four days into 2015, Oxford Street breached the legal EU limit for Nitrogen Dioxide levels for the entire year. It was a similar story this year for the Putney High Street and Knightsbridge boroughs.

By 2031 it's estimated that an extra 1.5million people will be living in the capital.

Living Streets wants the next London Mayor to pedestrianise Oxford Street and make town centres more people-friendly to stop the situation getting worse.

We've had a fantastic response to our campaign and, thanks to hundreds of emails sent by our supporters, we've heard from Mayoral candidates, including Zac Goldsmith, Sadiq Khan, Sian Berry and Caroline Pidgeon, that they recognise we need to put walking first. We have been able to talk to most of the candidates about the best ways to improve London for walking and get London ready for the future. But we still have some way to go to convince the next Mayor to carry pedestrianising Oxford Street through and making the rest of London's town centres enjoyable places to walk around.

We want the candidates to commit to improving infrastructure in one town centre in every London borough.

We envisage this helping to create a world-leading city with the freedom to walk, breathe fresh air and experience our iconic streets and thriving town centres, with or without Lumiere London.