There are many reasons to support the Mayor of London’s plan to transform Oxford Street from one of the world’s most polluted streets into one of the world’s finest public spaces: it’s overcrowded, unattractive and air pollution on the street is three times over the legal limit. But there is another compelling reason - removing vehicles from Oxford Street will tackle its poor road safety record.
Nationwide, there was a 10% increase in the number of pedestrians killed on our streets last year. It wasn’t front page news – in fact, it hardly made the news at all. Maybe it wasn’t exciting or controversial enough; maybe it was all just a bit too pedestrian? But we all walk or use footpaths at some point in our day; we’re all pedestrians by any other name.
So I’m pleased to fully support Brake’s Road Safety Week aiming to make all our streets safer. For some places, 20mph limits, improved crossings and better facilities are enough to help reduce these horrific fatality rates. But this awareness week falls at a time when we’re talking about the future of one of the UK’s most iconic streets. The rate of collisions on Oxford Street is over 80 times above the London average with someone injured in a collision on average every seven days.
Why is this?
Over 500,000 people use Oxford Street every single day resulting in inadequate pavement space. With the introduction of the Elizabeth Line next year, things are going to get far busier. There’s no way the additional people can be safely accommodated without major changes.
That’s why I was thrilled London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced Oxford Street would be pedestrianised by 2020. At the start of this month, along with Westminster Council, he launched the consultation for transforming Oxford Street West by December 2018.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform this iconic street for the better so it’s great to see the plans are for a proper pedestrianised scheme. There are some excellent plans to make it safer with wider paved areas and improved crossings. Three of Oxford Street’s crossings are currently among the 10 most dangerous in the country, so it’s high time they were tackled.
But this isn’t just about safety measures. As well as addressing some of the very serious and pressing issues of poor road safety and air quality in the Oxford Street area, the consultation addresses other impacts of a re-design, with plans to make it much easier to walk throughout the area, to create a beautiful and inspiring public space and to support local businesses to grow.
People have been sharing what they want to see from the re-design on social media, using the #MyOxfordStreet hashtag. It ranges from trees, water features and places to sit and chat, through to cleaner air and more space for buggies. There’s a real appetite out there to make Oxford Street the best it can be in every way.
62% of respondents supported the pedestrianisation during the first phase of consultation but there are still concerns that traffic will just be pushed onto surrounding streets. But buses will not be simply diverted down side streets; TfL has conducted a thorough re-design of central London bus routes to avoid the continuous traffic jam of buses crawling along Oxford Street. Modelling from the design suggests only very modest increases in traffic on a small number of streets. Other streets are expected to have less traffic and the plans include improvements to the wider area.
Accessibility is also a concern. The current conditions make it a no-go area for many and without careful design it could remain closed for many disabled and older people. That’s why we joined with other leading charities to write to the London Mayor asking him to commit to making Oxford Street the most accessible street in the UK. It should be a beacon of inclusivity and openness in the heart of our great city and so enclosed in the letter was our shared ambition for an open and accessible Oxford Street, including a short range transport solution for people with mobility impairments; taxi ranks and blue badge parking bays within fifty metres of the street; and bus stops within an accessible distance.
Please let the Mayor and Westminster Borough Council know your views on making Oxford Street West by completing the short TfL questionnaire here.
Join in with the conversation and let us know what you’d like to see for #MyOxfordStreet