Residents from Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Mayfair and Soho are to meet with London Assembly Transport Committee Members this week to voice their concerns over Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plan to pedestrianise Oxford Street.
In June the London Assembly Transport Committee heard from representatives from businesses in the West End, Transport for London, and Westminster City Council who all held the view that traffic reduction and not pedestrianisation should be the aim, otherwise the problem would just be shifted from one street to neighbouring streets (Transcript [pdf]).
Now people living in the surrounding neighbourhoods will express similar concerns and tell the Transport Committee that pedestrianisation is not desirable and it is not practical to provide alternative bus, taxi and delivery vehicle routes without moving pollution and congestion into the smaller streets either side of Oxford Street.
Representatives of residents told Fitzrovia News that they welcome the Mayor’s desire to reduce congestion and pollution and want to work together to realise his aim to improve Oxford Street, but without adding to the already high levels of pollution and congestion in nearby streets. They say the Mayor should reduce motor traffic in the neighbouring areas not just Oxford Street.
However, residents and business groups were surprised when London deputy mayor for transport Valerie Shawcross announced earlier this month that City Hall hopes to complete pedestrianisation by 2020. Residents and businesses fear that buses and taxis could be diverted along Wigmore Street, Mortimer Street and Goodge Street.
Wendy Shillam of the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum wrote to Valerie Shawcross saying that if pedestrianisation of Oxford Street results in a permanent diversion of taxis and bus routes along neighbouring streets “it would be devastating”.
Jace Tyrell of the New West End Company which represents traders in Oxford Street was cautious about the plans: “We look forward to seeing and discussing detailed proposals for Oxford Street following Ms Shawcross’s statements but feel very strongly that any form of vehicle free zones must lead to a genuine reduction of traffic, rather than large scale re-routing down smaller residential or commercial streets.
“In addition, it must be accompanied by a full economic assessments to measure the impact on businesses and the shoppers and workers that travel to the West End every day via public transport,” he said.
Campaigners for a traffic-free Oxford Street have welcomed the plans but Westminster City Council told the West End Extra that “the plans described by the deputy mayor for full pedestrianisation are currently unachievable without significant impact on those who live, visit or run a business in the area.”
Oxford Street is a major route for buses and taxis but private vehicles are already banned from 7am to 7pm except Sundays. Around 270 buses travel along the street every hour and 15,000 taxi passenger are picked up, set down, or carried every day.
Thousands of people live north and south of Oxford Street and despite having the lowest car use in the UK they experience the highest levels of pollution.