Westminster City Council has opened a consultation on some proposals to transform Oxford Street, having put pedestrianisation on hold earlier this year.
Westminster's proposals are a step in the right direction, and the consultation reopens the debate.
However Living Streets is calling for a far more radical approach to tackle the traffic, air pollution and road safety issues currently facing the West End.
We hope you join us.
In November 2017, Living Streets outlined seven key conditions for a successful transformation of Oxford Street:
Since the avoidance of excessive traffic in the neighbourhoods surrounding Oxford Street has loomed large in the Council's thinking, we were looking forward with interest to find specific measures in these proposals.
There are some positive improvements in these proposals, such as at Cavendish Square, but they could be so much more.
We would like to see the surrounding neighbourhoods benefit from traffic restraint. We are happy to engage with the Council, TfL and residents’ groups to develop these ideas into practical plans.
Westminster's consultation is hosted on an online form. It provides the opportunity to comment on elements of the strategy and its delivery.
Below we have provided our thoughts specifically on the transport proposals - as well as a key message we think Westminster needs to hear on each of these areas.
You are welcome to use these in your own consultation response.
Oxford Street is the UK’s most iconic shopping street and most people who visit will walk along it. Pedestrian flows on Oxford Street are at their busiest from midday to early evening when congested and crowded pavements make walking unpleasant and potentially hazardous.
The situation is worse in the summer months and Christmas when visitor numbers increase, and pedestrian numbers are set to increase significantly when the Elizabeth line opens from late 2019.
This is not acceptable, and the Place Strategy makes proposals to improve walking environment on Oxford Street.
We welcome the City Council’s intention to design a pedestrian-focused streetscape, where walking is recognised as the most important form of transport.
Pedestrian comfort can be increased with
However, Westminster's Strategy recognises that these measures may not be enough to address pedestrian safety.
We fully support the reduction, restriction or removal of traffic from key locations at certain times of the day. The best way to test whether such measures displace unacceptable levels of traffic on adjacent residential streets is to trial them first with Experimental Traffic Orders.
If you say one thing...
Bus collisions with pedestrians pose the biggest risk to people walking on Oxford Street.
Travelling by bus is a sustainable and important form of transport in London, but the large number of services operating into and out of the district add to congestion, noise and pollution on Oxford Street.
Vehicles turning between their first and last stop create additional bus movements in unsuitable locations such as Oxford Circus, Hanover Square, Cavendish Square and Cavendish Place.
Whilst there has been some resistance to removing buses from Oxford Street, it is encouraging to see aspirations for bus operation within Oxford Street District which include a significant reduction in the volume of buses on Oxford Street. This is especially important at the busy times for pedestrians.
The Place Strategy suggests a maximum of four services operating on Oxford Street - with the option to reduce this further.
We support cooperation between the City Council and Transport for London to ensure that these changes are trialled as soon as possible and the views of bus users and people who live, work and visit Oxford Street are taken into account.
Bus collisions with pedestrians pose the biggest risk to people walking on Oxford Street, so it is encouraging to see aspirations to significantly reduce bus volume.
Living Streets is disappointed that plans for a traffic-free Oxford Street are currently off the table.
However, we welcome Westminster City Council’s recognition that traffic must be reduced on and off Oxford Street if the environment (eg air quality, pedestrian comfort and safari) is to be fit for purpose in the future.
The chief concern is how to accommodate the expected increase in the number of pedestrians with the opening of the Elizabeth Line without displacing traffic flow onto adjacent residential streets.
We urge the council to trial proposed traffic restrictions by means of Experimental Traffic Orders, this allows adjustments to be made in response to concerns raised by residents and where there is a demonstrable impact on people who live, work and visit the district.
Measures should aim to do more than the bear minimum of reducing traffic flow from midday-early evening.
The council should trial traffic restrictions by means of Experimental Traffic Orders which allow adjustments to be made in response to concerns raised by residents and where there is a demonstrable impact on people who live, work and visit the district.
Too many taxis are circulating Oxford Street District empty while seeking fares. The Strategy suggests that this can be addressed by improving taxi rank arrangements for Oxford Street.
We support the proposal that taxi rank locations should be close to key locations and easy to find with clear wayfinding from Oxford Street and within the district.
We have reservations about the use of rank locations as footways at busy times of the day – this could be confusing, especially for older people or people with disabilities. We fully support the restriction of all vehicular traffic (including taxis) from specific locations at certain times of the day to create a safer environment for pedestrians.
The Strategy states that traffic restrictions affecting taxis will only be taken forward ‘if it can be demonstrated that there will be no significant impact on nearby residential streets’.
This underlines the need to trial solutions by using Experimental Traffic Orders.
In order to remove traffic from Oxford Street without displacing it to neighbouring streets, motor vehicle journeys need to be reduced across the whole district.
We fully support proposals to introduce a 20mph zone and to consolidate freight, servicing and delivery movements.
Our view is that changes to the one-way system, the design of junctions and streets, and the management of the kerbside for parking and loading – including the restriction of all vehicles at key locations ‘for critical times of the day’ – should be tested first.
Experimental Traffic Orders allow solutions (eg the closure of Bank Junction to all vehicles except buses and bikes between 7am-7pm) to be trialled before they are made permanent.
The data gathered allows adjustments to be made for effects that may or may not have been predicted (eg to address rat-running).
The movement of freight and delivery of goods and services (including waste collection) are essential for the businesses and residents of Oxford Street District.
However, the Place Strategy is right to point out that goods vehicles add to conflict on the streets, air pollution and traffic congestion.
We support proposals to work with local businesses, land owners, Business Improvement and Logistics Companies to minimise the number of trips made by goods and commercial vehicles in and out of the district.
Where trips are necessary, we support suggestions that routes are carefully planned (eg to avoid residential streets) and re-timed to avoid conflict when streets are busy with pedestrians or cause disturbance to residents at night.
The use of porterage and bicycles for deliveries and the flexible use of kerb space for deliveries would need to be carefully managed and prioritise pedestrians at all times.
Oxford Street is a dangerous place for pedestrians. Over recent years there has been an average of one pedestrian injured per week.
The opening of the Elizabeth Line will increase the number of people walking on Oxford Street and in the wider district, increasing the risk of collisions. The Place Strategy proposes the introduction of a 20mph zone and associated traffic calming in the district.
Designing streets that give pedestrians priority by reducing vehicle speeds, together with freight management and consolidation, and significant reductions in bus movements on Oxford Street and the surrounding district are moves in the right direction.
Simplifying junctions, widening pavements, increasing the number of controlled crossings and reducing crossing waiting times will help to address issues of pedestrian overcrowding.
We welcome Westminster City Council’s recognition that improving the street environment to encourage walking and cycling and reducing the need for vehicle trips in the district is essential to improve air quality.
Minimising, consolidating and managing the movement of freight servicing the businesses and households in the district is an important element of this approach.
Supporting the adoption of ultra-low and zero emission buses, taxis and private hire vehicles, and commercial vehicles will also be helpful. However, this must not detract from the need to reduce and (in some places and times eliminate) the overall volume of vehicular traffic enabling Oxford Street District’s transition to a low traffic neighbourhood.
Improving the street environment to encourage walking and cycling and reducing the need for vehicle trips in the district is essential to improve air quality
We support the development of a comprehensive partnership management plan for Oxford Street District. This plan will set out arrangements to:
This corresponds to concerns raised through previous consultations. Improving the state of our streets is a necessary step towards creating a more enjoyable place to be for the people who live in, work or shop in the district.
Every place is different and consultation with accessibility groups is crucial to fully understand their needs across the district.
We welcome the provision of wider, less-cluttered footways and places for people to sit and rest. Shelter and accessible toilet facilities also need to be considered. We welcome proposals for many new controlled pedestrian crossings with reduced waiting times and more time for pedestrians to cross the road. Infrastructure designed to stop bus ‘stacking’ (one lining up behind the other rather than pulling into stops) should be used on side streets.
The ‘Materials’ section says pedestrian priority zones and areas for vehicle movement must be clearly defined, and surface materials legible for everyone. This must include kerbs, as well as clear and consistent use of tactile paving (eg crossings, intersections and on stairs) as part of the approach to wayfinding. We support the placement of blue badge parking and taxi ranks close to Oxford Street.
In areas that restrict direct access for vehicle at any time, accessibility must be retained for emergency vehicles. Short range transport solutions such as Shop Mobility should be considered for pedestrians with mobility impairments.
Air pollution on Oxford Street is four-times the legal limit
Once a week
A pedestrian is involved in a collision on Oxford Street
More station entry and exits are expected per day when the Elizabeth Line fully opens in December 2019
Number of people visiting Oxford Street every week
After many years campaigning, with our supporters and London Living Streets Group, we were thrilled that London Mayor Sadiq Khan entered office in 2016 with a manifesto pledge to transform Oxford Street.
Since then there have been two consultations on the proposal to pedestrianise the western arm of Oxford Street - and both came out strongly in favour of the plan.
Nonetheless, in June 2018, shortly after local elections, Westminster City Council leaders released a statement saying that they were no longer in favour of the pedestrianisation of the street.