We are Open Oxford Street- an independent campaign to keep Oxford Street open and accessible to all. It was established by the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association and is supported by the Marylebone Association, St Marylebone Society, Residents' Society of Mayfair and St James, as well as a number of local individuals and businesses in the Oxford Street area.
Our campaign was set up in response to Transport for London’s and Westminster City Council’s launch of a consultation on the transformation of Oxford Street. Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that he wants to make the street vehicle-free by 2020. This is deeply concerning to us, and our campaign was set up to ensure that residents, businesses, trade associations and other important stakeholders have a say in the plans.
The pedestrianisation of Oxford Street has been discussed for some time because of the high levels of congestion on the street and the bad air quality. We fully support the principle of reducing pollution and traffic on Oxford Street, but do not think pedestrianisation is the best way to achieve this.
We do not support the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. We agree that action needs to be taken to make the West End a better place to shop, work and live. However, banning all vehicles from Oxford Street will result in traffic increasing in the surrounding area, make the street harder to access, harm local businesses and result in pollution increasing in the West End.
You can view the full proposals here.
In brief, Transport for London and Westminster City Council are proposing to ban all traffic from Oxford Street West 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the long term, however, their plans could go even further: their ambition is for a fully pedestrianised Oxford Street without any vehicle access.
Under the current plans, there will no longer be any buses running on Oxford Street West. More than 170 buses travel through Oxford Street per hour- if buses are banned from the street, these will all have to go elsewhere in the area, and Oxford Street will be far harder to travel to and from.
TfL and Westminster City Council want to exclude taxis from Oxford Street and put in place crossing points and taxi ranks on neighbouring streets. However, this misses the fact that taxis provide a crucial door-to-door service on Oxford Street, and provide travel along the street. According to the Department for Transport, there were an average of more than 6,000 taxis on Oxford Street every day in 2016. If taxi access is restricted, taxis will be forced to move through neighbouring streets.
The consultation talks about wanting to make the West End a better environment for businesses. However, a whopping 60% of local businesses expressed opposition to the plans in the first round of consultation.
Oxford Street is the busiest shopping street in the world. The West End as a whole contributes 3% of the UK’s economy. Pedestrianisation makes it harder to access the world-class shops and restaurants on offer, posing a threat to the local economy. It will also harm independent businesses in the West End by diverting traffic to neighbouring roads and making it harder to receive deliveries. All in all, pedestrianisation will hurt the local economy.
We believe that pedestrianisation will disproportionately harm local residents. As part of the transformation scheme, traffic will be pushed onto neighbouring streets such as Wigmore Street. These areas, such as Fitzrovia to the north and Belgravia to the south, are quiet, residential areas, and residents there will have to cope with worse traffic, more pollution and disruption.
TfL and Westminster City Council talk about improving the air quality on Oxford Street. However, to talk about it in these terms is simplistic. Since the traffic is merely being moved, all the pollution from emissions will simply move with it, resulting in the areas to the north and south of Oxford Street having worse air quality. This isn’t fair to local residents.
Banning vehicles from Oxford Street will likely result in some less pollution on the street itself- although there are other ways to do this, given zero-emissions taxis and buses are increasing in availability.
Pedestrianisation will make it far harder for people with restricted mobility, such as the elderly, people with buggies and wheelchair users, to access Oxford Street. Many people with restricted mobility rely on taxis to access the West End and the shops, restaurants and culture there. Taxis are fully accessible and provide a crucial lifeline for many individuals with restricted mobility, for instance through the operation of Transport for London’s Taxicard scheme. Many people also rely on buses to access Oxford Street. It is especially important to maintain vehicle access to Oxford Street given Oxford Circus and Bond Street, two of the network’s busiest underground stations, have no step-free access.
We believe that pedestrianisation has worrying equalities impacts which cannot be ignored.
Instead of pedestrianisation, there are lots of ways to improve the environment in the West End which fairly balance the different needs of road users:
- Banning non-public forms of transportation from Oxford Street, such as private vehicles, freight and private hire vehicles (PHVs)
- Introduction of shared spaces in sections of the street
- Making Oxford Street one-way for traffic
- Allowing only zero emissions vehicles on Oxford Street
- Introducing more taxi ranks along Oxford Street
- Better enforcement of pre-existing traffic controls restricting private traffic along Oxford Street
- Better co-ordination of construction and servicing vehicles
You can access the consultation here- but it is only running until 3 January so make sure you answer 'No' to question 1 before time runs out.
There are many different ways you can get involved to have your say on what happens to Oxford Street- have a look at our Get Involved page for some ideas.
The consultation is running until 3 January. After the consultation closes, a report will be published by TfL and Westminster City Council which sets out the final plans.
A consultation on proposals for Oxford Street West is expected to start later in 2018.