CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Oxford Street traffic plans divide neighbours

Fears Mayor of London's proposals to combat pollution and road deaths ‘could hit vulnerable’

28 April, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Oxford Street could be transformed as bus routes are diverted and cyclists and taxis are banned

A MAJOR transformation of Oxford Street unveiled this week has divided opinion among residents and campaign groups.

New details about how 23 bus routes could be diverted away from the world famous shopping street have been revealed by the Mayor of London. Cyclists and taxis could be banned from the road and pavements widened for pedestrians.

It’s all part of a new consultation aimed at tackling pollution and road deaths but some groups say the changes would push the problems into their neighbourhoods.

Tim Carnegie, Marylebone Association chairman, said: “We are calling for the Mayor to fix the problems not shift the problems. Pedestrianising Oxford Street in isolation can only increase congestion and cause detriment to an area with a substantial resident population, a large number of schools and many hospitals, clinics and medical practices. These are the people, many of whom are already vulnerable, who will suffer.”

North of Oxford Street Wendy Shillam, who chairs the Fitzwest forum, said: “We think it would cause pollution havoc all across the West End. Those pedestrian deaths on Oxford Street could be magnified on other less suitable streets.”

She said there was still a need for some public transport on Oxford Street, adding: “We would support smaller, green-wheeled, electric buses (or trams) in a diffuse network that includes Oxford Street.”

But Tom Kearney (above), who was put in a coma after being hit by a bus in Oxford Street in 2009, said the proposed changes did not go far enough. He said: “While the reduction of TfL buses from about 260 per hour – over four per minute – to 150 per hour – less than three per minute – will represent an improvement on the dangerous and polluting traffic conditions that have prevailed there for decades, the surge in pedestrian numbers after Crossrail’s opening next year suggests, to me at least, that the Mayor’s positive actions may not be bold enough.”

Living Streets campaigner Peter Hartley also supported pedestrianisation, and said: “It is one of the most dangerous and polluted streets in the UK and citizens are regularly killed and seriously injured in the street. An additional 80,000 people per day will be using Oxford Street once Crossrail opens and their health and safety demands that the street is pedestrianised.”

Colin Wing, of the Westminster Cyclists group, said: “Oxford Street is not very attractive for cyclists and this is reflected in the comparatively small number of cyclists who ride along it. There is therefore a need for a good-quality cycle route along the Oxford Street axis, whether on Oxford Street itself or on parallel streets.”

Taxis, which account for 2 per cent of traffic, could be restricted to night time only. Currently black cabs can access Oxford Street at any time, while private hire vehicles can use it between 7pm and 7am, Monday to Saturday. Numbers of private hire vehicles have nearly doubled in the past seven years – there were around 59,000 in 2009/10 and now there are more than 117,000.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “To ban taxis from providing this essential service would be detrimental to Oxford Street’s position as London’s premier shopping street and encourage shoppers to visit centres that are more accessible.”

A statement from the council’s deputy leader Robert Davis and London’s deputy mayor of transport Valerie Shawcross said: “We recognise there is a road safety problem and air quality in the area is poor. Significant congestion delays passengers using buses and taxis. Unless we take action now, these issues will worsen as London continues to grow, threatening the success of Oxford Street and the surrounding district.”

• Comment by June 18 at: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/oxford-street/

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