Oxford Street needs to be re-designed – as an urban landscape this time

Oxford Street Urban LandscapeThe traffic lanes in Oxford Street have been narrowing for 40 years, with the sidewalks being widened and regularly re-paved. Use of the street by private vehicles is restricted and use by diesel-powered commercial vehicles is increasing. Last week the Evening Standard reported that ‘Traders today said urgent action was needed to slash traffic levels after a report revealed Oxford Street has the highest levels of a toxic pollutant in the world. The mayor is facing demands to reduce the build-up of the “wall of buses” after a monitor installed by scientists showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide – linked with asthma and heart attacks.’
The solution should be ‘NO HALF MEASURES’. Creating a ‘good shopping landscape’ should be the 100% priority. This will require (1) pedestrian movement to be prioritized (2) electric vehicles only to be permitted (3) far more planting (4) the use of glazed canopies over sidewalks should be encouraged.
I am happy to point to Nanjing Road Shanghai 南京路 as an example of how Oxford Street should be managed.
The problem, of course, is what to do with the buses and taxis? My answer is that they should be progressively excluded from Central London, to be replaced by underground trains, small electric vehicles and bicycles. Taxis are likely to be electric powered before long – because a Chinese company is now making the black cabs and this is its plan. Buses carrying passengers on long-distance journeys should be excluded from the central zone. Travelers can use non-polluting vehicles to reach the fringe of the zone and then continue their journeys by other means. These policies are related to Colin Buchanan’s proposals for Traffic In Towns but modified in response to the increase in London’s population, the growth of cycling, the availability of electric vehicles, the need for fuel economy and a better understanding of the health risks arising from noxious pollution. The Wiki article on Oxford Street has attractive photographof the street in 1875 and its progressive debasement.

5 thoughts on “Oxford Street needs to be re-designed – as an urban landscape this time

  1. Christine

    I am in favour of streets – and in particular Oxford Street! London is famous for its streets, Harley Street, Fleet Street, Carnaby Street [ http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m2izrypltI1qi2lslo1_500.jpg ] etc (although Carnaby street is already pedestrianized). [ http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-_KF6p4yIpoo/T14nJnMx7QI/AAAAAAAAAmc/Co2lIVWFMNM/s1600/lemon5.jpg ] Is this the best solution? [ http://lesenfantsterribles.adrianstern.com/Carnaby%20St/1967%20Christmas%20Carnaby%20Street%20(3).jpg ]

    At Southbank in Brisbane with the creation of the urban parklands they recreated streets which had ‘disappeared’. Perhaps the better solution would be to change the fuel source of the very famous red double decker London buses which everyone loves and copies?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Planners speak as though they believe cars to be bad and all public transport to be good. This has let some public transport become bad, notably diesel taxis and buses. They are big dirty bullies, so far as pedestrians and cyclists are concerned. Electric power would help with the dirt but not with the other problems. I heard a cynical taxi driver being questioned about whether he thought, with the Google navigation system, London would become a city of driverless cars. He said cycling was advancing so fast that there would soon be no cars anyway. If electric bikes become popular, as in China, he may be right about Central London.

  2. Christine

    ps. anyone who has ever played Monopoly has their imagination sparked about the mythical quality of the streets of London!

  3. Christine

    It is a shame car stylist (designer) was one of my career interests! I am not sure that I am wanting a carless world or even a carless London.

    Cycling is great. But in a very postmodern way I am advocating for both! (Are you planning on abolishing the famous NY yellow cab too?)

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could all live happily together somehow?

    On the plus side perhaps a carless/busless London would be a place with less IRA type opportunities?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I share your interest in car design but do not see private cars as being of much use in city centres.
      Re London, I like the look of buses and taxis but, as a cyclist, dislike them. My present reason for being anti-car is simply that I am pro-cyclist and think British cyclists get much too small a slice of the roadspace and the transport budget (blog post to follow).


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