It remains one of my most-read blog entries – a quick 2006 post on why Oxford Street without buses is actually very pleasant, and I thought back to it having read that Boris has announced Boxing Day will be traffic free on Oxford Street.
But now, with elections for Mayor of London a little over a year away, isn’t it high time to revisit the issue in more depth?
The basic problem is this: the street is a major shopping street, but is also a major route for buses going east-west. How reconcile the two, also now given new purpose given London’s air quality problems?
The Liberal Democrats developed a reasonably nuanced policy on this in 2005, but that involved a tram running down the street, something that in today’s restricted financial environment there’s going to be no way to achieve. So what could be done?
How about a plan in two parts? The easiest stretch to pedestrianise – permanently – would be between Duke Street and Regent Street, shown here on the map in green, as there are alternative bus routes via Wigmore Street / Margaret Street.
The parts shown in orange are more complicated – as far as Orchard Street in the west and as far as Tottenham Court Road station in the east. Here a partial solution would be to create better, higher capacity bus terminals at each end of the stretch, possibly with a reduced price, special underground fare on the central line between Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road (via Bond Street, Oxford Circus).
Another option would be to push for every weekend to be traffic free, with buses only during the week, and all buses on these routes to be lower-emitting hybrid vehicles?
I’m sure there are votes to be won with this policy, and even shopkeepers could be in favour if it were approached sensitively. Which candidate for mayor is going to be ready to run with this one I wonder?