The famous central London shopping district aims to address air quality, pedestrian congestion and traffic. A 150m-long section of Oxford Street, on either side of Britain’s busiest pedestrian junction, is to be closed to vehicles by the end of the year, effectively cutting “London’s high street” in two.
The area around Oxford Circus is to be transformed into two pedestrianised piazzas after years of deliberation. The recent shift in mood around prioritising people over vehicles in cities around the world, has finally tipped the project over the line. Work will start this year and include “significant improvements to the public spaces”, as well as additional planting and seating in the shopping and leisure district, Westminster city council and the crown estate announced.
Schemes like this for Oxford Circus have been mooted for nearly 40 years due to the poor air quality, congestion and busy traffic in the area. It's a case of better late than never.
Westminster city council said the new Elizabeth line would bring in an extra 60 million pedestrians a year, and that 70 percent of people travelled to Oxford Street by underground. Even before the Elizabeth line opens, the roads at the 202-year-old intersection are notoriously difficult to cross with up to 40,000 pedestrians an hour forced to wait for the “green man” signal at Oxford Street and Regent Street.
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said: “The West End has taken a huge hit from Covid over the past 15 months and making our high streets cleaner, greener and more attractive is more important than ever to attract visitors and support businesses. Westminster council’s plans, which will start to give pedestrians priority by closing sections of Oxford Street to through traffic, are hugely welcome and will help transform this landmark location at a crucial time.”