Just been looking at this excellent historic film. http://youtu.be/VhSXNr4_hUA
“Its one of the world’s busiest thoroughfares….” That’s around 1964, two lanes in each direction, people dodging the traffic in much the same way as they do today. But where has all the traffic gone?
Now it’s mainly buses and taxis, white vans and the occasional rogue car. Pedestrians throng the pavements particularly between 11am and late in the evening, far more than they ever did in the 1960’s. Soon they will be joined by millions more each year as Crossrail delivers its passengers at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. Will the street be able to cope? – Some of the time maybe but not all and so big changes should be debated now not left to the last minute. Already major building works for the construction of Crossrail stations has closed down parts of the street for extended periods with diversions, so the experience of reduced traffic flows will not be new. More work has been done from Oxford Circus heading towards Tottenham Court Road and no doubt will follow soon.
In the 1990s the street was largely reconstructed from Orchard Street to Oxford Circus, largely funded by the City of Westminster with some private contributions from the likes of M&S, Selfridges, Grosvenor, Land Securities and John Lewis. The key argument then to persuade the Council to invest in what was a major redesign extending footways but up to 50% in width and closing side entrances to traffic, was the promise of substantial contributions from private landlords and frontagers. This time though these organisations may already be contributing towards Crossrail. So a different model for funding will be needed.
Oxford Street is a busy well connected street running through the heart of the West End. Complete 24/7 pedestrianisation is not an option and is not needed. But a project that re-balances the space for pedestrians and essential public transport is needed and now is the time to get planning.