We will get what we build for
If we make cities easier to walk in, then more people will walk. We can induce demand for walking in much the same way we induce vehicle traffic on to our streets if they are given over to cars.
Pedestrianising Oxford Street is an opportunity to create a first-class place all Londoners will want to visit, including those arriving on public transport and those who live close by.
Oxford Street is formerly the northern limit of the old city of Westminster and the southern boundary of Marylebone. Today the neighbourhoods of Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Mayfair and Soho continue to see Oxford Street as a hard boundary. But it should be a valued asset, somewhere to shop, stop and even play for people from both near and far.
All major candidates to be mayor of London in 2016 promised to pedestrianise Oxford Street. Despite forming a world-famous retail destination, it is one of the most dangerous roads in London in terms of deaths and serious injuries, as well as one of the most polluted streets in the country.
Were now seeing plans set out to make the pedestrianisation happen. And the bold decision to remove vehicles 24 hours a day is fundamental to encouraging safe walking at all times.
The nightmare scenario of 300 buses an hour pushed onto adjacent roads has proved to be false, with comprehensive central London bus remodelling to avoid this. Similar claims about private vehicles are being used to argue that this project to dramatically increase levels of walking in the city should not go ahead.
If were serious about reducing levels of congestion and air pollution we must provide alternatives. Supporting plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street will create a place for all Londoners to enjoy, but more importantly it will say to the world this is a walking city.
This piece originally appeared in CityMetric.