Lonely Planet Writer

London’s Oxford Street to become a pedestrian-only area within four years

London’s worst polluted street – Oxford Street – will become a pedestrian-only area within the next four years. This follows the city mayors pledge to seriously tackle the serious air pollution problems in the centre of the British capital.

Oxford St is one of London’s busiest shopping hubs with over four million visitors attracted to the area each week. The shopping nirvana, is described by Time Out, London as both a “hellish thoroughfare”and “an air pollution blackspot” that is something of an obstacle course for shoppers even before belching taxis and buses are thrown into the mix.

The Guardian reports that in order to avoid disruption the switch away from vehicular traffic will take place in two stages along the famed 1.2-mile shopping stretch.

According to the city’s deputy mayor for transport, Valerie Shawcross, the intention is to prohibit motor traffic from a stretch of Tottenham Court Road to beyond Selfridges and Bond Street’s underground entrance. However, it would be the eastern section from Oxford Circus onwards that the traffic ban would be introduced first.

The switch to pedestrianisation in the Oxford Street area will be linked to coincide with the opening of the Crossrail east-west train line in the capital.

The Times reports the move as part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s commitment to reduce air pollution problems in the city. As part of this new crackdown he has signalled a new charge on vehicles which cause most pollution to the area.

At present the only day cars are allowed on most of Oxford Street is on Sundays. Otherwise, they are banned from 7am-7pm every other day. However, the area is still an extremely busy thoroughfare for taxis and buses.

A massive headache for the authorities is how to handle the bus traffic with 168 vehicles using the street every 60minutes.

Because there is a high residential rate in the areas streets, diverting routes would only add to rather than ease the hourly congestion.

The Deputy leader of Westminister city council, Robert Davis accepts that this is “a major problem” confronting them.