Europe’s busiest shopping street is also the world’s most polluted
Oxford Street is undoubtedly the king of all high streets. Steeped in history, bathed in international renown, there’s a reason why the people’s princess, Cheryl Cole, bestowed her presence upon the masses to turn on the Christmas lights in 2014.
However, London’s consumerist jewel is not in good condition. Sure, Debenhams, John Lewis, Selfridges and the House of Fraser continue to tower over the congested streets, as they have done since time immemorial, but the glory of Oxford Street has declined in recent years.
This is chiefly due to the overwhelming abundance of buses and taxis that are like clots in the arteries of this narrow street.
Their diesel engines, combined with the high buildings on either side, have turned the street into a noxious trench through which choking consumers must navigate.
Indeed, such is the scale of the toxic smog, that pollution levels breached the EU’s entire annual legal limit just four days into the new year.
But a new sun could rise on Oxford Street, as all of London’s mayoral candidates are now backing plans to completely pedestrianise the street.
Credit for the idea must go to unsuccessful Labour mayoral hopeful Christian Wolmar, who made the policy his headline offering, and it was subsequently adopted by his party colleague Sadiq Khan – Labour’s winning candidate.
But the idea has now also been taken up by the Conservatives’ candidate Zac Goldsmith, who today said he would aim for “greater pedestrianisation of major squares and shopping streets, in particular Oxford Street” as part of a vow to “do everything necessary” to make cycling in London safer, the Evening Standard reports.
However, Goldsmith’s support is conditional. Over 270 buses pass through Oxford Street every hour, and Goldsmith said that any changes must have the support of businesses and of TfL.
Speaking to the Stop Killing Cyclists group, Goldsmith said: “Clearly whatever changes are brought in need to take account of local businesses and the bus network.”
Goldsmith’s support means that all four main mayoral candidates are backing a pedestrianised Oxford Street, as the Green Party’s Sian Berry, and Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon are also on board.