Boris enters the X Factor…

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Boris enters the X Factor...

Posted 2 November 2009 22:38 by martin

[Update Dec 3: BBC now reporting that both John Lewis and Westminster Council want to see a dramatic decrease (c.40%) in the number of buses on Oxford Street – TfL aiming for 20% fewer by end of 2010]

… into London's Oxford Street at least.

No, we've not got the great blond mop-head wailing 'Baby hit me one more time' on ITV of an evening (more's the pity), but today he did open a new diagonal pedestrian crossing at Oxford Circus.

And just look at it:

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Hats off to TfL and their partners for making this happen.

It's remarkable to see the pedestrian get the upper hand at a junction that has been little short of hostile to walkers up until now.

But (you could probably sense the 'but' coming…) why has it taken until 2009 to make it happen?  Pedestrians have been treated scandalously at Oxford Circus for decades – crammed into narrow guardrail-lined spaces hopelessly ill-suited to the great mass of shoppers descending on the area every day.

And the scandal continues.

DSC00247

Oxford Street remains a noisy and inhospitable environment, reeking of diesel fumes and clogged with nose-to-tail queues of buses.

Improvements have happened – wider pavements, better street furniture – but in a list of premier shopping streets in European cities, Oxford Street must languish near, or at, the bottom of 'great places to be'.

London's transport, planning, commercial and political leaders continue to show a lack of vision for the area – a truly radical transformation that sees the introduction of trees, sculpture, performance, fountains (why not?!)…  Things to delight you – there is nothing remotely delightful, friendly or inspiring about Oxford Street.

It needn't be full pedestrianisation, but it's got to involve a major rethink of the buses – currently they are part of the problem, not the solution.

Yes, it will be difficult.  Changing bus routes and timetabling will be fiendish.  And you've got to ensure that the removal or restriction of traffic from one area doesn't cause gridlock in another.

But considering we've put men on the moon and split the atom you'd hope this wasn't beyond us.

So Boris, cut the “this project is a triumph for British engineering” hyperbole.  It's a bleedin' diagonal pedestrian junction.  And there are already 1000s of them around the world.

It's certainly an improvement, and it's great to see it happen, but there's a hell of a lot more to do.

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Comments

  1. Alan Barclay-Devine says:

    November 27th, 2009 at 7:04 am (#)

    As Oxford Circus is circular the crossing cannot be a diagonal. It must be a diameter crossing

  2. Barbara Fantham says:

    November 30th, 2009 at 4:29 pm (#)

    I was in New Zealand in March this year and in Auckland's version of Oxford street, there are diagonal crossings at many junctions. The traffic lights are just sequenced in the pedestrians' favour during crossing and then the sequence is re-set to allow the traffic to flow freely across the junction. There is no fancy paving as per the new Oxford Circus layout, so I am at a loss as to why TfL & partners had to spend money on unnecessary cosmetic changes. I appreciate that the population of Auckland is tiny compared to that of London but the planners obviously had the good sense to instigate diagonal crossings for the benefit of their citizens before increased traffic levels became a problem, unlike London, which has just let the problem get worse.

  3. Nic Wing says:

    December 2nd, 2009 at 10:57 am (#)

    Have you used the crossing?

    I was there with my kids 10 days ago in the throng of a Saturday lunch time. It's only a matter of time before someone gets killed!

    There is no way to know, when crossing diagonally, when you are safe to cross. No lights nothing! I set off twice thinking the traffic had stopped and had to beat a very hasty retreat.

    It's a death trap, get some walk/don't walk lights up quick Boris!

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