Sadiq Khan promised during his campaign to pedestrianize Oxford Street. That would mean no buses or taxis (black cabs, which is to say traditional London taxis, not mini-cabs or Uber), which are the vehicles allowed there now.
I’ve been ambivalent about this plan because there are a lot of buses on Oxford Street and it’s not clear how they could be re-routed, yet a pedestrianized Oxford Street would be a terrific improvement for central London.
In November, the first installment of the plan was unveiled in a Transport for London (TFL) consultation. TFL proposed changes to 17 of the bus routes that now use Oxford Street, perhaps this year. They calculate that these changes will require, every weekday, 17,200 riders who now ride through would need to change buses – that is if, with that added inconvenience and delay, those people keep riding buses at all. That represents a serious deterioration in bus service, but it’s not close to taking all the vehicles off Oxford Street, and actual pedestrianization remains a few years off.
One might say, well, baby steps. Yes, you’ve got to start somewhere, but why here? The fact is that a large share of the motor vehicles on Oxford Street are black cabs. Many of these taxis are dead-heading, no passenger, to the City or a train station. As buses thin out on Oxford Street, they are simply replaced by taxis – the road becomes a magnet for ever more taxis, a grand rat run through the West End. And the November consultation is all about reducing the number of buses, saying nothing about taxis. Continue reading