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Avery proposes rival vision for pedestrianising Oxford Street

Bryan avery oxford street
  • 10 Comments

Bryan Avery of Avery Associates has proposed an alternative to Sadiq Khan’s plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street – by creating an ‘overpass’ rather than rerouting the buses

Avery’s plans are a revamped version of ones he drew up for the world-famous shopping street in 1983. The previous proposal, reported in The Times and The Evening Standard, was recommended for further study by Westminster Council but never received a backer.

His scheme features an ’overpass’ – accessed via short concealed ramps – running from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road, with laminated glass on the underside, and supported by polished stainless-steel columns.

Buses and taxis would drive along the overpass, which would consist of two lanes for traffic and a third for vehicles to collect passengers, while pedestrians would walk along Oxford Street beneath. Lifts and stairs from street level would provide access to the bus stops.

The London mayor pledged to pedestrianise the shopping avenue during his election campaign earlier this year, as part of a strategy to tackle air pollution. Last month Valerie Shawcross, deputy mayor of London for transport, said the plans would be fully implemented by 2020. 

But Avery said the street provided a major route from east to west London, via the centre, and losing that transport link would have a ‘big impact’. He added that there was not enough capacity in the underground, and the upcoming Crossrail development, to remove the buses and taxis. 

According to Robert Davis, deputy leader and cabinet member for the built environment at Westminster Council, there are 75 bus routes along the street and around 270 buses per hour.

Bryan avery crop

Bryan avery crop

Bryan Avery

Avery said that finding different routes for these buses would not provide easy access to the street.

‘Moving buses to either of those alternative routes would place them too far away to serve the street,’ he said, ‘and any intermediate routes through Mayfair and Soho, or Marylebone and Fitzrovia, would be hugely difficult on such narrow streets and would undoubtedly be fiercely contested by local residents.

‘It would also delay and disrupt the bus services even more than they are today.’

Avery said his alternative proposals would also provide ‘brightly lit’ and ‘reflective’ surfaces to ‘bounce the light’, as well as a rain canopy for shoppers. He said that because the plans present difficulties around Oxford Circus – for example, by blocking the view down Regent Street – the overpass could come down via a ramp at this point before going up again. 

He added: ‘The only conclusion I can come to, then as now, is that pedestrianisation is the ideal but if there isn’t another way of replacing or rerouting the 75 bus services then they need to be accommodated within the street.’ 

Westminster’s Robert Davis has told the AJ that major obstacles stand in the way of Khan’s pedestrianisation project.

‘We realised that doing nothing is not an option and had five or six options for Oxford Street which we were modelling with the old mayor,’ he said.

‘The problem is where do you move the buses and taxis? If you move them into, say, Wigmore Street – which is already chock-a-block – then you are just moving the problem elsewhere.’

He added: ‘The new mayor has said the one election promise he can deliver is Oxford Street, but we’ve sat down with him and explained it’s not that easy. He’s looking for a headline and has just said “Let’s pedestrianise Oxford Street” without any knowledge of it.’

Davis also pointed out that the mayor has no legal right to impose his plan on Oxford Street.

He said: ‘It is a Westminster site, so this is like me coming to your home and telling you how to turn your living room around. Residents are also pissed off they’ve not been consulted.’

He said that if Khan tried to change the law to enable him to impose the changes, it would mean missing his own deadline for completing the work.

Meanwhile, Avery’s alternative plans will need a backer before they can be moved forward. 

  • 10 Comments

Readers' comments (10)

  • Did I fall asleep and wake up in the 1960s? What's this nightmare of an idea even doing in 'the news'? Does every horrible suggestion accompanied by a shiny CGI deserve to be heard? The answer to the problem of this street is not to maintain and elevate the traffic while burying the people under its miserable shadow. The answer is to get rid of the traffic. No bus spotter or 'iconic' taxi fancier is going to convince London otherwise.

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  • I agree very much with Peter Kelly's comment above. That render misleadingly suggests a roof that is only a few millimetres thick.

    What happened to Jan Gehl's Oxford Street scheme?

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  • Ah..would that we could just get rid of the buses in Oxford Street at the snap of a finger (which I'd love to see) but unfortunately, for better or for worse, they're now an essential part of London's transport system and without buses people of limited means will still need to get from one side of the city to the other and go to work or go shopping there. The question I've posed is simply that if the buses cannot be removed or redirected, as I suspect they can't, how then can the city's transport needs ever be met? Without a solution to that question, and I haven't yet seen one, this is an answer. It may appear radical but its not really, the Romans and Victorians built huge numbers of such structures, as did the Americans and the Japanese even have one street in Tokyo with a motorway running at first floor along its length with shops underneath and you're totally unaware its there. Its all a question of design isn't it?

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  • Why have buses on this route when there could be next generation autonomous vehicles for this part of the routes that currently utilise this route.

    Michael Mutter

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  • Maybe its because the street once had cars in it and like personal autonomous vehicles they don't have much passenger capacity and the street was clogged.

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  • Caseya

    Has this been thought through? looks like an oxford St Byepass with no signs of getting off for pedestrians off Buses or drivers of cars wanting to shop. Oxford Street shops would surely die with only the Underground users attending

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  • Yes, the point of the exercise was to see whether the street could be pedestrianised whilst keeping the buses there to serve it. It would be virtually impossible I'd have thought to add the capacity of 270 buses an hour to an already overcrowded tube system so there would be bus stops at every point where they are now, accessible by lifts and stairs, and the carriageway would widen there from two to three lanes to allow through buses to pass.

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  • According to the TfL 'spider' bus maps for Oxford Circus and Bond Street there are 13 routes along Oxford Street as far as just short of Marble Arch - and it's difficult to see where Councillor Davis gets his 75 routes from.
    Nevertheless, there are lots of buses, and some routes go out considerable distances, eg. to Willesden, Acton, Hammersmith & Streatham.
    The figure of around 270 buses an hour - 9 buses every 4 minutes in each direction - sounds about right, and the wide dispersal of destinations combined with the high volume of traffic might seem to make buses the only option, but I wonder if trams (which can shift a far greater volume of people than buses can, and are pollution-free) might be a viable and architecturally harmless alternative, at street level, in a pedestrianised environment.
    Finances would dictate a gradual shift from buses to trams if the route network remains as existing, but I wonder how much Crossrail (and, in due course, Crossrail 2) will alter traffic flows?
    As for taxis, there are questions of pollution and of the ongoing challenge of Uber to the traditional London scene - as well as the potential for trams to provide a more civilised travelling experience than buses.

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  • Councillor Davis is certainly right that its a difficult problem. Trams may have the capacity but it would still require an awful lot of them and they'd be nose to tail in both directions.

    I'm not sure either that given the particular pattern of behaviour in the street with large numbers of people whose eyes and minds are on the shops and crossing from one side to the other, that this would be a very safe option. The rails are trip hazards and the trams, if rubber tyred, might be too quiet to heed in time.

    In addition they would also need to stop at every north-south crossing street with consequent delays to the service and the back-ups would undoubtedly cause difficulties for pedestrians trying to cross there because the trams are so very much longer than buses.

    Furthermore, unless the trams replace every one of the bus routes across the entire city there would need to be somewhere to change from a tram to a bus and that could result in a very big interchange somewhere close to the ends of the street and offhand I can't think of any site there that wouldn't be hugely contentious.

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  • Could it be that we Brits have a rather insular attitude to trams? - steel wheels on steel rails are not totally silent, trams have bells that are less intrusive than car horns but give plenty of warning, and I've never thought the tracks to be trip hazards.
    In fact the greatest criticism in Edinburgh (a long way after that of the incredibly bungled construction project management) was from cyclists, who needed to learn to avoid crossing the tracks at too oblique an angle.
    Those countless European (and a handful of English) cities where pedestrianised streets see people and trams coexisting satisfactorily surely demonstrate the feasibility of the concept, and in central Melbourne Swanston Street carries 10 routes through varying degrees of pedestrianisation and traffic management - easy to see on Google Streetview.

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