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
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.