Londoners Will Be Given A Pavement Fast Lane In Oxford Street Shake UpJuly 28, 2010
London is great for many reasons, but Oxford Street isn’t one of them. It’s dirty, super crowded (don’t even think of going there at Christmas time) and it’s skanky. But plans are afoot to make it a fabulous place to shop. The New West End Company have a vision of bringing Oxford Street to a level rivalling the shopping streets of New York by 2020. Plans include a Japanese-style diagonal crossing at Tottenham Court Road, like the one we currently have on Oxford Circus, a reduction of buses and the widening of pavements, which brings me to the one proposal that had me, as a Londoner, jumping up and down with super glee.
The pavements would be divided in two: half would be shop side for the tourists and dawdlers (the slow lane), and the other would be kerb side for people who want to get somewhere the same day and not next week (the fast lane). I tend to go down the back streets anyway to keep my blood pressure low; nevertheless, when I do try and negotiate the badlands that is Oxford Street, I’m confronted with large tourist groups taking up the whole pavement space, so I find myself in the road playing chicken with a bus. Or I have the pleasure of slamming into a person as they stop dead in front of me. Better still, I’m walking, and I say this advisedly, behind a line of teenage girls (and it usually is a line of girls) who spread out along the whole width of the pavement leaving no space to pass through, shuffling one foot in front of the other at an excruciatingly slow pace, leaving me with no choice but to play with the traffic once again.
This idea isn’t new. I believe it was proposed around ten years ago, but I think this time it’s being seriously considered. Although it fulfils my fantasies of actually being able to move around my own city, I know it would be impractical in terms of enforcement. I also have no doubt that someone will cite human rights and civil liberty issues regarding restricting people’s right to move where they please. Still I can dream. In the meantime, I will continue to use the back streets. It’s safer that way.