Pedestrianizing the largest shopping street in Europe
In one of many radical changes brought around by new mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the next big change heading for the capital will take place on Oxford Street, the largest and most iconic shopping street in Europe.
By 2020, Oxford Street will become a car-free zone, with the ban on vehicles including cars, buses and motorbikes brought about in an attempt to reduce the city’s colossal levels of air pollution. In a 2014 report published by King’s College, London, Oxford Street has the world’s highest concentration of nitrogen dioxide pollution (135 micrograms per cubic metre of air, over 3.3 times the permitted EU maximum of 40 μg/m3).
This is a huge move for the capital, with Oxford Street attracting over 4 million shoppers per week (an annual total of 208 million) across its 300+ stores. A spokesperson from JLL is very much in favour of pedestrianizing one of the most iconic shopping destinations in Europe, saying that mayor Khan’s vision could revolutionise the area: “Pedestrianized shopping streets, if managed well, are a great way to create a place where shoppers want to come, spend time and money, and return”.
By refusing traffic, Oxford Street’s 1.9km stretch will be more accessible for shoppers, with the current set-up meaning that pedestrians are often vying for limited pavement space while queues of heavily congested traffic sit parallel. There has long been discussions that fully-pedestrianized shopping areas are the way forward, with cities that have adopted this more environmentally-friendly method reporting a substantial increase in sales revenue after the pedestrianization.
However, because of the level of disruption that this would cause to such a vital artery in London’s transportation system, Siwan Puw of the London Chamber of Commerce goes some way to explaining why London’s pedestrianization is still four years away: “The huge increase in footfall will require clear planning to maximise pedestrian safety and minimise disruption to businesses…doing it in stages certainly has its advantages in that it means trading will continue more easily, and any issues can be ironed out as we go along”
London is not the first city, nor will be the last, to adopt car-free shopping areas. Oxford Street will join some of Europe’s most well-loved pedestrianized shopping spaces, including:
· Strøget, Copenhagen—Denmark’s premier shopping destination was developed in 1962 as one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets at 1.1km long, and features a mix of high-street and designer retailers like favourites Zara and Louis Vuitton. Research has suggested that retailers recorded a sales increase of 25-49% per year after becoming car-free
· Cologne’s Schildergasse—All over Germany are wildly successful examples of pedestrianizaton, but none moreso than the Schildergasse in Cologne, one of Germany’s busiest shopping streets (with 13,000 people passing through the 500m long street every single hour)
· İstiklal Avenue, Istanbul—Translated as Independence Avenue, this car-free zone (measuring 1.4km in length) is arguably one of Istanbul’s most iconic streets, with the ability to attract more than 3m people per day during the weekend, and features a range of boutiques, international retailers and restaurant