Will Norman, London’s cycling and walking commissioner, says that bicycles could be banned from Oxford Street once it has been pedestrianised.
In his election manifesto last year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan promised to pedestrianise Oxford Street, with a public consultation on his proposals due to be unveiled shortly.
Appearing before the London Assembly's transport committee at City Hall, Norman said that cyclists could be banned from the busy thoroughfare altogether, with infrastructure instead provided on nearby streets.
You can watch the webcast of the hearing here - skip forward to 32 minutes 30 seconds for it to begin.
With some 270 buses an hour using Oxford Street, according to the London Evening Standard, many cyclists choose to avoid it and instead ride along parallel routes, particularly to the north through Fitzrovia and Marylebone.
Regarding a potential ban, Norman, who took up his post in February, explained: “It’s something we are looking at very carefully in terms of what are the options here.
“Whatever happens, whether they go down Oxford Street or not, it’s really important we provide additional safer routes for access to Oxford Street and that area.
“In Oxford Street in the morning peak there are about 200 cyclists per hour. In Wigmore Street, slightly to the north, there are about the same number per hour, and again on New Cavendish Street and George Street.
"As a combination, they begin to add up, so it’s very important we do look at the cycling facilities in that area as part of that scheme.
“Whether they go down Oxford Street or alternative routes, that is why we do need to do a consultation and understand what the needs are of local residents and other stakeholders.”
Despite its wide pavements, Oxford Street can often be difficult to negotiate on foot and progress can be slow through locations such as Oxford Circus due to a combination of commuters, shoppers and tourists.
The opening of Crossrail in December next year is expected to exacerbate the problem, between 50,000 and 80,000 additional pedestrians forecast to arrive in Oxford Street each day.
For cycle commuters heading to and from the City from Bayswater and beyond, Oxford Street would form part of a natural axis across town from Theobald’s Road – hugely popular with cyclists – or Holborn.
But London Cycling Campaign’s Simon Munk told the Standard that while cyclists would continue from there onto New Oxford Street, they choose not to ride on Oxford Street itself.
“What is really clear is that cyclists are doing everything they can to avoid Oxford Street at the moment,” he said.
“It’s so horrifically unpleasant. But the desire is there. It’s very clear there has to be a really high-quality east-west route.
“At the moment, pedestrians are also getting a really raw deal,” he added.
Liberal Democrat politician Caroline Pidgeon, who chairs the London Assembly transport committee, said she believed Norman’s view was “the right approach” and that any scheme for Oxford Street needed to put pedestrians first.
"Improving pedestrianisation of Oxford Street must definitely include proposals to improve cycling provision in the area, however the case for allowing cyclists on a pedestrianised Oxford Street itself does pose some challenges,” she said.
"It should be looked at, but it might just not be possible to deliver and neighbouring streets may be a better alternative.”
She added: “The number one priority must be to meet the needs of pedestrians of all ages, who must be able to walk down Oxford Street in comfort and safety.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.