Yesterday, the ever popular #Freewheeler made an excellent post regarding Oxford St in London being rather full of motorised traffic. What struck me of course was that he ended it
If you want to know how Oxford Street could be civilised, go to somewhere like Nice. Or even Liverpool.
It took me a while to figure out where the civilised part of Liverpool might be found, it was even more remarkable when I realised he probably meant the pavement in front of Primark!
Strangely though he is probably right. Take a look at this photo of Church St in the 1920s
The delightful old-timey charm, the hustle and bustle of the pavements the trams, almost New York like, remarkable to think this is a scene my grandparents would have recognised.
It is entirely reasonable to think that today it should look something like this…
…like Oxford St.
Yet the truth is that at some point further back than I can remember, probably in the 60s or 70s when the motorcar was really becoming hegemonic, some bright spark bravely countered that wave of hegemony by making Church St a pedestrian area and today it looks like this…
It’s full of shops and people and buskers and street dancers and artists and Christmas markets. Nobody would ever dream of turning this back into a road, yet local authorities seem so scared of turning roads into pedestrian areas. All it requires is a little vision and bravery, some people will grumble for while, but soon enough people won’t be able to imagine it any other way and the idea of giving it over to cars will seem absurd.
It makes me wonder why smaller towns and villages are so worried about limiting access by car and limiting parking, when in my experience it seems to be at worst a neutral act and often a beneficial one. The nearest car parks to Church Street are each 250-300m away, probably far further than a car park would be relative to a pedestrianised small town or village. The minor extra inconvenience of getting there is counteracted by the pleasure of being there.
*Riding bicycles permitted in the pedestrianised area before 10am and after 4pm, grumble, grumble.