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Confusing New Diagonal Criss-Crossing on Oxford Street

BY Boon Koh
Published 6 November 2009

Along with millions of other Londoners, I’ve been grumbling about the building works that have been going on right above Oxford Circus tube station, at the extremely busy junction where Oxford Street meets Regent Street. Now, all has been revealed as the new Tokyo-style diagonal pedestrian crossings have been installed at the 4-way junction.

Oxford Street diagonal crossing 2 I was on a bus traveling down Oxford Street this Sunday, and managed to get a glimpse of the new style X-crossing, and on first impressions it looks much better than the old design. Gone are the ugly railings at each corner, which have been completely removed to give the whole junction a very open and free look. However, I’m still not sure if this new system will help to alleviate the crowding problems at that junction that is endemic on weekends. Certainly the diagonal zebra crossings might alleviate it a bit, but it really is just a case of too many people and not enough sidewalk. I suspect that the crowds will spill over the curb onto the roads, where there might be more accidents or road rage as car and bus drivers lose their cool at random tourists walking across the Oxford Street – Regent Street junction.

The new scramble crossing was unveiled today by London mayor Boris Johnson, who hit a gong to signify the Japanese origins of this design. The criss-cross system was designed by Atkins, in what Boris Johnson described as a “triumph of British engineering”.

Oxford Street diagonal crossing The new X-crossing will allow pedestrians 30 seconds to cross the road diagonally, while all the traffic lights are red in all directions. It was modelled on the similar Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, Japan. At peak periods, up to 32,000 pedestrians per hour pass through Oxford Circus, the intersection of Regent Street and Oxford Street.

Whether it will work or not will only be seen after a few months of observations. The suspicion is that this “pedestrian scramble crossing” across the road should be effective, but only amongst Londoners or those who knows how it works. Visitors to London might confuse the zebra crossing for a pedestrianised road, and not realise that after 30 seconds the lights will turn green and red London buses will be rushing towards them!