While Americans cruise crowded parking lots like buzzards, vying for the spot closest to the entrance, holiday shoppers in London’s West End are taking to the streets–and leaving their cars at home.
Mayor Ken Livingstone declared December 2nd "Very Important Pedestrian Day," and shoppers came out in droves to stroll major city streets that had been completely closed to traffic. The closures hardly hampered sales–over one million shoppers spent more than 100 million Euros in a single day, marking a dramatic increase over regular sales. Artists, carol singers, and street performers replaced cars and blaring horns on Oxford, Bond, and Regent Streets, three of the city’s busiest shopping areas.
From the BBC:
"What it will create for the shoppers is a fantastic freedom to move," said Jace Tyrell, from the New West End Company — which has organised the event. "Shoppers will be able to take over the streets and have a more festive fun atmosphere to enjoy Christmas shopping in the West End."
The grand success of this first-time car-free Holiday is encouraging to Livingstone, who has big plans for a future with fewer cars, a cleaner environment, and an improved quality of life for Londoners.
Livingstone told The Evening Standard:
"It has become a major event in London’s calendar in the run-up to Christmas [and] shows us all what the West End will be like in 2013 with traffic removed and the streets turned over to the pedestrian." The success of the event has strengthened the view of many analysts that the West End is heading for a record Christmas even if high streets elsewhere in Britain are experiencing lacklustre sales.
The New West End Company developed the 2013 Business Plan to capitalize on the international attention that will be focused on London for the 2012 Olympics. Carectomy-friendly initiatives include reducing traffic to increase pedestrain space, more traffic-free events, and a dedicated transit system for Oxford Street.