Oslo Will Be Car-Free by 2020

Oslo has announced plans to ban cars from the city center by 2019 to reduce greenhouse gases by 50%.

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Oslo Opera House

Photo by Wojtek Gurak

This past Monday, the city of Oslo, Norway announced plans to remove cars from the city centre by 2019 in hopes of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

The city council – made up of the recently elected Labour Party and their allies the Green Party, and the Socialist Left – hope that this will be the first comprehensive and permanent car ban in a European city. Several European cities have introduced temporary car bans in the past, including London, Madrid, and Paris – and although it was short lived, Paris found it to be huge success in reducing smog and generally increasing well-being.

Oslo has taken the idea of a car-free city and run with it. The city council presented a platform focuses on a concentrated fight against climate change. The proposal raised some concerns among local businessmen, who worry for the 11 shopping malls which are located inside of the car-free zone.

Although the municipality did not include details on how the car-free transition will be implemented, they did provide insights on additional steps to improve transportation in the city. There are plans to build over 35 miles (56 km) of bicycle lanes by 2019, subsidize the purchase of e-bikes, and substantially increase investment in public transportation.

According to the city, buses and trams will continue to run throughout the city center, and there will be preparations made for cars servicing disabled peoples, as well as for the transportation of good to stores. Although it is estimated only 1,000 people reside in the city center, approximately 80,000 people commute their for work.

Despite the success of the Paris car ban (though only for one day), introducing a complete and permanent ban within the city requires a lot more planning and forethought, and the city is not taking it lightly; The Oslo city council with be holding consultations, studying the experiences of other cities, and as well conducting trials runs. Their hope is that the city center car ban will result in the reduction of automobile traffic in the city as whole by 20% in 2020, and 30% by 2030.

While some people are having doubts as to how the car-ban will work and how the economy of Oslo will be affected, what we do know is that with the investment in bicycle infrastructure, they can expect happier and healthier residents, and, very likely, a stronger economy.

We are very encouraged  by of Oslo’s commitments to healthier and more sustainable future, and are looking forward to more cities making the same bold decisions.

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