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Norway’s capital will be a car-free zone by 2019

Oslo is pushing forward with plans to become the first European city to permanently ban cars from the city centre, it has emerged.

The Norwegian capital’s newly-elected city council said a permanent and comprehensive ban of cars will be enacted “by 2019”.

Over the next three years the new council – comprised 59 elected representatives from the Labour Party, the Greens and the Socialist Left – will build around 37 miles of cycle lanes and increase spending on public transport.

Lan Marie Nguyen Berg of the Green Party told Reuters: “We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone.”

There are fears disabled people who rely on access via cars will suffer, but the council said buses and trams will still be allowed inside Oslo and that other “arrangements will be found” before the ban is implemented.

Local businesses have expressed concerns, too, due to the fact 11 of Oslo’s 57 shopping centres would be in the car-free zone, making life more difficult for shoppers. It is also unclear how business deliveries would be handled.

Norway has committed to reducing air pollution by 2020, an aim that will see nitrogen oxide levels drop from 162,000 tonnes in 2013 to 156,000 in 2020 and ammonia levels from 27,000 tonnes in 2013 to 25,000 tonnes in 2020. It has already met its sulphur dioxide target.

Given Norway is a big fan of electric cars, a more eco-friendly approach to Oslo is hardly surprising. But then it has more freedom to do so, given its relatively low population of 650,000 inhabitants and 350,000 cars.

Oslo could become the first European city to go car-free but it is by no means the first in the world. Mackinac Island in America (home to 500 residents), just off mainland Michigan, has been free of cars since 1898.

Meanwhile London mayor Boris Johnson is working towards the capital’s first ultra-low emissions zone.

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