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Oslo prepares for ‘war on cars’

New Mobility News, 25 September 2018
Oslo, with its 675.000 inhabitants, is preparing for ‘a war on cars’ and ‘is seriously violating freedom’, critics in the Norwegian capital say, now city government is forcing the car – including the electric one – more and more out of the city centre. “We have to give the city back to the people, to let children play in security and let elderly people find a bench to sit on”, Hanna Marcussen, ecologist and in charge of urban development, says.

Although the car won’t be banned totally as envisioned previously for 2019, Oslo has taken a number of measures to discourage car drivers, like abolishing 700 parking spaces, transforming streets into pedestrian zones, ensure that crossing through the city centre becomes impossible and by raising the city congestion tax.

Including electric cars
As a result, traffic – including the in Norway very popular electric vehicles – has been reduced in dribs and drabs within a zone of nearly two square kilometres in the heart of the city, where 5.500 people actually live and 120.000 come to work every day.

“By 2020 we will have got rid of private cars, except for those of disabled people”, Marcussen says. Instead outdoor cafés start to flourish, as does street furniture, bicycle paths and bicycle stations. Being named ‘Green capital of Europe’ in 2019, Oslo counts on purifying its air and limiting CO2 emissions, even by 95% by 2030.

‘City will die’
However, not everybody is happy with this in Oslo. “What’s most sad in this war on cars is that the politicians responsible for this are taking on freedom of people and their wallets”, says Jarle Aabe, who is the driving force behind the Facebook blog ‘Yes to the car in Oslo’, followed by 23.000 members.

“People are afraid that the city will die and become a sad environment”, Aabe says. “I don’t know whether the cyclists will be so happy and dance in the streets when it freezes minus 20°C in January and the snow comes up to their knees.”

6 euro for bus ticket
So far cyclists seem to enjoy themselves. “This will be great”, Christopher Olsson, a photographer who always uses the bike, says. “Conflicts between cars and cyclists have vanished but when they ban the car totally, they have to improve public transport, both in quality and price.” At a price of 6 euro for a ticket, public transport, which is often plagued by delays and malfunctions, remains expensive in Oslo.

Today, more than half of the Norwegian capital’s population is believed to be in favour of ‘the least possible cars’ in the city centre but some local businesses have already closed their doors, saying their clients don’t come anymore and start to do their shopping at the outskirts of the city in shopping centres.

City’s morphology will always change
“Car or no car, the city centre’s morphology will always change in time”, Hanna Marcussen argues. She is convinced of the opposite. “If there is one environment where local businesses can thrive, it’s the city centre, where one can combine shopping, cultural events and going to the restaurant.”

Oslo prepares for ‘war on cars’