Oslo’s newly elected city council will ban cars from the city by 2019. The center of the Norwegian capital will be completely car-free, with limited access for services, plus full public transport for getting around.
“We want to have a car-free center,” said the Green Party’s Lan Marie Nguyen Berg at a press conference. The ban is part of a proposed plan for the city to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2020.
Cars will still be allowed in the outer parts of the city, where most people live. In addition, delivery vehicles will be allowed to do their job. The city’s press conference didn’t cover the mechanics of the ban, other than promises of new bike lanes (37 miles), subsidies for electric bikes, and defining the area it covers.
Banning cars from city centers has benefits aside from the reduction of emissions. Fewer cars also mean less noise pollution and a more pleasant environment for the majority of people. But the announcement, from Oslo’s new leftist coalition, has already gotten the knees of local businesspeople jerking.
“The proposal has sparked concerns among local businessmen, who noted that 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centers are in the planned car-free zone,” reports the Guardian. But these concerns are probably unfounded. In Rome, a study found that banning cars led to a rise in business, not a drop. Pedestrians could cross roads without being molested by traffic, and the absence of parked cars meant they could actually see storefronts.
And in New York, a city agency found that bike lanes and pedestrianized plazas led to a “boom in retail activity.”
Berg agrees. “We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone” she said. And it won’t stop there. Berg’s council wants a city-wide reduction in cars, outside of this initial central zone.
“In 2030, there will still be people driving cars,” she said, “but they must be zero emissions.”