By American standards, Oslo, Norway, is already a bike paradise. Eight percent of commuters ride a bike, more than in Portland, the most bike-friendly large city in the United States. But in less than a decade, Oslo plans to more than double that to 25%. Its latest tactic to achieve that goal: giving residents cash for new electric cargo bikes.
The program pays as much as $1,200 toward the cost of a new bike (electric cargo bikes range between $2,400 to $6,000; the city is paying for up to 25% of the cost per bike). Two hours after the city announced the grant on February 1, all of the individual grants ran out. Funds for companies and housing co-ops, which have more requirements, are still available.
The city wants to get more residents to try electric cargo bikes, which can handle Oslo’s hills while carrying children or groceries.
“Some people have cargo bikes in Oslo, but a lot of people don’t know what they are and what they can do,” says Liv Jorun Andenes, who works on bike projects with the city’s environmental agency. “For many people, this is an unknown concept or product. By giving funding, [the city] could give those bikes a push into the market.”
The city ran a similar program last year with electric bikes, and a study found that people who got support from the grants increased their biking by 30%.
The grants are a part of a much larger push to encourage more biking. “What we’re working on at the moment is to build a coherent, well-maintained grid of bikeways throughout the city,” says Andenes. By 2025, the network will include 50 new miles of bike lanes.
As bike infrastructure grows, cars will be pushed out. Over the next few years, the city will remove more than 1,000 parking spaces to make space for new bike lanes. By 2019, cars will be banned from the city center.
Even without the infrastructure fully complete, biking is quickly growing. Between 2015 and 2016, bike traffic in Oslo increased 18%. “Just a couple of years ago, what you saw when you saw people riding a bike, you saw these sporty types in spandex riding fast and a long distance,” says Andenes. “For most people, that’s not transport, it’s a workout.”
Now that perception has changed. Bike businesses catering to commuters have also grown, and the new grant is likely to help.
“For cargo bikes, several shops have popped up in the city in the last year, so that’s starting to catch on too,” she says. “Maybe with this campaign it will really be a tipping point.”