Oslo scraps bid for car-free city

October 24, 2016

Controversial proposals to ban cars from Norway’s capital have been shelved after complaints from residents and businesses.

The policy retreat highlights the difficulties that will face other cities in Europe which have proposed tough limits on vehicle access.

Initial phases of the plan in Oslo had seen street parking removed in favour of bike lanes, but private cars would have been banned altogether in future years.

Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, head of environment for the city government, said it would still work to have the ‘fewest cars possible’ rather than zero cars, but she added that change would be introduced over a longer timescale.

Residents said the recent swift removal of parking spaces was making life difficult for those without off-street parking, while businesses said proposals to impose restrictions on cars entering the city centre were discouraging trade.

City officials have apologised for a lack of communication after they removed 500 street parking places to make room for bicycle lanes, trams and dedicated bus lanes, as Oslo’s public transport systems expand.

Watered down restrictions which limit access to areas of the city, but stop short of a ban, will be phased in by the end of 2018. The city council will then review the impact on air quality and make a decision on next steps.

If officials deem there is still too much private car traffic, some streets may be blocked but not to vehicles which are delivering goods.

Berg told Aftenposten: ‘This is a process. Nothing on a scale like this has been done before in Oslo. The goal is for the city to function better.’

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