Ever since the big announcement carried worldwide in 2015 that Oslo, Norway's new progressive city government planned to make the downtown car-free by 2019, I immediately put it on my list of places I wanted to go and see what's up. And that only got more intriguing a year later when following that fanfare, there wasn't a ton of news or documentation updating us on Oslo's progress towards its amazing goal. So in fall 2016 I went- not knowing if I'd find if progress was slow or fast, and how much I could show visually.
First off, it is a lovely, clean city. It already features some nice blocks of car-free or car-light pedestrian zones which are heavily populated even late at night. And I knew it was a good sign when I stepped off the bus from the airport a block later and I stumbled upon construction of a new rail line.
Oslo is certainly on its way, and even skeptics seem to know going at least as car-free as possible is inevitable. Besides it being a great environmental goal for the city and to manage growth, Oslo is one of - if not the fastest - growing city in all of Europe. However, the biggest factor is that the air quality in Oslo and many places in Norway is deteriorating. Due to inversion in winter it can be dangerous to the public and keeps vulnerable children and seniors restricted indoors.
Oslo is aiming to reach its goal on many fronts. The city has been aggressively removing car parking and by the end of 2017, they expect to no longer have any on-street parking in the city's core. All new developments are required to be built car-free. Ruter, the transportation authority for Oslo, is planning on absorbing all new city population growth in addition to the task of converting current drivers to ride buses, trains and trams. Car share systems are beginning to dominate as more families want to live near the city without a personal vehicle. Oh, and there's this nifty plan to help people pay for electric-assist cargo bikes!
The city's bike share Oslo Bysykkel has recently been completely overhauled in favor of better stronger, lighter system with more stations and better interactivity system. You can actually unlock your bike by smart phone as you approach the station, just take it and go. I've never seen anything like it! Of the 26 bike share systems I've ridden, I'd say it is in my top three favs.
Bike lanes are also being built or upgraded throughout Oslo. Here you will not find ample Copenhagen-style protected bike facilities, but thanks to the on-going car parking removal it creates the opportunity for many wide, red-painted curbside lanes. Despite lack of true separation they feel rather safe and unlike a similar style that might be tried in the U.S., you will not find cars parking in the lanes. Over four days I probably could count on one hand the number of cars I saw sitting in the lanes.
Momentum is certainly on the city's side and an already great city will one day be fantastic for walking, biking and transit. Will they go completely car-free? Will they do it by 2019? We will find out in a few years. So sit back and listen to a diverse group of voices I got to interview, including Oslo's charming Mayor Marianne Borgen talk about the philosophy of why all this is being done and the implications for a better Oslo in years to come. Enjoy this movie. It is one of my favorite and an important one for the future of the planet.