As some of you know, my deep background is in city planning. I got a graduate degree in city & regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill back in the day.
There are many interesting things to learn in that field (look up “induced demand,” for example). I loved it! But there are two fundamental points that don’t take a grad degree to figure out:
- If you make it really easy to drive cars in a city, your city gets a lot less walkable and generally enjoyable for humans outside of vehicles.
- To make a place highly walkable and enjoyable for humans, you gotta put some serious limits on cars.
Oslo is one of the top cities in the world for electric vehicles. Even back in 2017, it was making ginormous headlines with news that 60% of new car sales in the city were plug-in car sales — 40% fully electric and 20% plug-in hybrids. Despite its relatively small size, Oslo is currently the #5 city globally in terms of electric cars on its streets. All of that EV leadership already makes it a clear leader in clean transport and more enjoyable, healthier air for citizens, but the city is taking things a step further (pun not initially intended).
Oslo is moving to boot cars altogether — well, restrict car use within certain areas of the city.
“The city designated certain streets for pedestrians or public transit only, restricted the ability of nonresidents to drive through the center, and removed hundreds of parking spots from city streets while creating designated parking spots for disabled citizens and businesses that require a car,” Jonathan Wolfe of the New York Times reports.
“The plan to get rid of cars in the city center started in 2015, and officials overcame resistance from business owners concerned that a full ban on cars would lead to a decrease in customers,” Camille Fink of Planetizen writes. Yes, always a concern of business owners and almost always backwards — generally speaking, foot traffic is better than car traffic for business. People strolling around in leisure are more likely to decide on a whim to buy something.
As you know well if you’re a CleanTechnica regular, numerous cities and even countries are considering gas and diesel car bans, but some especially bold cities have been banning cars from their centers for decades, and others are toying with the idea or have it baked into coming legislation. Madrid has been making slow progress on the topic at least since 2014. Helsinki indicated years ago it intends to be car-free by 2025.
Actually, parts of many cities are car-free. But, the more, the merrier — if you actually want to make more urban places enjoyable for us humans.