Car free Oslo!

Oslo may not be the largest European city, but it is taking big strides to improve the lives of its 650,000 residents.

The Norwegian capital has made the bold decision to go car free in the CBD in order to combat decreasing levels of physical activity and increasing levels of pollution.  The City is investing heavily in its public and active transport networks, and repurposing areas previously used for car parking. Temporary pop up spaces are being trailed before being made permanent, and space is now freed up for playgrounds, outdoor dining and bike parking.  

Of course, there are exemptions to the car free zone, with some permitted vehicles including those for emergency or delivery purposes. There are also exemptions available for the elderly or disabled.

Despite it being so cold in Winter that most public works maintenance must occur in the Summer months, the City believes that it can successfully reduce car trips into the CBD and simultaneously improve the quality of life for residents and visitors. As a recent visitor to this city, I enjoyed exploring by foot, and can verify that it’s working. Although there are some teething problems, it seems residents are happy to think differently about transport, and embrace driving less to enjoy the large scale benefits it brings. 

The reduction of cars in the CBD is supported by the surrounding streets, where traffic speeds are low and walking and cycling are prioritised.
The reduction of cars in the CBD is supported by the surrounding streets, where traffic speeds are low and walking and cycling are prioritised.

Oslo is taking the lead in supporting citizens to increase their incidental activity levels, and reduce their reliance on private vehicular transport. Is it time Australian cities started to think outside the box to end our reliance with cars and make healthy urban life the priority?

The reimagining of Oslo is consistent with much of the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Active by Design guidance, particularly Movement Networks. Healthy Active by Design supports integrated and connected waking, cycling and public transport routes,  a public realm that supports interaction across the community and lower traffic speeds.

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Laura Oakley is a Senior Coordinator Heart Health (Active Living) at the Heart Foundation.

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