What happened when Oslo decided to make its downtown basically car-free?

It was a huge success: Parking spots are now bike lanes, transit is fast and easy, and the streets (and local businesses) are full of people.


[Photo: Åsmund Holien Mo/Urban Sharing]

If you decide to drive in downtown Oslo, be forewarned: You won’t be able to park on the street. By the beginning of this year, the city finished removing more than 700 parking spots–replacing them with bike lanes, plants, tiny parks, and benches–as a major step toward a vision of a car-free city center.

Without those parking spots, and with cars banned completely on some streets, few people are driving in the area. “There are basically no cars,” says Axel Bentsen, CEO of Urban Sharing, the company that runs Oslo City Bike, the local bike-share system. The city’s changes are designed, in part, to help improve air quality and fight climate change, but the difference in the quality of life is more immediate. “The city feels different faster than you can feel the difference in [cleaner air],” he says. “You can see that you’re actually reclaiming the space and can use it for other purposes than parking cars.”

But while business owners initially worried about the city creating a ghost town that no one would visit, the opposite seems to be true; as in other cities that have converted some streets to pedestrian-only areas, the areas in Oslo that have been pedestrianized are some of the most popular parts of the city.  MORE

 

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