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Posts tagged "Oslo"

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Oslo: The Journey to Car-Free

In 2015, the newly elected city government of Oslo, Norway, announced its intention to make the downtown car-free by 2019. I immediately put it on my list of places to check out for Streetfilms. Last fall I made the trip, not knowing exactly what I'd find.

There are a number of reasons Oslo is looking to shift away from driving and get cars out of downtown. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, and leaders see more efficient streets and transportation as essential to managing this growth. But the biggest factor is that air quality in Oslo and many places in Norway is deteriorating. In winter, especially, air pollution from diesel vehicles can reach dangerous levels and keep vulnerable children and seniors restricted indoors.

Oslo already has car-free blocks and car-light pedestrian zones that are full of people even late at night. And I knew it was a good sign when I stepped off the bus from the airport and immediately stumbled upon construction of a new rail line. But to make such a large area car-free entails going above and beyond a few projects here and there -- it takes a comprehensive strategy.

So Oslo is working toward its goal on many fronts. The city has been aggressively removing car parking, for instance, and by the end of 2017, expects to no longer have any on-street parking in the city core. Off-street parking is also being addressed -- all new developments are required to be car-free.

Ruter, the local transportation authority, plans to absorb all travel growth with buses, trains, and trams in addition to shifting some current car trips to transit. Car-share services are beginning to proliferate as more people go without a personal motor vehicle. Oh, and there's this nifty plan to help people pay for electric-assist cargo bikes!

Bike lanes are getting built or upgraded throughout the city. You won't find ample, Copenhagen-style protected bike lanes yet, but the on-going removal of car parking is clearing space for many wide, red curbside bike lanes. Despite the lack of true protection they feel safe, and unlike in the U.S., you will not find cars parking in them. Over four days, I probably could count the number of cars I saw blocking a bike lane on one hand.

The city's bike-share, Oslo Bysykkel, has recently been completely overhauled with more stations, better bicycles, and a more convenient user interface. You can unlock your bike by smart phone as you approach the station, just take it and go.

Will Oslo's city center go completely car-free by 2019? Momentum is certainly on the city's side. So sit back and take in these scenes of a city making ambitious changes to its streets, as well as interviews with public figures like Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen, who discusses why reducing the footprint of cars is so important to the future of her city. I hope you enjoy watching this Streetfilm -- I think it carries important implications for other cities around the world.

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In Oslo, the Bus Experience is Efficient & Simple for Riders

While in Oslo shooting a Streetfilm on the city's ambitious plans to become as car-free as possible for 2019, I got to interview Frode Hvattum, Head of Strategy for Ruter. I asked a quick question about Oslo's amazing efficiency in having frequent train and bus schedules, but especially about how most City Center buses have three or four doors for boarding and also how the ease of using cell phone apps for proof of payment helps riders get on the bus quickly.

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Observations from Oslo

Every since last year's announcement that the city of Oslo, Norway was attempting to make its city center car-free by 2019, I knew that it had to be a Streetfilms destination this year. It did not disappoint. As usual I got to interview a quality mix of residents from Oslo's new Mayor Marianne Borgen to owners of Oslo Velo's bike coffee shop to the night clerk at my hotel who was a big fan of the city's decision to go as car-free as possible.

I think you'll love what I got. You can expect a moderate-length Streetfilm from Oslo sometime near the end of September, but until then I have a few other extra bits to share, some tangentially related to the story. The above video is excerpted from my excellent interview with Frode Hvattum, the Head of Strategy for Ruter (Oslo's transit agency) and in the background of the interview I saw how quickly buses load/unloaded in the downtown. And since we have been partnering with TransitCenter on a number of Streetfilms, I just had to ask about it.

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The above photo is me riding with Sverre Landmark, who works as Market Director at Aspelin Ramm, a large developer of responsible urban spaces and properties.  People usually assume that I have lots of free time while traveling to do all sorts of sightseeing and take in plenty of culture. That's mostly not the case. But this time I did get one nice treat when Sverre took me on a bike ride from the city's reservoir system (only 8km from the city) down the Akersevla River, many refer to it as "Oslo's Central Park."

Likewise, I got to have a bit of fun while shooting video at the top of Oslo's Opera House which turns out to be one of the most magnificent public spaces I've ever been to. Here is a very short bit on my hike up, as you can see the view is lovely.

Oslo has a great new bike share system which translates to City Bike. It's their second such system and much like Washington, DC on their second try, they really got it right. It's a wonderful bike. Light, steady and an incredible density of docks and bikes in the downtown core. Everyone is biking about the city using them. The phone app for it is nothing short of incredible, while approaching the dock you can sign in and reserve a bike as you are walking up. Seriously, until I knew that's how it worked I thought people were going up and just stealing whichever one they wanted!

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By the way, Oslo's City Bike was my 24th city bike share ridden in the world. Earlier in this trip I also got Malmo (22nd) and Copenhagen (23rd). I will hopefully be adding Vancouver (25) and Seattle (26) in September. Now I'm not sure if that makes me a world leader, but surely I must be a viable contender! I have two close friends (Aaron Naparstek and Ian Dutton) who have entered the low 20s as well.

Please check back often, so much more coming this Fall!