Cities plan to ban cars downtown

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Norway’s two largest cities, Oslo and Bergen, are considering banning conventional gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles from entering their downtown areas. The goal is to set up zero-emission zones by 2025.

Gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles wil no longer be allowed in downtown Oslo, if the city's top politician in charge of climate-and environmental issues gets her way. Motorists in Bergen are also likely to face a ban on conventional vehicles. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles will no longer be allowed in downtown Oslo, if the city’s top politician in charge of climate- and environmental issues gets her way. Motorists in Bergen are also likely to face a ban on conventional vehicles. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported over the weekend that the Conservatives-led city governments in both Oslo and Bergen have adopted strategy plans that call for use of only low- or zero-emission vehicles in the city center.

The move would force major changes on not only the city’s own population but all commuters who still drive their cars to work in the city. Taxi and delivery vehicles would also be affected by the new rules.

“We’re supposed to cut our emissions in half by 2030, so we have to start now,” Guri Melby, the Oslo politician from the Liberal Party (Venstre) who’s in charge of environmental issues, told DN. She’s aiming for pilot projects to begin within the next two years: “Our ambition must be to put in place our first low-emission zone in 2017-1018.”

‘Bergen took the initiative’
Oslo’s downtown area “is a highly probable zone, both because we have major problems with air pollution and because there are many people who are downtown,” Melby said.  She pointed out that the downtown area also has the best public transport alternatives to private cars.

In Bergen, the top city politican in charge of climate and environmental issues, Henning Warloe of the Conservative Party, is also ready to ban conventional vehicles from the downtown area.

“It was in fact Bergen that took the initiative to be the test community for this a few years ago,” Warloe told DN. He and Melby lobbied the parliament for permission to set up emissions-free zones, with the parliament in turn asking the government to make them legal.

Toll alternative
Bergen will put its plans out to hearing in August and they’re expected to include new tolls for driving into town that would be even higher than those already in place. Melby in Oslo is also open to allowing those with “gas-guzzling” cars to drive into downtown for a period, but at a much higher toll than today. Oslo was among the first cities in the world to charge tolls for driving into downtown more than 20 years ago, but then the goal was simply to reduce traffic congestion and build up funds for road improvements.

The plans to ban the vast majority of vehicles from downtown predictably have met skepticism from opposition parties. Carl I Hagen of the conservative Progress Party called the initiative a result of “climate crazies” who may manage to get it past the city government, but not the city council. “If the goal is to improve air quality, I’m willing to evaluate it, but what will it cost to reduce (pollution), and by how much?” Hagen queried. “We need to be realistic. I don’t go in for this kind of force.”

Melby was adamant. “It won’t be forbidden to own a car in Oslo,” she told DN, “but the goal is that you use it as little as possible.” The proposal will be up for debate this fall.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • jamesnorway77

    Oslo was among the first cities in the world to charge tolls for driving into downtown more than 20 years ago, but then the goal was simply to reduce traffic congestion and build up funds for road improvements.

    Yes and there is still traffic congestion and the roads are still crap so the tolls have done nothing this is all about making more money! and what are the trades persons supposed to do when all their equipment they need to do a job is in the back of their vans but there not allowed to bring them downtown or they have to pay crazy money ? customers will have to pick up the bill meaning prices will rise. Also it will become very expensive to get anything delivered downtown.
    Again another hair brained idea not thought through properly.

  • Ja_ja

    This move is far from being progressive, and intended only to generate money and making driving even less affordable. Norway is/has turned the car into a luxury item, only affordable to the rich and wealthy of society. I wish I could afford a car, because I would like to drive around this pretty country, or go away somewhere on weekends, because Oslo is incredibly boring (especially once you’ve been here a few years) and for all the other practicalities of when you need to go to the shops, namely Ikea, and other stores where it would be nice to have a car, instead of paying 500 – 1000 nok delivery charges (while in the rest of the developed world, stores compete with free delivery as standard!).

    Oslo kommune has persecuted drivers, with stupid fines for parking to close to a zebra crossing, toll, and stupid planning which has stopped the flow of traffic (thinking Carl Berner ring 2). Stupid politics, while in the middle east they build their 8 way highways (the US too) and other countries which keep the traffic flowing and business ticking over.

  • Andy AUS

    Staggering what the Norwegian government get away with. They must love to pat themselves on the back. Just unbelievable.

    • frenk

      Bizarre….with all the Norwegians driving to Sweden to shop…..no one talks about the air pollution this causes…..?

      • Andy AUS

        Haha, so true.

        Such a self serving political policy. The tiny population of Norway apparently saving the environment.

  • Dennis Inegbedion

    Maybe it would have been a better move, if palliatives are put in place before wielding the hammer.