Police estimated that nearly 4,000 people took part in noisy and even hostile demonstrations in Oslo Wednesday evening, first in front of City Hall and then in front of the Parliament, to protest a recent sharp increase in tolls for driving into the city. They called the new high tolls of as much as NOK 59 (USD 7.50) “an environmental bluff.”
“We’re not against measures to protect the environment or save the climate,” one organizer of the protest, Cecilie Lyngby, told state broadcaster NRK. She also stressed that most motorists are willing to pay fees on their cars and for the emissions they generate.
“But we’re against the drastic increase of the tolls,” she said. They nearly doubled during the commuter rush hours on October 1, in a political move to discourage people from driving to work. The tolls are especially high from 6:30 to 9am and from 3-5pm, and highest for those driving diesel-fueled vehicles.
“This has created a real gash in the private economy of many families,” Lyngby told NRK. She thinks the new high tolls should have been phased in over a longer period. “Then folks would have had time to buy an electric car and set up recharging stations,” she said. “These high tolls have consequences for many.”
The demonstrators vented their anger especially at the Labour- and Greens parties, even carrying posters with photos of Greens politicians that labelled them as “Environmental Nazis.” The Greens won government power in the City of Oslo along with Labour and the Socialist Left in 2015 and have since spearheaded projects to remove hundreds of parking places on the streets, raise parking fees and limit street parking time to just two hours, impose high road tolls and block streets to vehicles, all moves aimed at reducing emissions and improving air quality in Oslo
The higher tolls, meanwhile, seem to be working, with fewer commuters using their cars to get to work. Demonstrators chanted Nå er det nok (Now it’s enough) to voice their frustration over what they view as the city’s battle against cars while many top politicians still drive to work themselves. Website Nettavisen recently ambushed city politicians including Mayor Marianne Borgen of the Socialist Left and Geir Lippestad of Labour driving their own cars into city officials’ parking garage under City Hall, where they can park for free. Lippestad appeared chastened on camera, while Borgen was irritated and asked Nettavisen’s photographer to stop filming.