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Oslo city center [Photo: http://www.malinikaushik.com/]

Oslo – first major city to ban motor vehicles in city center

Oslo city center [Photo: http://www.malinikaushik.com/]
Oslo city center [Photo: http://www.malinikaushik.com/]
In 2015, Norway was voted the fourth happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report.

And for environmentalists or those who prefer a motor-vehicle-free city, Norway may just make them a little bit more happy in 2019.

Oslo, the country’s capital, has announced that it is imposing a ban on vehicles in 2019 in the city’s central district.

Yup. A total and permanent ban.

The area involved has about 1,000 residents but about 90,000 people commute to the city center.

Oslo would be the first capital city to impose such a ban, although others such as Paris and Madrid have imposed temporary bans in the past.

Following the municipal elections in the capital city in September, where the Labour Party and its allies, the Socialist Left and the Green Party, won, the coalition had presented a platform focused on the environment and the fight against climate change.

According to Reuters, new legislations will ban all private vehicles from entering central Oslo, with only special cases allowed — for example, vehicles carrying someone with a disability.

"We want to have a car-free center,” said Lan Marier Nguyen Berg, lead negotiator for Norway's Green Party in Oslo. “We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists ... it will be better for shops and everyone.”

The city’s move is aimed at cutting greenhouse gases significantly, and it follows Norway’s recent announcement that it is divesting from fossil fuels, becoming the first capital city in the world to commit to go fossil-free.

Some businesses are, however, concerned about Oslo’s announcement, that it will harm their business, and that 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centres are in the planned car-free zone.

But the city says trucks delivering goods to business will be exempt from the restrictions.

The city also plans to build 60km worth of bicycle lanes within the next four years and invest more heavily in public transportation. It will also subsidise the purchase of electric bicycles and reduce automobile traffic over the city as a whole by 20 per cent by 2019 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Oslo itself has a population of 600,000 and about 350,000 cars, most of which are based outside the city center.

One of the happiest countries in the world may just get a little more happy in the years ahead.