Amidst the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference, numerous cities announced questionably large goals to reduce carbon emissions. However, Oslo, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Madrid, have backed their goals with concrete plans for extreme traffic regulation, ranging from a car-free city center in Oslo to free public transportation in Madrid.
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Norway currently boasts three World Rally Championship drivers (second only to France), all of considerable pedigree, yet its capital city of Oslo is planning to remove cars for good. Along with the proposal to ban cars is the plan to build 37 miles worth of bike lanes by 2019 and a new system for handicap bus services and delivery vehicles. In a bid to reduce pollution, Reuters reported, politicians in Oslo said they want to be the first European capital to implement a comprehensive permanent ban on cars. With a population just under 650,000, Oslo has around 350,000 cars with most owners living outside the center but inside the city's boundaries. Emulating Paris' one day-a-year car ban, Oslo is bucking a trend many fellow European cities are following. Currently Brussels is trialling an eight month traffic circulation program involving the pedestrianization of its boulevards meanwhile the old cities of both Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia are completely car free. Shop owners in Oslo, though, fear the plans will hurt business, though it is worthwhile noting that the city is not banning all vehicles, so delivery trucks and the like will be allowed. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, lead negotiator for the Green Party in Oslo has said "We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone." The plan also outlines the need for significant investment in infrastructure, most notably in public transportation that will have to support the growing number of users. Trials will be run after authorities investigate precedents in other european cities where plans have so far been a success. Aside from a marked reduction in pollution, the change will also make the city a much more appealing place for pedestrians and cyclists, something which the authorities are not alone in trying. According to Gemini, researchers from Scandinavian group SINTEF claim that much needs to be done about Norway's noise problem which is responsible for 150 deaths a year.
The roster of cities across the world going car-free is growing, joining Paris, Stockholm and Dublin
The concept of car-free city centers is fast spreading throughout Europe as increasingly gridlocked thoroughfares render the private car intolerable. Brussels, Belgium, has announced the development of pedestrian boulevards in its city center—with a ban on cars effective from June 29, 2015—where the city will stage recreational and cultural activities throughout the summer. A new traffic circulation plan will be test-driven, literally, for an 8-month trial period, during which the city will submit a request for an urban planning redevelopment permit. In the meantime, expect the development of eight distinct temporary spaces to enhance the appeal of a car-free city—from a welcome space with picnic tables, a dedicated area for rollerskaters and bikers, a stage at the Place de la Bourse, and a game area for kids at the intersection of Marché aux Poulets street. Stockholm, Sweden, well-reputed for having Europe’s highest share of clean vehicles, will host a one-day car ban on September 19 to galvanize citizens to envision life in the city without four wheels. Automobiles will be barred from the streets of Gamla Stan, the partially pedestrian “old city” of Stockholm, to the perpetually thronged Sergel’s Square, as well as roads around the central station and some of the city’s surrounding bridges. The ban is the Stockholm's contribution to European Mobility Week, a project by the European Commission that seeks to promote sustainable transportation. Over 200 cities will participate this year, touting various green initiatives. For instance, Ridderkerk, in the Netherlands, will hold Groene Voetstappen from September 14–18, during which children will be expected to walk and cycle to school. Meanwhile, Mosfellsbær, Iceland, will start a widespread distribution of bike maps, create new bike trails near Mount Esja and Reykjavik city, and launch a pilot project offering tourist bus services between the main attractions of the municipality. Appetite to reappropriate the roads has spread even to Mumbai, where car-free Sundays on a scenic, oceanside road are a much-anticipated affair on roads that are ordinarily lethal to cyclists and pedestrians, some of them lacking sidewalks and choked with vendors or parked cars. Given the proliferation of cities subscribing to car-free ideals—even those lacking public transportation networks sufficient to replace the private car—New York City’s passivity on this front becomes even more stark. On June 18, Mayor de Blasio announced a ban on cars at Central Park north of 72nd street and the West Drive of Prospect Park starting June 29 and July 6 respectively, but these vehicle scale-backs are minor in comparison, especially for one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the USA. New York does set aside half a Sunday three times a year for its popular Summer Streets event where Park Avenue from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park is temporarily shut to cars. This year's event kicked off over the weekend with a large slip-n-slide in Foley Square among other attractions.