oslo-compressed Photo: The United States Army Band/Flickr

Commuters in Oslo will soon be trading in four wheels for two. The Norwegian capital plans to ban cars from its city center in four years, while investing heavily in public transportation and the construction of 60 additional kilometers (37 miles) of bike lanes.

Oslo’s newly elected city council, made up of the Labour Party, the Socialist Left and Green Party, made the announcement during a press conference on Monday, October 19th. The ban will affect an estimated 350,000 car owners, and is part of a bigger proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half.

The plan will reduce noise pollution and make the core safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Delivery vehicles and cars transporting disabled people will be permitted to operate in the area, and bus and tram routes will run as usual.

While 90,000 people commute to and from the city center, only about 1,000 Oslovians reside there. To encourage the use of public transit, the city will also restrict certain lanes to electric vehicles and increase the price of metered parking and on-street permits.

Business owners have expressed concern about the new plan, as 11 of the 57 shopping centres are located within the car-free zone. However, studies show that banning automobiles leads to increased revenue for businesses.

Oslo’s ban on private cars is the largest initiative of its kind. Madrid’s car-free zone, which launched in January, stretches for 500 acres. Only those who live within its borders are allowed to drive in it — others are subject to a €99 fine. In September, Paris held its first ever car-free day, banning automobiles in 30 percent of the city. Nitrogen dioxide levels were reduced by a whopping 40 percent in some areas.

The Oslo council will unveil a comprehensive plan for its car-free zone after consulting with experts and observing how other international cities have implemented similar measures.

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