Oslo Decides To Ban Cars From City Center

Who's next?

Oslo

Oslo

Rikard Fröberg/Flickr CC by 2.0

Oslo might be building bee highways, but when it comes to human highways, they're shutting them down.

By 2019, no private cars will be allowed into the Oslo city center. They're not quite tearing up the pavement to install a natural paradise; trams and buses will still be available to help Oslo residents get around, and a network of bicycle lanes will expand dramatically. But the change will be big, restricting the city's estimated 350,000 cars to the suburbs and beyond.

Cars powered by fossil fuel-guzzling combustion engines produce emissions that go straight from the tailpipe into the atmosphere. Those emissions contain pollutions such as nitrogen oxides, which can cause smog or acid rain and generally lower the local air quality--a health concern for people with compromised respiratory systems. Also, anyone with lungs.

Of course, there are ways for cars to reduce emissions, but those environmental controls are not universal, as we recently saw with a certain cheating scandal. {Cough} Volkswagen {cough}. Electric cars don't produce emissions, but they still take up space in the streets. So, in order to make the streets more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly and reduce pollution from cars, Oslo is getting rid of cars entirely.

Other cities in Europe are also making the attempt to eliminate or reduce cars in city centers.

In 2014, high levels of air pollution inspired the French government to dramatically restrict the numbers of cars on the road in Paris, only permitting cars with license plates ending in odd numbers to drive the streets. (Even numbers got the run of the road the next day.) The measure was so successful that last month Paris decreed an entirely car-free day, banning all vehicles that weren't taxis or emergency vehicles. Even though only certain parts of Paris were affected by the ban, pollution levels in the city dropped by 20 to 40 percent that day.

Reducing cars to reduce pollution isn't an idea limited to Europe. Today, New Delhi, a city that has long struggled with air pollution, began instituting voluntary car-free areas on high-trafficked sections of highway. And Beijing, another notoriously polluted city, has seen blue skies when cutting the city's volume of cars in half.