When a city reaches the limits for traffic growth it’s time to get on yer bike.
Norway’s capital will make a quarter of all journeys in the city on bicycle by 2025, according to a pledge by Oslo’s Bicycle Agency director.
Between the blue and the green lies Oslo. Built in a fjord, Norway’s capital is also two thirds forest. But nature is a constraint for a city that has added 200,000 people to its population in the last 20 years – and expects to do the same in the next 15.
Oslo’s government believes that means the city has to change how it moves. The car era is over. The future is foot, bicycle and public transport.
Rune Gjøs, director at the city’s Bicycle Agency, is tasked with making Oslo a cycle city.
An unenviable proposition when Oslovians are not convinced bicycles are safe in the capital. According to Gjøs, 90% feel unsafe when on a bicycle in the city.
Speaking at the Hackney Cycling Conference earlier this month, Gjøs said improved infrastructure is a priority. The Bicycle Agency intends to increase the city’s cycleways from 190km to over 650km over the next nine years.
“We’re quite impressed by the progress London has made and there will be superhighways in Oslo in the years to come,” Gjøs told New Civil Engineer.
Now is not the right moment for Oslo, but if the city meets its objective for 25% of journeys to be made on bike then superhighways will become viable. For now, 8% are made by bicycle.
“Traditional cycle lanes only separated by markings from car traffic on streets with over 4,000 cars a day and speed limit of 50km/h is a no-no. We will build separated cycle lanes on such streets,” explained Gjøs.
“Also, combining bicycle infrastructure and public transport (buses and trams) proves to be difficult. Mixed public transport and bicycling is not especially appreciated by Oslo residents,” he said.
A bicycle footrest
Source: The Bicycle Agency
Infrastructure does not have to mean complicated changes to streets to have a big impact. The Bicycle Agency introduced footrests for cyclists at junctions.
“They are almost mythical. People tell me they take long routes to work just to use them,” said Gjøs.
So popular are the stands, one broke under the pressure. It was a simple measure to remind the city’s cyclists that planners are thinking about them.
Climate change and intensive urbanisation mean that cities need to find ways other than cars to move their people. Oslo’s ambitions are impressive compared to UK cities.
Birmingham aims to have 5% of all trips made by bicycle in 2023 and 10% in 2033, according to a Sustrans report.
For the UK’s medium-sized cities, Oslo might provide a model for moving from car dominated streets to a mixed transport system.