It seems impossible to someone living in the United States, but Norway’s done it. Speed limit laws and reducing the very presence of cars in the city center and downtown areas have resulted in a very aggressive, downward trend of traffic-related fatalities in the Nordic country’s capital city. There was only one traffic-related death in Oslo in all of 2019. Amazing.
No children were killed in traffic in Norway last year, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported. Anders Hartmann, who works as an adviser at Oslo’s municipal authority department for environment and transport, also tweeted there were no pedestrian or cyclist fatalities, either.
The only person who died last year, according to Aftenposten, was a man whose car crashed into a fence in June.
This sharp decline is due to the fact that Oslo heavily regulates places where people are allowed to drive and has set strict speed limits. The city is also very friendly towards cycling and walking.
Communications adviser Christoffer Solstad Steen at Trygg Trafikk, the Norwegian Council for Road Safety, told the outlet:
“The risk of accidents between motorists and cyclists has been reduced. The more you separate the different road groups, the less the risk of serious traffic accidents. And then we see that the speed limit has been lower on several roads.”
Researcher Rune Elvik from the Norwegian Department of Transport Economics also agrees that lower speed limits are one of the main causes of fewer traffic deaths in Oslo. He said:
“There are several factors that have contributed to the decline in both Oslo and elsewhere in the country. Lower speed limits in the buildings and less transit traffic in the residential areas are some of the reasons for this in Oslo. By developing new areas today, motorists and soft road users will have their own road network. In addition, the cars have become much safer over the years. There are also fewer people driving with a drink today. All this has contributed to the decline in the figures.”
Erik Grønli, a traffic officer with the Oslo police department, chimed in and blamed drivers who “take greater chances, drivers who drive faster” for car accidents. Using a mobile phone while driving, which is illegal in Oslo, is also a problem. So, just because the trend is positive, Grønli doesn’t believe the police should relax.
“The traffic picture in Oslo has become more complicated with more and more cyclists and electric park cyclists. It is important that we are present to prevent accidents,” he said.
In 2015, Oslo planned to permanently ban cars in its city center by 2019. And it seemed to work very well, according to Fast Company. The city successfully removed over 700 parking spots at the beginning of last year and replaced them with bike lanes, plants, little parks and benches. From the story:
A few spots are left, converted into parking for disabled drivers or EV charging, and some streets are open for delivery trucks for a couple of hours in the morning. Emergency vehicles still have access. But other drivers have to park in garages, and traffic restrictions help nudge drivers who don’t need to go through the city center to take a ring road around it instead. In a new zoning plan, the city is taking its intentions further, giving pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation greater priority than private cars, and planning a network of pedestrian zones that are fully car-free.
To help people get around, the city also increased the number of trams and metro lines, adding more frequent departures and lowering the price of tickets. If you’ve ever been stuck in downtown gridlock, I’m sure this all sounds wonderful.
You can read the rest of the Aftenposten story here.