cycling infrastructure

Oslo: A Cycling Rising Star?

Intern Michael Dyblie explores the cycling infrastructure in Oslo, which has improved dramatically in recent years as the city makes a serious push towards sustainable mobility.

As someone who has lived the majority of the last two years in Norway, city cycling here is a work in progress. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still steps above my hometown in Southern California, but it definitely leaves something to be desired after spending several months in the Netherlands with Mobycon learning about, working with, and using the remarkable cycling infrastructure here on a daily basis. However, the situation in Norway is changing— and changing rapidly— and perhaps nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the capital region of Oslo.

Due to dedicated investments and planning following the introduction of a dedicated Bicycle Strategy in 2015, the City of Oslo has made significant progress towards increasing cycling. Bicycle traffic has grown by 77% between 2014 and 2020, with a corresponding increase (from 9% to 28%) in the number of citizens who feel that cycling in Oslo is safe.

These figures are likely to rise even further as Oslo continues to implement its latest street design guidelines, passed in 2020, which put greater value and priority on the density of the city’s pedestrian and bicycle network connections.

Oslo’s Bicycle Strategy (2015) aims to increase the modal share of cycling from 7% in 2018 to 16% by 2025. And the situation is improving rapidly: to achieve its mandate to build 100km of cycling infrastructure between 2020 and 2023, the city has sped up its annual construction from 1.5 km/year to over 15 km/year. Oslo was even ranked as the 7th best cycling city in the world by the Copenhagenize Bicycle Friendly Index in 2019, a significant improvement from 19th place in 2017, as a result of these efforts.

Even more astonishingly, the city achieved a critical milestone in 2019: zero pedestrian or bicycle fatalities. This was thanks to these design and policy changes prioritizing safety for vulnerable road users. Through the removal of 760 on-street parking places, a new driving pattern to prevent through-traffic, and reallocating of car-free areas for new uses to increase city life car traffic has been dramatically reduced in the city centre. Presently, this has made for a safe and spacious cycling environment, without having to build a lot of expensive new cycling infrastructure. This is well-demonstrated in a recent video on the same topic by urbanist Youtuber NotJustBikes.

Figure 5: Recently policy changes in Oslo, leading to wide streets with very little vehicular traffic (Source: NotJustBikes)

As one commentor under this video declared, “Public Transport being too good for bikes is such an amazing problem to have.” Nonetheless, with a transit mode share of 30% across the region, and even over 60% in the city centre, this remains one of the primary problems that the city is facing if they want to reach their proclaimed cycling mode share goals. As I learned in a transportation class in NTNU, taught by someone also actively working in Oslo’s mobility, transport planners there are struggling with the challenge of not having these modes, compete with, but complement each other.

Winter cycling schemes and bike sharing services have been rolled out recently with great success. Continued and expanding winter maintenance of cycle routes, and bike sharing services that work in tandem with transit, strategically places bike hubs next to transit stops (kind of like a Oslo metro version of OV Fiets) would, I think, go a long way to make this rising star, a true cycling city.