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Oslo saw zero pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019. Here’s how the city did it.

Reducing the number of cars reduced the number of traffic fatalities.

Oslo has managed to virtually eliminate traffic deaths by making its downtown car-free.

Imagine a city the size of Washington D.C. going an entire year without any pedestrians or cyclists being killed on its streets. That’s exactly what happened in Oslo, where officials reported this week that zero pedestrian or cyclist fatalities occurred on the city’s roads in 2019.

City data for the Norwegian capital, which has a population of about 673,000, show a dramatic reduction in traffic fatalities, from 41 deaths in 1975 to a single roadway death last year. One adult man was killed in 2019 when his vehicle struck a fence.

According to a story in the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, safety advocates are directly attributing the virtual elimination of roadway deaths to recent initiatives which have allowed fewer cars into the city’s center.

Over the last five years, the city has taken dramatic steps to reduce vehicular traffic in its downtown, including replacing nearly all on-street parking with bike lanes and sidewalks. Major streets have been closed to cars, and congestion pricing raised the fee to drive into the city center, with the goal of making most of downtown car-free by 2019.

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It's a good news/bad news story.  Here's how Oslo got rid of cars in the city:  By increasing cars almost everywhere else on the planet.  (Actually, not just cars, but trucks, trains, ships, basically anything that burns fossil fuels)  From this link:  Around 2655 largest[sic] companies are based in Oslo, Norway.  The majority of companies are from the oil and gas sector.   

One of Norway's largest companies? Statoil

This money from all of this North Sea oil exporting, and the associated shipping businesses, accounting, insurance businesses, and telecom, gets plowed back into high-rise buildings in an almost perfect density model from an urban planning perspective, thanks to all of this petroleum wealth.  We're talking big business here for heavy industries. Remarkably because of their location, they can get almost all of their own electricity through hydro by damming up rivers.

Is this a model for Cicero?  Bensenville, Chicago, Morton Grove? Cleveland?  Milwaukee?  If we look at our city, Cook County, and Illinois, we have pretty much the opposite of Oslo's wealth from oil exports.  Billions of debt, no mountains for hydro, and a body politic that professes to be anti-fossil fuel despite breakthroughs in fracking in other states making the US energy independent.  

Oslo is a beautiful area, so tourism is great too.  The money earned from selling oil builds a great city, basically a big plaza that we can get on a jet (more fossil fuels) to visit, where the people in the service sector to support the city can get around on bikes.

From Wikipedia:  The emergence of Norway as an oil-exporting country has raised a number of issues for Norwegian economic policy. There has been concern that much of Norway's human capital investment has been concentrated in petroleum-related industries. Critics have pointed out that Norway's economic structure is highly dependent on natural resources that do not require skilled labor, making economic growth highly vulnerable to fluctuations in the demand and pricing for these natural resources.

As we know, if we separate cars and bikes, we don't have any car collisions.  But Oslo is profound as an economic model that can afford to put thousands of people on bikes by putting millions and millions of people into cars somewhere else, powered by North Sea oil exports. 

Meanwhile, the plans from CDOT are to try to figure out how to put more bikes and cars together (Dickens, Elston, Milwaukee Ave, the Loop, west-bound Randolph) not to separate them. 

Boo hoo, Norway is a rich country and hypocritical! So true! This is why I can’t get excited about the Vision Zero initiatives in Texas or Saudi Arabia, either. It’s disgusting how the Norwegians put their resources towards beautiful living spaces and safety and sustainability. I agree that since Chicago has fewer resources, we should... uh... what exactly?

From your concluding sentence it sounds like you would prefer to see some car-free streets in Chicago. There’s no obstacle but politics! The citizens of Oslo could have insisted on more parking in heated lots if they wanted: their safety initiatives represent a political success, not merely an economic one.

I wouldn't say that it's bad that Norway is doing well financially.  The benefit of that critical factor is that they are able to underwrite any decision, political or otherwise, from an economic standpoint.  Oslo folks aren't in debt to the tune of $119,000 or so apiece. we're the opposite of Norway and Oslo in that regard, and, a noteworthy component of that contrast is Norway's broader dependence on the automobile economy.  I'm not sure that makes them hypocritical, it's more of a fortunate irony for them, there's an economic dynamic that people want gas for cars, underwriting their bike free town.

So, political?  Sure, for instance the bike infrastructure we have here is funded largely by federal grants.  In other words, federal tax payers elsewhere don't want those funds, or, didn't have the political power to keep the funds in their districts, or, if we study the federal budget it's really just more federal debt.  Ultimately I think we agree that most municipal decisions because of our governmental structure are political, though what's politically feasible given our debt and economic situation may differ quite a bit from what the folks of Oslo are up to.



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