A new analysis in TheCityFix looks at what cities in the United States can learn from Oslo, Norway’s effort to completely eliminate injuries and fatalities on its roads. According to that report, there were an average of 5-7 annual traffic fatalities in Oslo between 2010 and 2019, and in 2015, the city embarked on an effort to reduce traffic and make the city safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Since the city began keeping digital records two decades ago, no children between 6 and 15 were included in traffic fatality records, and the risk of “fatal or serious road traffic injuries, on a trip-by-trip basis, has fallen 47% for cyclists, 41% for pedestrians and 32% for drivers between 2014 and 2018.” The analysis notes further that the number of fatal or serious traffic injuries per one million trips fell from 3.2 to 1.7 for cyclists, 0.7 to 0.4 per pedestrians, and 1.7 to 1.1 for car drivers or passengers. Last year, “no vulnerable road users died all year” in Oslo. One car driver suffered a fatality.
According to TheCityFix, these reductions were the result of a number of policy initiatives. In 2015, Oslo lawmakers determined to reduce vehicle traffic one-third by 2030; they shifted “the authority to designate bus lanes, bike lanes, one-way traffic and closed streets to traffic” from police to the city’s government; they established measures to “increase bicycle mode share to 25% by 2025”; and they announced efforts to make the city’s center “car-free by 2019,” eliminating regular street parking and closing the center to through traffic”
Municipal efforts were shepherded along by national efforts, according to TheCityFix. In 2002, Norway implemented Vision Zero—a strategy to eliminate all traffic injuries and deaths—and over the past two decades has become “one of the safest for road users in the world.” Oslo also uses contraflow cycling, which lets cyclists “choose the safest possible root.” Meanwhile, the shift in authority over traffic control signage from police to municipal authorities allowed Oslo to rapidly implement traffic control strategies like bus lanes, traffic restrictions on light-rail corridors, and bicycle lanes that replaced on-street parking on certain streets.
Oslo has also taken steps to reduce traffic by installing bus or bike lanes on roads that previously had three or four lanes for cars. “Not only does this limit traffic, it makes the act of crossing the street less complex,” TheCityFix notes. “With only one lane for cars, pedestrians have an easier time focusing their attention, and vehicles are less likely to obscure people crossing.” The city’s efforts to reduce car traffic by 2003 involve congestion pricing, 52 new toll gates, and higher tolls—which in turn fund “a large part of the city’s investments and operations in walking, cycling, public transit and road safety.” These efforts have successfully led to a reduction in traffic, according to TheCityFix. Meanwhile, authorities carefully investigate every fatal traffic crash in the city, with incident reports leading to recommendations for public safety measures like the redesign of bus stops and intersections, and the widening of some bike lanes. “Now that transportation professionals know it is possible to achieve zero and can learn from cities like Oslo and Helsinki,” the analysis concludes, “we must all strive to achieve the same goal.”