First Germany, now Norway: the Nordic country is also planning to invest heavily in bicycle infrastructure, developing 10 ‘superhighways’ for cyclists.
Norway recently announced that it will pour 8 billion NOK (almost 1 billion USD) into a large network of bicycle superhighways, consisting of 10 two-lane bike paths that wind through and around the country’s nine largest cities. The focus here is not on long distances. Rather, the aim is to develop infrastructure that links each city’s existing cycle network to the city’s suburbs and bordering countryside. The underlying purpose of the project is to help the country reduce emissions that originate from commuter traffic.
Despite the bold move, the idea is being met with some criticism. Cycling in Norway is not as ubiquitous as it is in other Scandinavian countries. In Denmark, for example, 17 per cent of all trips are made by bike. In the case of commuter trips, this number rises to 24 per cent . Despite an estimated 70 per cent of the population in Norway owning a bicycle, only around five per cent of all trips are made by bike. One of the reasons behind this is seasonal: Norway is colder and darker for longer periods of time throughout the year. Additionally, the mountainous terrain outside cities makes getting around on two wheels a labourious exercise and even hazardous if there’s too much ice. As CityLab notes, though, similar programmes in northern parts of Finland and Canada have enjoyed success in spite of the cold and limited number of daylight hours in winter and developers will look to build the lanes in the flattest areas possible.
The move is part of a broader approach to reduce the Norwegian urban transport sector’s use of fossil fuels. In 2012, the transport sector was responsible for 26.2 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The capital Oslo has set itself the goal of halving all its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and is, among other other initiatives, turning household food waste into biofuel to power the city’s buses. Electric vehicles, meanwhile, have been selling like hotcakes, partly due to a number of perks offered awhile back to electric car drivers like free parking and last year, the world’s first electric ferry also made its maiden voyage, crisscrossing the Sognefjord in the country's south-west.
Time will tell if cycling adoption rates will pick up in Norway but providing safe infrastructure to make this happen is a step in the right direction.