Norway is trying to get rid of as many cars as it can. By 2030, though the country's population is quickly growing, the government is aiming for zero growth in private car use. Downtown Oslo will be car-free in three years. And now as another step towards its goal, Norway plans to spend almost $1 billion on a new network of bike highways.
The two-lane bike highways will link suburbs to nine Norwegian cities on the shortest, flattest path possible. With few intersections to cross, a rider can travel as 25 miles an hour on a daily commute. "[Bike highways] will be attractive for more people living in the suburbs, who we plan will be getting on their bikes instead of using cars on daily travels," says Marit Espeland, national cycling coordinator for the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
Right now—unlike nearby Denmark or Sweden—Norway has fairly low everyday cycling rates, especially outside of its city centers. That's partly because communities are a little more scattered and partly because of culture.
"Many Norwegians use their bike for sport and leisure activities rather than to commute to work and school," says Espeland. "By constructing more and better bike paths, we will contribute to make more people feel safe and make it easier to choose their bike instead of their car."
The new highways are one part of a much larger effort to get as close as possible to zero emissions from transportation nationally. By 2030, Norway plans to cut the country's entire carbon emissions by 40%; by 2050, it plans to be carbon neutral. Because most of its electricity runs on hydropower, a relative large chunk of its emissions come from cars and other forms of transportation.
Public transportation will be fossil fuel-free in five years. Electric buses are being rolled out now, and the country launched its first electric ferry in 2015. All taxis will be zero emission cars by 2022. Norway is also already the world's biggest market for electric cars, thanks to tax cuts and benefits for drivers like giving drivers special access to bus lanes.
But just switching to electric cars isn't enough for the government. "Too many are driving their cars," says Espeland. "The cities become more and more congested ... An electric car fills up just as much space as other cars. It is not possible to solve these challenges without getting more people traveling by more space efficient and environmentally friendly transport."
Ultimately, Norway believes that bikes—along with better public transport and disincentives to drive—will help the country reach its goal of cutting transit emissions in half. "We have been working on this for a long time, and I believe that more people will choose their bike on daily travels more often in the near future," she says.