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‘Drivers are guests’: How Oslo cut traffic deaths to almost zero in 2019

Oslo’s governing mayor tells SmartCitiesWorld how the city is making its streets safer, and that autonomous vehicles could help with retaining and improving the results.


In 2019, a single driver died in a traffic accident in Oslo, down from five in 2018. No pedestrians, children or cyclists at all were killed on the roads last year in the Norwegian capital.


The sole death in Oslo was a man whose car collided with a fence in June.


According to the World Health Organisation, road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.35 million deaths worldwide in 2016 and were the leading cause of death for children and young adults.


According to the World Health Organisation, road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.35 million deaths worldwide in 2016


Figures from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration show the number of deaths on Oslo’s roads has fallen sharply, down from 41 deaths in 1975. On average, 3.6 people have died in traffic in Oslo in the last five years. Ten years ago, eight people were killed.


This maps to road safety improvements in Norway. For the first time ever, no children under the age of 16 died in traffic in Norway during 2019. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of annual road fatalities fell by 68 per cent. However, overall last year, there was a slight increase in road deaths, to 110 people from 108 the year before.


Norway has a ‘vision zero’ strategy, implemented in 2001, focused on reducing crashes that can lead to fatalities and serious injuries. It includes cutting average road speeds and increasing the number of safety features in cars.


Closer to vision zero


Governing mayor of Oslo, Raymond Johansen, told SmartCitiesWorld: “We have a vision of zero traffic deaths in our city. When one person is killed in traffic, it is one too many. But this takes us closer to our vision. Safety is at the core of our transportation policy.”


He said large investments in public transport, bicycle lanes and facilities for pedestrians, along with restrictions on car use and speed limits, had contributed to the achievement in Oslo.


"It’s all about humans taking back the streets from cars"


“Car traffic will always be a part of the city, but the drivers should act as guests,” he said. “That is why we have reduced the speed limit for cars, reduced parking opportunities in the city centre, built more speed bumps, closed certain streets for car traffic and are rolling out car-free zones around schools.”


More people now use public transport in Oslo than travel by car. In the past ten years, the number of trips made by public transport has increased by 63 per cent, from 228 million to 371 million journeys.


“This growth is due to long-term, comprehensive investment, with predictable funding, which has offered more frequent departures and higher quality,” according to Oslo’s website.


On how Oslo will retain and improve upon the safety result, Johansen said: “We have just begun transforming Oslo into a more human-friendly city, and we are continuing to reduce car use, improve public transportation and make room for pedestrians and bicycles."


Tech-enhanced safety


He added: “I also believe technology will make transportation easier and safer. In Oslo, we are testing autonomous vehicles as public transportation on selected routes. It’s all about humans taking back the streets from cars. It is a win-win situation for our safety, our health, our quality of life and the environment.”


Anders Hartmann, from Oslo’s transportation and environment department, noted on Twitter that: “While we are making great progress, there is still a way to go. Also, [Vision Zero] means [zero] serious injuries, where we still have a long way to go.”


Cyclists and pedestrians are involved in 60 per cent of the serious traffic accidents in Oslo, according to data from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.


In a study by car parts retailer Mister Auto last year, Manchester was ranked as the city with the lowest rate of road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants (0.8), followed by Stockholm and Oslo. The cities with the highest rate of fatalities were Lagos (26.2), Orlando and Kolkata.


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