Norway is planning on constructing nearly $1 billion worth of bike highways (click here for Norwegian article) in an attempt to spark a rise in bicycle transit and reduce national carbon emissions. According to a CityLab article, the plan was announced in late February with intent to slash the country’s carbon emissions, the project aims to reduce strain on public transit and decrease the use of automobiles.
It will cost approximately 8 billion Norwegian Kroner ($923 million) to construct “10 wide two-lane cross country bike tracks” in and around the country’s 9 largest cities allowing a cyclist’s travels to span distances and speeds now not feasible.
In this context, a ‘highway’ is not a path linking distant cities but rather a network of bike tracks facilitating commutes between inner cities and outer suburbs. The highway will allow cyclists to travel at faster speeds, up to 25mph, allowing commutes from greater distances to be schedule-friendly.
The plan faces some challenges. Compared to surrounding countries, cycling in Norway is not as popular. The highways will be laid upon the country’s cold, dark and mountainous terrain making cycling a difficult sell. One of the detractors North Norwegian politician Kjell-Idar Juvik said this to a newspaper VG Nyheter,“I find striking few measures relevant to North Norway in the plan. Right now in the winter it’s not realistic for people to throw themselves onto bikes. They already have enough trouble getting out and scraping snow off their cars.”
Numbers from 2010 show that Norway is lagging behind its Scandinavian neighbors when it comes to adopting cycling culture. For example, in Denmark 17% of all trips nationwide took place by way of cycle and 12% for Sweden. However, Norway showed only a 4% share in 2010 and rose just 1% by 2014.
The bike highway system is part of a greater plan to reduce Norway’s transit pollution. The National Transit Plan states 2030 as the target year to accomplish low emission standards nationwide for buses, trucks, ships and ferries which are an important part of the country’s transit. The use of biofuels is also listed as an acceptable alternative. Furthermore, road infrastructure will be repaired and bridges constructed to reduce travel times and extensive ferrying. Railways will be improved and taxes will be raised on cars – whether they be zero emission or not.
Norway is willing to spend its money on green initiatives and good thing the country has plenty of it – the proposed plans will cost upwards of 36 billion Kroner ($4.15 billion) for road repairs, 18 billion Kroner ($2.08 billion) for rail projects in addition to the 8 billion Kroner bike highway. Ironically, Norway acquired this national wealth by way of “carefully managed oil revenues.”