The Most Up-And-Coming Bike City in Europe

December 26, 2019

Oslo Bike Racks

Image: New bicycle parking racks in downtown Oslo. Photo: Alexey Topolyanskiy

It's not hard to name famous bike cities in Europe: Copenhagen and Amsterdam usually top the list with solid backup contenders in Malmö (Sweden), Bordeaux (France), and Antwerp (Belgium). Besides the historical popularity of cycling, the continent's famed reputation for leading the world in eco-friendly living has led many countries to develop their own cycling initiatives that actively reduce dependence on cars, in turn reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption. But one name remained curiously missing from these ranks for some time: Oslo. This is especially ironic since Oslo is considered one of the pioneers of green living, actually earning the title of European Green Capital Award in 2019 for their efforts and achievements in sustainable, eco-friendly living. So what gives?

Oslo: The new kid on the block

Biking on Aker Brygge Oslo Norway

Image: Oslo's Aker Brygge. Photo: Leonard Rb


Taking their city's bicycle fate into their own hands, Oslo's citizens created the independent Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning. This progressive vision puts Oslo above the nation's basic infrastructure rules when it comes to city transportation planning, utilizing both Danish and Dutch best practices to implement their dedication towards the future of cycling.

Their efforts were rewarded, and Oslo has made some serious headway over the last few years, joining the ranks of top cycling-friendly cities in Europe, breaking through the 2017 top 20 list from Lonely Planet and the top 20 list in the world from Wired. While it still has a ways to go to compete with its European bike-crazy neighbors, Oslo has its feet planted firmly in the ground through new urban initiatives like making Oslo's city center totally car-free in 2019, adding 37 miles of new bike lanes and offering up to €1,000 in subsidies for cargo bike purchases.


Safety first

For all you cycling enthusiasts, rider welfare is a critical issue, regardless of whether you're a die-hard fixie, a casual commuter, or an off-road adrenaline junkie. In a 2018 study by the European Road Safety Observatory, "58% of the cyclist fatalities in the EU countries occurred inside urban areas". Placing safety at the forefront of their plans, the Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning implements painted lanes, cycle tracks and bike lanes alongside the sidewalk, instead of the more dangerous door zone of cars and moving traffic. Helmets are not required by law but strongly recommended.


The boom of the bike cafes

Image: ROSL  Rouleur bar & café

An interesting fusion of bikes and cafes is becoming the norm in many cities, and Oslo is no exception. ROSL offers bike rentals and weekly group rides while the cafe serves artisanal Norwegian coffee and snacks during the day, with local beers and spirits at night. Oslo Velo specializes in vintage models with a dedicated workshop, specialty parts, accessories, and some in-house custom builds. Hang out after a ride for coffee from Oslo's award-winning Supreme Roastworks and, in the evenings, kick back to local DJs, pizza, and a beer.

Ready for a change of scenery? 

Biking in Nordmarka Oslo Norway

Image: Biking in Oslo's surrounding nature parks. Photo: Bennett Tobias

After peddling around the city visiting the art galleries of  Grünerløkka or the harbor front views of Oslo's natural fjords, you're still only 6 miles away from Nordmarka, one of Europe's most extensive networks of cycling paths that wind through Norway's rugged, unspoiled forests. Pack a picnic and explore hundreds of miles of raw, pristine nature. A plethora of cycling apps can guide you on your next trip, including Strava that features 10 different routes through both urban and nature paths, highlighting Oslo's diverse cycling landscape:

"Arguably closer to nature than any other capital city, Oslo offers easy access to stunningly beautiful rides. There’s a variety of terrain to explore, too, from scenic lakefront routes to arduous (but rewarding!) climbs"

The European Green Capital 

Oslo Opera House

Image: Oslo Opera House. Photo: Oliver Cole

Extending way beyond trends and convenience, Oslo's bike culture is part of a much larger, city-wide dedication towards eco-conscious living. The city manages a Climate Budget that uses 42 different types of criteria to measure success, including a goal to reduce emission by 50% in 2020 from its 1990 output numbers and be carbon neutral by 2050. Even the city's vehicles are greener, with electric cars accounting for 30% of new car sales and city buses and waste management vehicles that run on biogas, a product of bio-waste and city sewage.

The future of sustainable living in Oslo is looking good, and if the increasing number of bicycles and bike paths is any indication, we can expect Oslo to give Copenhagen and Amsterdam a run for their money.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.