Reducing business opposition to car-free city centres: The case of Oslo
Abstract: The role of private cars in urban areas is coming under increasing scrutiny. A growing number of municipalities are now implementing or exploring the potential of car-free city centres (CFCCs), defined zones in which car use is prohibited or severely restricted. Whilst CFCCs can deliver environmental, social and economic benefits for cities, businesses are routinely opposed to the introduction of CFCCs and present a major barrier to the implementation of such schemes. Understanding the concerns of business stakeholders which contribute to this opposition, and what can be done to address such concerns, is of vital importance for implementing CFCCs and addressing barriers to creating sustainable cities. The aim of this research was to investigate how municipalities can reduce opposition from business stakeholders in the creation of CFCCs. To achieve this aim, a case study approach, using the recently established CFCC in Oslo, Norway, was undertaken. A review of policy documents and other select material relating to the CFCC project in Oslo was undertaken to establish an understanding of the actions taken to engage and support businesses in the transition to reduced car access. Interviews were then conducted with municipality representatives and business stakeholders. In doing so, the main concerns expressed by business stakeholders were identified. The validity of these concerns was assessed based on the input of municipality stakeholders. The results set out illustrate a number of key concerns from business stakeholders, including shortcomings in communication and consultation, issues with the rate at which physical measures were implemented, and an apparent negative economic impact on certain shops. These claims were, by in large, appreciated by municipality representatives, although claims regarding the negative economic impact of the scheme were contested. It was evident that the majority of the opposition from business stakeholders arose from concerns with the manner in which the CFCC had been designed and implemented, rather than the premise of the scheme itself (i.e. action to reduce car use). Considering the findings from the interviews and the wider literature, a series of recommendations were produced for municipalities to create CFCCs which better meet the needs of business stakeholders, centred on six themes: Consultation and collaboration, communication and promotion, monitoring impact, implementation of measures, support measures, and project organisation. This research suggests that by placing greater emphasis on the needs of businesses during the design and implementation of the project, potential exists for gaining the support of business stakeholders in the creation of CFCCs. Suggestions are made for further investigation into CFCCs, including research on the experience of other cities implementing CFCCs, and for the recommendations set out to be tested by municipalities in future CFCC projects.
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