Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22, is World Carfree Day!
World Carfree Day is part of the World Carfree Network, which is a great online source for information on how to revitalize cities and towns in such a way as to be less car-centric. The World Carfree Network refers to the carfree movement broadly in reference to the following activities (from their website):
- those promoting alternatives to car dependence and car culture, including alternative modes such as cycling, walking and public transport;
- those promoting carfree lifestyle choices, within either a car-dependent, car-lite* or carfree local context;
- those promoting the building of (usually mixed-use) carfree environments# on either brownfield or greenfield sites (usually sited to ensure easy access to a variety of non-automotive transport modes);
- those promoting carfree days, using the events as tools to bring about long-term on-the-ground change in infrastructure and priorities (example: Bogota); and
- those promoting the transformation of existing villages, towns and cities (or parts of them) into carfree environments.#
* Car-lite – Either a person or place that is not completely carfree, but uses or allows for a variety of alternative transport modes in addition to the car. (Car-lite environments tend to still devote at least half the street space to the automobile, with street widths usually similar to those in car-dependent environments.) The New Urbanists – an influential North American group of architects, developers and planners – are an example of people who promote and build car-lite environments, expressly stating that the automobile must be accommodated.# Carfree environments – Places that do not accommodate (permit the entry of) automobiles. (An “environment” can be a an entire village, town or city; a portion of a village, town or city; or a place such as a resort, intentional community or university.) Some carfree environments allow motorised vehicles for deliveries and emergency services; other such places use non-motorised alternatives for some or all of these purposes, which is preferable if feasible. Some carfree environments have peripheral parking, and are thus still somewhat car-dependent; therefore solutions should be sought to avoid this. Some people take things a step further and work to encourage local use of local products, thus reducing the dependence of their carfree environment on long-distance goods transport and supporting the local economy over the transnational economy.
This year, World Carfree Day is part of European Mobility Week, which is dedicated to emphasizing and demonstrating the importance of walking, biking, and using public transportation in order to combat the effects of global warming and to make cities across the globe more sustainable. This year’s theme for European Mobility Week is “Improving City Climates.”
In the United States, where the issue of climate change has always been somewhat more “controversial”, we do not have such a week dedicated to the idea of carfree mobility (though, please correct me if I am wrong). Nonetheless, we do have the opportunity to participate in World Carfree Day, and participate we should!
How Does World Carfree Day Work?
Well, it is quite simple really, just leave your car at home for the day, and then try to leave it sitting there for as long as possible from that point on.
- To spend one day carefully prepared without cars;
- To study and observe closely what goes on during that day. And then…
- To reflect publicly and collectively on the lessons of this experience and on what might be prudently and creatively done next to build on these.
The same call to participants is still totally valid. So if you don’t already, please take this opportunity to join with others in leaving the car at home. Not to mention, tomorrow is the first day of autumn, and what better time to ride a bike than in the fall? It’s not too cold yet in most places, and where I live, it’s supposed to be a chilly 100 degrees! But of course, you don’t have to ride a bike, walking and public transportation are also great options for World Carfree Day. And even if you can’t leave the car at home all of the time (I do have a car, and I do drive it, though I certainly try to minimize my time in it), going carlite can still have a positive impact on your life, the city you live in, and your climate. So the bottom line is that it’s worth a shot!
And if you do decide to go by bike tomorrow, and you are new to bike commuting, below are a handful of posts to help make your experience even better: