Car-Free Day

Photo by ceridwen

Photo by ceridwen

A Car-Free Day encourages motorists to give up their cars for a day. Organized events are held in some cities and countries. September 22 is World Car Free Day. According to The Washington Post, the event “promotes improvement of mass transit, cycling and walking, and the development of communities where jobs are closer to home and where shopping is within walking distance”.

The events, which vary by location, give motorists and commuterists an idea of their locality with fewer cars. While projects along these lines had taken place from time to time on an ad hoc basis starting with the 1973 oil crisis, it was only in October 1994 that a structured call for such projects was issued in a keynote speech by Eric Britton at the International Ciudades Accesibles (Accessible Cities) Conference held in Toledo (Spain).

Within two years the first Days were organized in Reykjavík (Iceland), Bath (Britain) and La Rochelle (France), and the informal World Car Free Days Consortium was organized in 1995 to support Car-Free Days world wide. The first national campaign was inaugurated in Britain by the Environmental Transport Association in 1997, the French followed suit in 1998 as In town, without my car! and was established as a Europe-wide initiative by the European Commission in 2000. In the same year the Commission enlarged the program to a full European Mobility Week which now is the major focus of the Commission, with the Car-Free Day part of a greater new mobility whole. Also in 2000, car free days went global with a World Carfree Day program launched by Carbusters, now World Carfree Network, and in the same year the Earth Car Free Day collaborative program of the Earth Day Network and the World Car Free Days collaborative.

While considerable momentum has been achieved in terms of media coverage, these events turn out to be difficult to organize to achieve real success (perhaps requiring significant reorganization of the host city’s transportation arrangement) and even a decade later there is considerable uncertainty about the usefulness of this approach. The sine qua non of success is the achievement of broad public support and commitment to change. By some counts by advocates (disputed), more than a thousand cities worldwide organized “Days” during 2005. The results have been extremely uneven.

Currently Bogotá holds the world’s largest car-free weekday event covering the entire city. The first car-free day was held in February 2000 and became institutionalised through a public referendum.

In September 2007 Jakarta held its Car-Free Day that closed the main avenue of the city from cars and invited local pedestrian to exercise and having their activities on the streets that normally full of cars and traffic. Along the road from the Senayan traffic circle on Jalan Sudirman, South Jakarta, to the “Selamat Datang” Monument at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Jalan Thamrin, all the way north to National Monument Central Jakarta, cars are cleared out for pedestrians.[4] Since May 2012 Car-Free Day in Jakarta is held every Sunday . It is held on the main avenue of the city; Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin, from Senayan area to Monas (Monumen Nasional) from 6 AM to 11 AM.