Every year on 22 September, people living in towns, cities and villages around the world celebrate World Carfree Day (WCD). According to the website of the World Carfree Network (WCN), the day is for “People from around the world to get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society.”
WCN is promoted each year to showcase the changes and dangers of climate change caused by vehicle exhaust emissions. It is labelled as “The perfect time to take the heat off the planet, and put it on city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the automobile.” Instead of organising different events around the world itself, the WCN is responsible for promoting carfree day activities that they are made aware of.
For example, building on the success of its first carfree day in 2016 the City of Paris recently hosted its second “Journée sans voitures” on Sunday 25 September 2017. Almost all of Paris’ arrondissements (neighbourhoods) were closed to cars, excluding ambulances, and made open to bicycles, delivery tricycles, non-motorised scooters, skateboards, rollerblades and pedestrians.
Furthermore, Forbes reports that the day which is organised by the independent NGO ‘Paris Sans Voiture, Collective Citoyen’ is “An element of a larger Paris initiative to reduce automobile circulation and to improve the quality of the air. The measures include banning cars along the Champs-Élysées on the first Sunday of each month, as well as the creation of nine new areas called “Paris breathes” – in addition to 13 that already exist prohibiting traffic on Sundays and public holidays.”
According to Greenpeace, “Transport contributes approximately 13% of total global greenhouse gas emissions of which is CO2 [carbon dioxide] is the largest part.” The amount of CO2 released by a vehicle is directly related to the amount of fuel the vehicle burns so heavier cars, with larger engines are worse for the environment than smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. Based on a rising global population, reduced car prices and greater access to vehicles it has been estimated that emissions from transport could be between 30 and 50% of global emissions in 2050.
Exhaust emissions are a silent killer and significant changes are needed globally to continue raising awareness around increasing emissions and the dangers associated with them. Ultimately, the WCD will only be a tiny component of any major solution. Greenpeace also proposes that “Car manufacturers must commit to rapid, and constant reduction in the overall emissions of their fleets on a global scale.”
In addition to this people need to be provided with, and have access to, alternative sustainable transport and mobility solutions which are not as detrimental to the environment. Increased numbers of people using public transport will help to take privately owned cars and motorbikes off the roads in many towns and cities. However, other solutions can also be designed and implemented to encourage more people to cycle and walk more regularly.
Earth Times describes sustainable transport, also sometimes referred to as green transport, as “Any form of transport that does not use or rely on dwindling natural resources. Instead it relies on renewable or regenerated energy rather than fossil fuels that have a finite life expectancy. For this reason, it is said to have lower or a negative effect on the environment since it makes use of energy sources that are sustainable.”
With people, governments and organisations becoming increasingly aware of air pollution dangers and climate change concerns, the onus is on them to make sure events like the WCD are not just a once a year celebration with business as usual the other 364 days. Instead, and as the WCN, promotes “When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It is up to us, it is up to our cities, and our governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars.”
Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on September 28, 2017.