We all know the damage driving cars in our city streets and beyond does to the environment. Traffic in urban areas is a huge contributor to poor air quality, which in turn is leading to many of those living in urban areas. Recent reports in the UK estimate that poor air quality is leading to early deaths of 40,000 people in the UK each year. In places where car use is higher and more intense, that number is likely to be even greater.
Driving cars around the city is also a large contributor to carbon emissions and climate change. Car use differs between countries and so the amount that cars and road transport contribute to national carbon emissions also varies. In the US, rand transport accounts for around 25% of national carbon emissions, whereas road transport in the UK accounts for around a third of all carbon emissions.
The evidence of the need to move away from using cars in urban areas is growing, yet many cities haven’t acted on it. Cities are still growing and the car is still central to how they develop. Using the car around the city is also easier for a lot of people and many are unwilling to change to cleaner alternatives.
This is where World Car Free Day comes in.
World Car Free Day
September 22nd is World Car Free Day. A day designed to encourage people around the world to swap car travel for public transport, bicycles or walking. The first car free day was in 1995 when Bath (UK), Reykjavik (Iceland) and La Rochelle (France) closed off parts of the city from cars. The first nationwide car free day was in the UK just two years later before it became internationally recognised in 2000.
In many cities around the world, roads and streets are shut off from traffic, opening cities up to pedestrians and other forms of transport. Cycling is being pushed as a healthy and environmentally-friendly alternative – the quieter roads make cycling safer and more appealing.
How Can You Get Involved?
This one’s easy. Just don’t drive your car. If you have places to go and things to do, look at taking public transport, cycling or, if you’re not travelling too far, walk. Admittedly, there are cases where driving is a necessity and can’t be avoided, but there are still things that can be done to reduce how much cars are used. If you’re travelling in from the city, look at public transport or drive to the edge of the city and use public transport to reach your final destination.
At least in the case of the UK there are a number of events being held in many of the roads that have been closed in to encourage road users to change in their cars for cleaner methods of transport. The London Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) are getting involved and offering discounts on those using public transport also.
So if you’re out and about today, try using a different form of transport to move around the city. Ditch the car and see what cleaner, healthier alternatives are available to you!