Did you know there is one day a year when everyone in the whole world is invited to park their cars and travel by foot, bike, transit or any mode of transportation other than driving? The purpose of World Wide Car Free Day is to raise awareness of the environmental and social harm done to our lives from the air and noise pollution created by the private automobile.
Recognition of the harm caused by millions of cars on the roads world wide is not new. As long ago as 1956, The Netherlands held a car free Sunday, and Belgium followed a year later. In the 1970’s, at the height of the oil crisis, other countries initiated car free days, but there was not yet an international call encouraging everyone, everywhere to stop driving for even just one day.
The sustainable transportation movement ramped up in the 1990’s. At the International Ciudades Accessibles (Accessible Cities) Conference held in Toledo, Spain in 1994, keynote speaker Eric Britton called for the organization of a World Wide Car Free Day. Britain was the first country to initiate a national car free day in 1997. In 1998, France organized a day they called, “In Town Without My Car,” and in 2000 the EU organized the first European-Wide Car Free Week. The same year, car free day went global when a program called Carbusters (now known as the World Carfree Network) collaborated with the Earth Day Network to launch the World Car Free Collaborative.
Some time in the early 2000’s, September 22nd of each year became the official date to celebrate car-free day world wide, though some cities celebrate on other days in September. In a few cities, such as Jakarta, Indonesia, what started as “Car Free Sunday” has turned into a weekly event to improve air quality and promote health of the city’s residents. (Google Jakarta Car Free Sundays to learn more about what’s happening there.)
World Wide Car Free Day was celebrated in approximately 2,500 cities in 2019, before the Covid Pandemic was declared. In 2009, Toronto was the first city in Canada to participate in the event. Montreal followed a year later. This year Vancouver is hosting three car-free events on September 9th (Commercial Drive), September 16th (Main Street), and September 24th (West End). Victoria hosted Car Free Days on Government Street on Father’s Day for several years prior to the Covid Pandemic.
Although Walk On is not participating in any formal celebration of World Wide Car Free Day this year, we encourage all our members to leave your car at home on Friday, September 22nd. Let your friends know it’s World Wide Car Free Day, and encourage them to do the same. Imagine a (fantasy) world without any private automobiles….even for just one day.