Why We Must Have Car Free Day Every Month

cars passing through north and south

Car-Free Day is a worldwide event celebrated every September 22. It encourages people to use greener methods of travel; meaning ways to get around other than driving alone by car. For example, using train, bus, bicycle, carpool, vanpool, subway, or walk promotes the idea of cutting down on the emission of harmful greenhouse gases and reducing traffic congestion. (The 3rd-grade EVS lessons)

From decades’ humankind has been addressing issues related to environmental pollution and taking steps to protect it. One such problem is that of air pollution caused by extreme usage of motor vehicles. Projects along the lines to address such issues had been taking place from quite a long time.

But, in October 1994 a well-structured call for such a scheme was issued during a speech by Eric Britton at the International Ciudades Accessible (Accessible Cities) Conference held in Toledo (Spain). 1995 saw the constitution of the informal World Car Free Days Consortium. Its objective was to support Car-Free Days worldwide. In 1997, the first national campaign was inaugurated in Britain by the Environmental Transport Association. 

Initially, the Environmental Transport Association decided to observe the annual Car-Free Day on the first Tuesday of the Green Transport Week. But, in 2000 it was agreed to make the Car-Free Day a self-standing day. Thus, it began to be held on September 22, first as a pan-European day and later with international extensions, including a large number of cities around the world. The goal of the Car Free Day was to serve as a small step, as a catalyst in the process of a citywide systemic transformation toward a more genuinely sustainable mobility system since the very beginning. 

Ever since the first vehicle rolled onto the streets in 1886, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the motor car. Today, we have over one billion motor vehicles on the roads around the globe. It seems impossible to imagine a world without pollution, traffic congestion, constant honking, and the danger that they produce. Vehicle emissions are one of the primary sources of outdoor air pollution and increased global warming. 

Researches have shown that more than 95% of world’s population breathes unhealthy air. According to the World Health Organization, Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016.  Our climate is continuously changing, and we are running out of time to take thoughtful counter-actions. Car-Free Day addresses all these issues related to increased pollution. It acts as a model for how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars.

 According to The Washington Post, the event “promotes the 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.” It highlights some of the positive impacts of the adoption of greener ways of transport (such as a bicycle) which are listed below-

More space for living and green areas such as parks — not traffic.
Better health and fitness
Greater levels of happiness
Fewer expenditures on maintenance, fuel, etc
More socialization

On 22 October 2015, the first Car-Free Day was celebrated in Delhi. But it was not the first time that such an event took place was undertaken by the authorities to address the rising problem of traffic congestion and air pollution in India. Two such drives had taken place before it too. The first one was in Cyberabad region of Hyderabad, and the recent one was in Gurgaon. But it was in September that Delhi’s transport minister Gopal Rai announced that on every 22nd of the month, starting from October 22, 2015, car-free day will be observed along different stretches of the capital city. This campaign was titled “Ab bus Karen–Jan Parivahan Swasthya Jeevan” and is volunteer-based. Its focus was to spread awareness about the benefits of using green methods of transport, public transport, and car-pooling. 
Till the date, cities in India have celebrated Car-Free Day in different versions. For example,
Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon, a weekly road event for a particular time and where specified streets are cordoned off for non-motorized transport users between 6 am and 12 noon; and
Cycle Day in Bengaluru, a campaign held on the last Sunday of every month; etc.

It is said that a few days without cars out of 365 days of the year wouldn’t have any significant difference in air contamination. That one cannot overlook the pollutants produced from industrial zones. this whole idea of Car-Free Day seems to be only a one-sided and ineffective approach. This argument may not be entirely wrong. But we shouldn’t forget that celebrating Car-Free Day is an essential tool for us to get a glimpse of a city which would allow us to live a life where we associate meaning with silence and not transport noises. 

It is a medium for us to spread awareness about the pros of using greener methods of transport. It is the first step to reduce pollution and emission of greenhouse gases. And it deserves credit for trying to make the cities for its people and not for its cars. On a similar note, the government and we need to be more active in promoting the goals of Car-Free Day to make a sign on our lives of and the planet itself.

- Written by Mehul Choudhary
- Edited by Maitreyi Mehndiratta

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Why We Must Have Car Free Day Every Month Why We Must Have Car Free Day Every Month Reviewed by EMN on September 22, 2019 Rating: 5

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