Car-free Day (usually on the 22nd September)

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  • This is getting rather big this year, a long way away from its humble beginnings (in London) in 2001:

    https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases­/mayoral/londons-biggest-ever-car-free-d­ay

    https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/l­ondon-car-free-day-2019-what-will-this-y­ears-event-involve-everything-you-need-t­o-know-a4174536.html

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/­2019/jun/20/sadiq-khan-announces-car-fre­e-day-in-london-to-tackle-air-pollution

    As ever, the words and concepts present some people with difficulties. Streets are not 'closed' because driving cars is not allowed there for the day; nobody could possibly want 'traffic-free' city centres, because the essence of city centres is that there is a lot of traffic from people coming together. Instead, we obviously want lots of traffic on foot and on bikes. Things are only ever 'closed to all traffic' in the event of a police investigation or a similar reason for imposing an exclusion zone. And so on. Traffic is people, not machines.

    Across Europe, Car-free Day events are well-established, and in many cities they include the whole city centre, where driving is strictly limited. In London, the event has usually involved just a couple of streets in a couple of boroughs, with the initiative often spearheaded by volunteers. It's good that it's getting bigger.

  • Bump ahead of the week-end.

  • Will be checking this out for the first time with a few others, should be a good day

  • Shame it’s on a Sunday!

    Make the biggest difference with people going to work etc

  • yes shame it's on a sunday, but it's a start. going to go up and pootle about

  • Shame it’s on a Sunday!

    Make the biggest difference with people going to work etc

    'Twas ever thus--when the 22nd September wasn't an 'easy' day, i.e. a Saturday or Sunday, either very little happened, or the event was moved a couple of days. I think the main reason why the first London Car-free Day received some Mayoral funding (in 2001, I can't remember if anything happened in London in 2000, but I don't think so) was because the 2001 date fell on a Saturday, so was an 'easy' day. Even so, almost nothing happened--we (London Cycling Campaign in Hackney) organised a Car-free Day in Curtain Road (to promote our campaign to return the Shoreditch Triangle to two-way operation), and Southwark Council and Southwark Cyclists organised one in The Cut. In theory, there was meant to be funding for every borough--£10,000, which didn't go very far for one event--, butn the vast majority of boroughs didn't use it at all, if I remember correctly. We asked at the time whether some of the unused funding could be re-allocated to those boroughs willing to do something, but that wasn't granted.

    It limped on in similar and changing ways for a couple of years, e.g. it was officially called 'In Town without My Car' for a while (odd for those who don't even have a car), but its impact was limited. In Europe, the events were generally much larger and in some towns the whole centre of the city was buses only (and emergency vehicles, of course, and, presumably, mobility vehicles). As the London funding was never adequate, we pulled in some commercial sponsorship in 2003 and 2004 and organised two quite large Shoreditch Carnivals, notable for not featuring actual carnivals but they were excellent street parties, with thousands of people attending. This then also raised the question of in what way these events were successful in portraying the desired normality; as street parties, they were, well, street parties, and didn't do much to show a car-free inner city in which street parties didn't take place all the time. The street parties were still good (and, of course, in Stoke Newington the desire has long been to bring back the Stoke Newington Festival in Church Street, which apparently at one point was the second-largest festival in London after the Notting Hill Carnival), but to really demonstrate car-freeness the events need to be bigger, have less of a festival atmosphere, and be less concentrated. It's very difficult in London to achieve these not because it's difficult to achieve as such, but because of political opposition.

    So, while this year's event is on an 'easy' day and quite safe, and many locations will probably be a bit street party-like, I still think it's a major step forward from what has gone before.

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Car-free Day (usually on the 22nd September)

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick

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