This year’s World Car Free Day took place on September 22nd and went by almost unnoticed. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, this year’s events weren’t able to go ahead.
On a ‘normal’ year, World Car Free Day is celebrated in cities around the world by closing off various streets to traffic and creating temporary pedestrian-only zones. Often eateries will place seating outside, shops will open their doors and the streets are filled with people.
Officially the concept of a global World Car Free Day was initiated in 2000, though similar events have been taking place since as the 1973 oil crisis. The idea of these events is to promote the use of public transport, walking and cycling in built up areas, as well as develop communities and independent businesses in the area.
Studies have shown that in some cities, short trips can be completed quicker by walking or cycling than by using a car. Car Free Days help to show this and give people an idea what it might be like if their city had more pedestrianized areas.
In 2019, Edinburgh became the first city in the UK to join a similar international initiative called ‘Open Streets’. On the first Sunday of each month streets around the city centre are closed to traffic between 11am and 5pm, exhibitions are held as well as performances and other events that wouldn’t normally be able to happen due to traffic.
It remains to be seen whether other UK cities will follow Edinburgh by introducing Car Free Days or Open Streets events. Though this wouldn’t come as a surprise, with more and more pedestrian only zones appearing in city centres Open Streets events may be used to test the water.