World Car Free Day celebrates transportation alternatives

Some streets will be closed to traffic in Montreal today in celebration of World Car Free Day. Photo from Montreal’s Metropolitan Transport Agency, via CBC News.

In cities around the world today, people are observing Car Free Day, an event celebrated every September 22nd which encourages people “to get around without cars and instead ride a train, bus, bicycle, carpool, subway, vanpool, walk or telework.” The event is organized in different ways in different cities, but all the participating towns share a common goal of encouraging residents to use modes of transportation other than just driving. This year’s Car Free Day coincides with European Mobility Week, and cities from New York to Moscow are taking part:

Montreal’s busy downtown streets go car-free today [CBC News (Canada), 9/22/10]:

Several of Montreal’s busiest downtown streets will be off limits to vehicles starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday as part of In Town Without My Car Week…Agency officials said ridership on public transit has gone up 15 per cent in the eight years since car-free day started in the city.

Car-Free Day in Krakow, Poland [Krakow Post (Poland), 9/22/10]

Krakow will be among the 113 Polish cities hoping to persuade drivers that public transport, cycling and walking are viable alternatives to the private car. Organisers believe the event will help raise awareness about the need to reduce pollution in cities. They also want to promote the health benefits of walking and cycycling, and improve quality of life by reducing traffic noise.

Car-free Day Encourages Use of Public Transport [YLE News (Finland), 9/22/10]

In the city of Jyväskylä, 3,000 free bus tickets are being handed out. In the Helsinki region, meanwhile, public transport tickets will be available for a special low price…Car-free day culminates in International Mobility Week, during which people have been encouraged to ponder their own transport choices, and their impact on the environment and their own health.

Car Free Day excels in reminding people that they have choices when it comes to transportation. The idea encourages people to try new ways of getting around town, and these alternatives can often save time AND money. Driving can be more expensive than we realize: between gas, tolls, and parking (not to mention car ownership costs and maintenance), public transportation is a bargain. Washington Post columnist Dr. Gridlock explains that it was cost that ultimately convinced him to ride public transit:

Wednesday’s Car Free Day is about raising consciousness concerning choice, not about pushing people out of their cars…I stopped driving to The Post newsroom in downtown Washington when I figured out the cost of warehousing my car for nine hours each day. I could have used the advice offered by the Cost of Commuting calculator at, or Arlington County’s Car Free Diet calculator.

Here in DC, the spirit of Car Free Day lasts the whole month of September, with bike classes, walking tours, telework center trials and campaigns highlighting public transit going on through out the month. The best part about the Car Free (or Car Lite) idea is that anyone can participate: do one thing today Car Free and you’ll have made an impact and saved cash, too.

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