Campaign for green transport underscores key role of cities in fighting global warming.
Hundreds of towns and cities are closing some of their busiest streets to cars for one day to discourage people from driving. For many urbanites, car-free day is the best part of mobility week, the EU’s annual campaign to encourage the use of eco-friendly forms of transport.
Cars and lorries are responsible for much of the noise, pollution and congestion that plague city life. They are also a major source of CO2, the main gas responsible for climate change.
From 16-22 September, events will be held to promote alternatives to private car use. Many towns and cities will use the opportunity to introduce new or improved public transport services, pedestrian zones and bike lanes. The EU provides financial support and an award for the best programme.
Besides promoting sustainable transport, this year’s theme – “Improving City Climates” – aims to raise awareness of the key role local authorities can play in the fight against global warming. More than 70% of Europeans live in an urban area. Cities could achieve deep cuts in greenhouse gases by persuading residents to leave their cars at home.
Now in its eighth year, European mobility week has caught on in other parts of the world; Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Taipei, Montreal, Yokohama and Quito were among 2 102 towns and cities participating in 2008 – a record number representing 220 million people in 39 countries.
Budapest, last year’s mobility week winner, has another impressive programme planned this September, involving the transformation of its historic Andrássy Avenue into a “living street” complete with grass.
• Salzburg has arranged interactive demonstrations of electric vehicles and rickshaw rides through the Austrian city.
• In Vilnius, Lithuania, thousands of teachers and schoolchildren plan to bike to school.
• The Portuguese city of Almada is giving away public transport tickets in exchange for recyclable rubbish.
• Some 200 businesses in Gothenburg, Sweden, have pledged to support employees who abandon their cars during mobility week.