Carfree Day is over for another year, but Sara Stout, North American spokesperson for the World Carfree Network took some time out of her busy activist day to explain why Carfree Day is so important to our efforts to fight climate change and why the carfree movement is only going to continue to grow.
So, why is Carfree Day important?
After more than 50 years of car-centric city planning in the US, the landscape is such that people cannot easily visualize what their towns or cities would look like with fewer cars. People also have a hard time imagining how they might reduce their own automobile dependence.
It is generally taken for granted that a car is a standard necessity for life in America. Carfree Day is important, because it gives people a chance to visualize something different and to feel supported in choosing alternatives to cars.
Does Carfree Day help people see the connection between cars & climate change?
Many people now recognize climate change as a real issue and people are starting to look for ways to change their habits to reduce their carbon-footprint. While we've all see thousands of automobile advertisements - showing us the freedom and luxury a car provides, Americans rarely are confronted with the reality that motor vehicles are the single biggest source of atmospheric pollution, contributing an estimated 14% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning.
Carfree Day helps raise awareness about the amount pollution cars create and also about the negative impacts car-dependence can have on our communities and our personal health.
How can Carfree Day help people make changes in their lives?
When Carfree Day works best, cities provide educational programs to help people learn how to reduce their automobile-dependence. For example, Madison, Wisconsin has a week of classes scheduled this year, where people can learn how to get started car-pooling, riding transit and basic bike commuting skills. When citizens feel supported in reducing their automobile-dependence, they are much more likely to take the difficult first steps in trying something new.
Once people get out of their cars and onto the bus or pedaling their bikes, they feel good about reducing their carbon foot-print and they also recognize that there are healthier, happier ways to get around than always driving by themselves.
Carfree Day is held each year on September 22: http://www.worldcarfree.net/PARK(ing) Day on September 19th, is also gaining popularity around the country: http://www.parkingday.org/