World Car Free Day 2015

In honor of World Car Free Day 2015 (September 22) we wanted to know: Which city could best benefit from participating in World Car Free Day?

Here's what some of our authors and one of our editors had to say: 


Los Angeles: The City of Los Angeles should participate in World Car Free Day. Despite being considered a car-first place, much progress has been made in developing transit and active transportation facilities. The City's recently adopted Mobility Element charts a new path to increase transit and active transportation facilities. There is a political and resident support for a car free day, as successful Ciclavia bicycle events have proven. Los Angeles has a tradition of experimentation and adaptation as demonstrated in the way the Angelenos traveled differently during the 1984 Olympics. It's time to do that again!

-Richard W. Willson, author of Parking Management for Smart Growth


Shanghai: I think Shanghai would benefit most from a Car Free Day. Shanghai is a very dense city and when it began modernising and bringing cars into its ancient walking and cycling streets, they became rapidly very congested. In the past decade Shanghai has built the largest Metro in the world which now carries 9 million people a day. They have begun limiting car numbers with a ballot system and charging heavily for car registration. But the streets are still dangerous as the new Chinese car culture is aggressively asserting its right to the streets. A car-free day would show the public that most of Shanghai is a walking city in its history and urban fabric (as outlined in our book) and needs to be respected. They would love to enjoy the freedom of safe streets. Long term it may create a more respectful culture and regulations for pedestrian priority on their streets. 

-Peter Newman, author of The End of Automobile Dependence: How Cities Are Moving Beyond Car-Based Planning


New York City: New York City could benefit significantly to taking back the streets on World Car Free Day, not only to show New Yorkers the potential of a car-free, pedestrian-led city, but for Mayor DeBlasio to make a statement about the value of public space and his commitment to Vision Zero. DeBlasio has successfully lowered the speed limit and limited automobile traffic in Central and Prospect Park, but has yet to invest in the sweeping enforcement, design, and policy changes needed to protect pedestrians. To date, the number of pedestrian deaths in 2015 is the same as this number last year—60, with the number of children killed also the same at six. Traffic injuries disproportionately affect the most vulnerable—the poor and elderly. Many of the poorest neighborhoods in the city have higher crash densities than the wealthiest neighborhoods. And although senior citizens make up only 12 percent of the NYC population, they account for nearly 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities.

Many questioned DeBlasio’s commitment to Vision Zero after his comments about ripping up the Times Square pedestrian plaza—proven to have made the area safer for pedestrians. But larger questions loom about his commitment to his campaign platform of reducing inequities. Street safety presents an opportunity for DeBlasio to address the need to make the city safe for ALL New Yorkers.  Summer Streets, visited by over 300,000, offers three glorious car-free days in August, but covers just seven miles of Manhattan. On Tuesday, New York has an opportunity to go car free on its most dangerous boulevards and highlight the needs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers in having safe streets.  

-Heather Boyer, Island Press Executive Editor


All of them: I was asked: "Which city could best benefit from participating in World Car Free Day?” The glib answer would be: “All of them. And towns, too.”

Glib, and not – you’d think – about to fly any time soon. But the reason for World Car Free Day isn’t to annoy those wedded to their cars it’s a disrupter, a chance to take stock and see if we can get by, for just 24 hours, without infernal combustion engines. Naturally, we can but most conurbations which take part in the day won’t go the whole hog – it’s generally just a street or two that’s closed off. This is still good but it’s not quite disruptive enough. Bogotá in Columbia is the city which truly takes the day to its heart: it has been staging a Car Free Day since 2000 and this wasn’t via a dictat from on high, the annual event was okayed by a public referendum.

Since staging the first event Bogotá has invested in more civically sensible ways of getting around the city, installing bike lanes, protecting pedestrians and investing in transit. Much of this was the work of then mayor Enrique Peñalosa. To truly make a success of Car Free Day cities have to have politicians that want the idea to work, who want their cities to be designed for people, not cars.

Many cities around the world are now “getting it”. And staging Car Free Days is a useful way of – even just for a day – rethinking what makes cities – and towns – truly tick. (Clue: it’s not an endless stream of bumper-to-bumper cars.)

-Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars