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Car-free days: Giving people a place to walk and breath clean air

Many countries around the world went car-free for a day last week to “inspire motorists” to leave their cars just for a day –to walk, cycle, or take public transportation to go to work, or do errands. The global movement is considered a great opportunity to lower air pollution and boost efforts to protect the environment.

That day is now known as World Car-Free Day. It became a global movement in 2000 to bring awareness on ways to help the environment. The initiative is promoted by the United Nations Environment Programme in its website. It was launched by a group known as Carbusters, now named the World Carfree Network.

Declaring a car-free day is not new; since the 1990s, carless days were observed in many countries, either covering the whole city or specific areas like heritage sites and market areas. The first car-free Sundays were observed in 1956 throughout Belgium in the Netherlands. A global movement to encourage all countries to observe it set Sept. 22 as World Car-Free Day.

The European Commission has even taken a step further by transforming the day into a complete mobility week.

In the Philippines, carless days are observed in many cities and towns where local government units have closed streets to traffic on Sundays.

In Pasig City, there are “People’s Streets” where weekday busy streets have become venues for fairs, play areas, or simply for pedestrians.

In 2019, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) encouraged carless Sundays in June to observe Environment Month.

Long before global warming came up, many towns had closed streets around their markets on Sundays to transform the streets into mini parks.

The benefits of car-free days have been measured in various ways. The impact differs from location to location, but the impact on this day is clear that the reduction in air pollutants was between 40 percent in Paris to 89 percent on the day of the car-free marathon in London, a report from the World Economic Forum said.

Other benefits have been anecdotal but still considered significant – being pedestrians, people were friendlier and more relaxed, they talked to each other, and children played freely in those public places where cars were not allowed to run.

Car-free zones or car-free days have a place in communities. First, it reduces air pollution and helps efforts in slowing down climate change. Motor vehicles emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, according to studies.

Second, it focuses attention on creating more pedestrian-friendly city areas.

Third, walking or cycling gives the benefits of exercise, which is good for the body.

In Metro Manila where we don’t even need official figures to tell us the heavy volume of motor vehicles on the roads that cause traffic– and serious air pollution – observing car-free days or car-free zones should not be an action declared only every so often. Government leaders should initiate moves to give people a place where they can walk and breathe clean air – at least once a week.

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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