If you’re out and about in London on Saturday 22 September, expect to see far fewer cars on the road as the city is taking part in its first ever Car Free Day.
The idea is to encourage people to cycle or walk around the capital, inspiring more sustainable ways to travel as well as reducing traffic and omissions.
How did it come about?
London resident Marco Picardi came up with the idea of a car-free day back in 2017. He started a petition after becoming acutely aware how the pollution in London could be damaging our health.
Research shows that air pollution dropped by 89 percent on some sections of the London marathon route in 2018 when large parts of London were closed to traffic. “One day free from cars would give us all space to breathe,” he wrote.
“This is why I want London Mayor Sadiq Khan to agree to hold a Car Free Day on Saturday 22nd September 2018. It will be a day of community celebrations and street parties across London. It will be a day when families and communities gather outdoors and breathe fresh air.”
Picardi noted that other cities around the world, from Jakarta to Bogota to Paris, have car-free days. “They’ve done it successfully, and so can we,” he said. “The day will be a catalyst for a better urban future for all Londoners and will demonstrate our global leadership in the transition to greener, cleaner, and healthier cities.”
When did it become an official day?
Pircadi chose Saturday 22 September as the day to hold London Car Free Day because it coincided with World Car Free Day. His petition reached more than 10,000 signatures and, in July 2018, received the backing of London mayor Sadiq Khan.
Speaking during Mayor’s Question Time, Khan said, according to the Evening Standard: “Car-free events are great opportunities to inspire change by letting people experience the city from a different perspective. I encourage boroughs to work with TfL to make this day a huge success and I’ve asked TfL to consider how we can do even more to support this in 2019.”
Labour’s London Assembly spokesperson for the Environment, Leonie Cooper AM, said she was delighted to have the mayor’s support. “Initiatives such as car free days are absolutely integral to improving our capital’s air quality,” she said.
So what’s actually going on?
As well as reducing the number of cars on the road, Picardi wanted to make the day an event to remember. He has encouraged people to ask their council for a local street opening for a London Car Free Day community celebration.
Boroughs in London are slowly beginning to share information of what they’ll be doing. For example, the north end of Bermondsey Street from White’s Grounds to St Thomas Street will be closed to traffic and opened up to the community from 12-5pm.
And Greenwich is doing something very similar.
How can I keep up-to-date with what’s going on?
Follow the hashtags #LondonCarFreeDay and #LondonCarFreeDay2018 on Twitter to find out what people in your area are planning in the lead-up and on the day itself.
The main London Car Free Day Twitter account is sharing details from individual boroughs once each celebration is announced, so keep an eye on the feed.
How can I get involved?
First and foremost, don’t get in a car on Saturday 22 September 2018 if you want to play your part in London’s Car Free Day (that means taxis too). Use this time instead to walk or cycle around the city.
If you’re keen to get on a bike, you can rent them through the city’s Santander Cycles scheme, where you can hire one from as little as £2. Just go to any docking station with your bank card and touch the screen to get started. Or, if you’d like to go for a walk to explore the city, TfL has great walking routes listed on its website.
If you’re unsure whether your borough is running a car-free celebration, Picardi has helpfully listed detailed instructions for each Borough and the City of London on the official website, giving you the contacts for the Car Free Day teams. Click here to find them.
What do you think of London Car Free Day? Let us know your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.