World Carfree Day is an annual celebration of how community life improves when freed from the noise, stress and pollution of cars. Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets and neighbourhoods to celebrate World Carfree Day and to remind the world that we don't have to accept domination by cars..
In Christchurch, some members of Living Streets Aotearoa will create peaceful 'mini-parks' in a metered car space along Hereford Street (between Colombo and Manchester). "We are paying into the Council meters to park our vehicles, but because they will be really small, we still have space for people to sit and enjoy reading the newspaper, sip a coffee from one of the great local cafes, or to chat with us about the Living Streets group" says walker Chrys Horn.
"Hereford Street is our choice in 2009, to acknowledge the City Council's recent proposal to create a 'slow street' by reduce parking spaces and road width, and widening pavements there" says Cindy Carmichael, another of the event organisers. "Construction begins next year, and is completed in a couple of years. We welcome extra space provision for walking in the central city. Let's see some more!"
Internationally this is Climate Change Week. Living Streets Aotearoa www.livingstreets.org.nz seeks people-friendly and climate-friendly cities. Active forms of getting around, such as walking and cycling, are inherently low-carbon emitters. Shared cars and buses are better than sole-occupant cars, and require fewer parking spaces. Parks and street trees help absorb carbon dioxide emissions and dust.
"Why not make one day a week car free by a healthy walk to work, cycling or using a bus - and cut your carbon footprint and costs at the same time" says event supporter and environmental educator Rhys Taylor.
Meg Christie, the Active Environments Health Promoter at Community and Public Health in Christchurch, commented: "World Car-Free Day doesn’t just have to be a one-off event. This global day of action is a time for everyone to think about how their travel impacts on their health and our environment. September 22nd provides an opportunity to assess our dependence on cars, and how that can be reduced in the long-term. Obesity related disorders such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes are a major health problem in New Zealand for people of all ages. Commuters choosing to cycle or walk to school or work on a regular basis can easily achieve the World Health Organisation’s suggested 30 minutes a day of moderate physical exercise."
For further information: Rhys Taylor 021 462 260, Chrys Horn 027 286 8653.
Intersect in Wellington, who ran an independently organised similar event called Park-ing Day in their city and Auckland last Friday, provided these thoughts about what a people-friendly city centres would look like:
• have lots of open spaces.
• are not dominated by parked and moving cars and trucks.
• are great places for people to wander around by foot.
• are safe and fun for cycling, wheelchairs, push-chairs, scooters, etc.
• are easy to get around for people with limited mobility, sight or hearing.
• smell good, with lots of fresh air but some protection from 'wind-tunnels'.
• are productive places (e.g. places for growing and harvesting food)
• are places where people can find both meaningful work and useful services.
• have different spaces for both peace and loudness.
• encourage social contact, smiles, laughter, joy and happiness