On September 22 of every year, people in various parts of the world celebrate World Carfree Day. Although the celebration is not yet widely known in the United States, it is becoming increasingly popular in cities across Europe and throughout the world. The concept behind World Carfree Day is simple. Citizens are asked simply to give up their car for a single day. Once they do, th ey find that there are a number of benefits of doing so.
Support for Mass Transit. Not using an automobile will encourage many people to learn more about the mass transit system that exists in their city or region. Often times the biggest hurdle to getting people to use buses and trains is simply overcoming the inertia and habit of the automobile, and getting them on the bus or train for the first time. People are often surprised at how inexpensive and stress-free it can be to use mass transit, particularly when compared to the hassles associated with using their cars.
Support for Bicycle Commuting. Bicycle commuting is another underutilized transportation mode in the United States. Although recent spikes in gas prices and increasing numbers of “bike to work” days have led many people to commute on a bicycle, there’s still plenty of room for increased participation. While it might take a few times before a person figures out what works best for them in terms of timing, and the best route to work and the necessary equipment, many people find it to be a great way to save money and get some exercise while doing something (commuting to work) that they’d need to be doing anyway.
Reducing Unnecessary Trips by Car. Many people live within a mile or two of their grocery stores and other shopping areas. All too often, though, we are in the habit of simply jumping in the car and driving to the store whenever we need a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. By giving up the car for a day, we’re forced to walk or bicycle to the store instead. And most of the time, we find that doing so is not as much of a hassle or burden as we might otherwise think. For people who live further away, going without the car forces them to re-examine whether the trip to the store is actually necessary. By combining numerous smaller (perhaps even daily) trips into fewer trips, we can reduce the number of miles we drive.
Reduced Pollution. Aside from the benefits we as individuals might experience from increased physical activity and spending less time in cars, reducing the use of automobiles benefits all of us in that fewer tailpipe emissions will make their way into the air as pollutants.
On a deeper level, not using your car and seeing fewer cars on the road helps us experience a different side of the world that we live in. Rather than rushing to the store or to work in our cars, the slower pace of walking or bicycling allows us a little more time to see more of what’s around us.