European Car-Free Day is held annually on 22nd of September. The idea for this initiative comes from France and is realized for the first time in 1998. This is an international campaign during which central areas of cities are getting closed for automobiles. This day aims to reduce noise from car traffic, exhaust emissions, as well as improve the quality of life in big cities.
Urban pollution is responsible for reducing life expectancy globally. According to the World Health Organization, ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016. In Europe, urban pollution shaves an average of 1.6 years off a person’s life in France, 1.9 years in Italy and an alarming 2.4 years in Germany.
Local authorities are attempting to address these troubling death rates by encouraging people to leave their cars at home. Vehicles are a significant source of pollution, and transport is the fastest-growing source of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. The results of going car free for one day are clear: the first “journée sans voiture” (day without a car), which took place in Paris in 2015, reduced exhaust emissions by 40%. In 2018 in London, diverting traffic away from the marathon route caused local air pollution levels to drop by as much as 89%.
Although car-free days raise awareness about car pollution, cities and their citizens need to consider emissions from general transportation services the remaining 364 days of the year. The good news is there are several solutions to mitigate the impact of car emissions on climate change and human health. Some of them are: improving traffic flow to reduce congestion, increasing the number of electric cars on the roads, running public transport systems more efficiently, making more efficient use of parking spaces, incentives for walking and cycling in cities, etc.