For one day in September, cities across Europe are transformed. Boulevards, town squares and side streets – usually packed with heavy car traffic – are suddenly brimming with bikes and pedestrians. These Car-Free Sundays are part of the EU Mobility Week, an initiative which aims to promote environmentally friendly transport in cities for everyone. In many cities, private cars are banned for the day (apart from urgent services, taxis and people with disabilities) and people are instead encouraged to explore on foot, by bike, or by public transport (which is often free for the day). Some people love the experience of Car-Free Sundays so much they would like them to happen more frequently. Should every Sunday be car-free?

More Car-Free Sundays would be good for the environment. Cars emit a lot of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is a harmful greenhouse gas responsible for causing climate change. In fact, they are responsible for 12% of all CO2 emissions in the EU. Banning cars from the streets of our cities for one day a week could be an important part in reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions (and helping to save the planet).

Lower air pollution levels are better for public health. The air pollution caused by cars is not only bad for our planet – it’s also damaging for our health. Recent data showed that toxic air pollutants are responsible for 400,000 premature deaths in the EU every year. During 2019’s Car-Free Sunday, Brussels and other cities experienced a drop of up to 80% in toxic air pollutant levels. This is not the only way car-free days might benefit public health: with cars gone, people are encouraged to walk or cycle, which can encourage more physically active societies.

In the absence of cars, people can reclaim their cities. Children can go outside and play in the streets without the fear of being hit by traffic. People could rediscover their neighbourhoods, and restaurants and cafes might also benefit, as roads and sidewalks could be transformed into terraces for extra seating. For one day a week, cities could be centred around people and not cars.

On the other hand, it could be inconvenient and impractical. Walking or cycling to your destination is fine when the sun is shining, but what happens when it’s cold and rainy? Public transport would be overcrowded (not an ideal situation during a pandemic) and people might have to rely on taxis, which are expensive. Also, even though most people don’t work on Sundays, that doesn’t mean they don’t have important things to do requiring a car – like moving houses, for example. For the current Car-Free Sundays, it is possible to request an exemption from municipalities, which makes driving possible, but it does mean extra hassle for the driver. Shops and small businesses have also complained that pedestrianisation would hurt local economies.

Should every Sunday be car-free in European cities? Could regular Car-Free Sundays lower emissions and improve public health? Or would it be too impractical, and hurt shops and small businesses? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by sabina fratila on Unsplash

24 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Shopping has already been banned, now driving… Pretty soon there will be nothing to do on Sundays but go to church 😉

    • avatar

      No… Church has been banned too.

    • avatar

      It’s times like this I wish it were possible to give more than one emoji.

  2. avatar

    Many elderly and infirm people need cars to go out.

  3. avatar

    I think every Sunday is too much to be honest, bc banning cars does make a lot things quite inconvenient, but I think we should definitely have car-free Sunday more than once a year! maybe once a month could be a solution.

  4. avatar

    It will take a lot more than car-free sundays to save our planet and fight climate change, but it could be a good step on the way. I think mostly it would improve the health of people since they would be more active and our air would be cleaner. Im in favour!

  5. avatar

    Indeed, and there are many car-free options beyond car-free days

  6. avatar

    Yesss 😍 I would love that!

  7. avatar

    Would be nice but it’s never gonna happen. People love their stinking cars too much.

    • avatar

      Mettre en cause le peuple est un peu trop facile ; si nos dirigeants menaient des politiques nous permettant de nous passer de nos voitures, nous les utiliserions beaucoup moins.

  8. avatar

    That would be great for people and for the planet

  9. avatar

    YES ! Les personnes qui n’ont pas de voiture mais subissent les nuisances des autres en seraient enfin libérées. Les familles avec de jeunes enfants pourraient sortir dans la rue sans cette obsession permanente du danger.
    Pour couper la poire en deux, on peut imaginer une solution médiane où chaque ville serait divisée en 2 parties, et les dimanches sans voiture se feraient alternativement 1 fois par quinzaine. Autre hypothèse, organiser l’opération du samedi soir au dimanche après-midi, pour laisser certaines familles rentrer en ville le dimanche soir après un déplacement du week-end.

  10. avatar

    Il devrait y avoir beaucoup plus de dimanches sans voitures oui, mais il devrait surtout y avoir une politique globale conduisant à la moindre nécessité de son utilisation ; l’urbanisme détermine cette nécessité, la politique des transports complète… Néanmoins il faut avoir à l’esprit qu’une société basée sur le profit n’ira pas dans cette voie (les déplacements en voiture individuelle, ça fait du fric!).

  11. avatar

    Everyday should be a near-carfree day, with restrictions to use this object that has so much drawback for everybody (pollution, co2, no physical activity, so much public space taken to drive and park, collissions, …). Let’s begin with sunday ! Would be great if drivers needed some kind of certificate to prove it is absolutely necessary for them to use their car this day. Yes it is hassle, but car is hassle for everyone.

  12. avatar

    and what about people who have to use cars

  13. avatar

    Yes, or at least one Sunday per month, or at least Sunday mornings. But more cars-free days is useful for a less noisy and polluted city, and to experience other ways to move ourselves.

  14. avatar
    Charles Esmenjaud

    Yes, it is a psycological and cultural mesure to stop thinking car and car

  15. avatar

    No, maybe lefty free or woke free

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