Car Free Days, also known as Open Streets, Ciclovia, Sunday Streets or Make Sundays Special, provide opportunities to re-invent cities as people centric environments.

Kampala held a Car Free Day in January 2019 along Luwum Street in the City Centre. It attracted several people who participated in activities including cycling, aerobics and touch rugby. Participants walked to other streets to spread awareness on non motorized transport.

Urban Planner Amanda Ngabirano, coordinator of the event stated that they aim at creating more awareness for the importance of walking and cycling in the city.

‘A Street is not supposed to be a stress environment’ she added.

Kigali has held car free days for the last two years. Held twice a month on Sundays from 7 am to 10 am, it attracts 6000 participants. It also includes free health checks with a focus on Non Communicable Diseases.

Addis Ababa held a car free day in February 2019. The event attracted positive media attention from BBC Africa, AFP and Kenya’s Daily Nation.

It covered 5 parts of Addis as a joint collaboration between the City Authorities, Urban Enthusiasts and the Health Ministry.

‘We had skateboard clubs, cycling associations and the youth and sports bureau organizing events in the spaces. We have learnt that it helps to have organized activities because the concept is new and not everyone has a bike or skates. We are looking forward to eventually have connectivity between all the spaces.’ said Seble Samuel, one of the organizers.

As Ethiopians reclaimed their streets, Cape Townians temporarily closed Bree Street in the City Centre. The 1.4 Km closure saw 8000 people come out to cycle, skate, walk, march, play and socialize.

Cape Town runs a monthly car free day in different neighbourhoods. Open Streets Cape Town has been key in the promotion of NMT, development of social interaction and engaging local government on sustainable transit planning. The next Open Streets in Cape Town will be in Langa on Sunday the 24th of February. 

Bogota, Colombia holds ‘Ciclovia’ every Sunday. Over 140km of streets are closed for people to walk, run, cycle and play. One impact of this was the construction of 350km of Cycling lanes in the city. Bogota are have even held a ‘Car Free Week.

An economic analysis did a Cost Benefit Analysis into savings on direct medical costs against every dollar invested in the Ciclovía. It revealed that the savings ranged from US $3.2 to US $4.3 for every dollar invested in Ciclovía.

San Fransisco close their streets monthly covering distances of 7.3 to 9.7 Km. A 2013 study revealed that the main reason people attend is the opportunity to socialise in a safe, fun environment with the attraction of free activities along the routes 

There was also a positive economic impact: Increased foot/bike bring in new customers who shop and dine along Sunday Streets routes, 44% of businesses reported an increase in customer activity and sales; Almost one in five businesses (18%) reported hiring additional employees to work on Sunday Streets Sundays. Increased awareness of businesses available in each neighbourhood is an indirect benefit.

Global experiences from Car Free Days have created stronger social cohesion, changed transportation attitudes, encouraged healthy living, improved air quality, brought economic and business benefits and advocated for safety and security on the streets.

The phenomenon is ripe for African Cities who have large youthful populations and face spatial contestation between public space and increased pressure for commercial land use.

Image from Open Streets Cape Town by Mik Motala, Data linked to Sources

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