A Car Free Day is more than just closing a street and saying ‘No Cars Here Today.’ There has to be proper planning behind it with clear objectives. These may vary depending on the extent and frequency that the organizers want to hold the Car Free Day.

Objectives mainly cover goals such as social integration, community building, increase footfall for local businesses, impact on healthy living as well as the promotion of NMT/active mobility. Some may be achieved in the short term and others in the very long term. For example, almost 15 years after Bogota’s Ciclovia was started did the authorities finally start of providing cycling lanes.

Car Free Days also require a budget to run. Partnerships between Government, City Authorities, Community groups and non profits can help in many of the required roles and tasks.

Experience at Open Streets Cape Town lists three broad areas as part of the Organization of a ‘Car Free Day’ These include: Project Management /Operations; Communications and Community Engagement.

  • Project Management includes planning, getting permits, working on signage and traffic management for the day, vendor mapping and coordinating volunteers. Some roles may vary if it is citizen or public sector driven.
  • Communications is critical for the success of a car free day. Media management and engagement as well as online engagements form the bulk of this.
  • Community Engagement involves identifying and getting stakeholders buy-in, coordinating community planning sessions, local publicity campaigns and recruiting local volunteers.

Community Groups like cyclists, skaters, entertainers, artists and sports shops help provide a lot of support bringing ‘life to the street.’ Associations and organisations can raise awareness about specific subjects (road safety, climate change, health, ecological practices, urban planning and transport etc.). Public authorities can present their urban projects, their goals in terms of mobility and to open a dialogue with the population (public participation). Some of the manpower on the ground includes marshals, security and emergency staff.

Key questions to ask before commencing:

  1. In which area and street do we want to host the Open Streets /Car Free)day? (Location and scope of the area)
  2. When are we aiming to host it? (Date and Time)
  3. What are we hoping to achieve with it? (Objectives)
  4. What are the planning milestones that will get us there? (Feedback)
  5. Who do we want to approach as main partners? (Stakeholders)

Mistakes people make:

  1. Not engaging and explaining to the stakeholders – especially those with interests on the street.
  2. Communication: Not communicating early enough (at least 2 or 3 months in advance and ensuring the correct message goes out to the public ).
  3. Forgetting children and Persons With Disability while organizing the car free event.
  4. Not having a location map that shows the street, closed alleys, vendor and activity locations.
  5. Not getting all the permits!
  6. Not cleaning up afterwards!

It is also advised that:

  • Senior people in Government like Mayors or Governors be there to launch the Car Free day. This increases the awareness, interest and importance among the media and the public.
  • In the month leading up to the event, a team of organisers work full time within the committee.
  • Recruit adequate human resources.
  • The area be easily accessible by public transport.
  • The organising committee should meet soon after the event to review it and discuss any highlights and difficulties.

Resources: thinksmall.org, openstreets.co.za, healthiestpracticeopenstreets.org, Codatu.org, Streets4all

Images from Placemaking Week and CODATU

One thought on “What is behind the making of a ‘Car Free Day’?

  1. Pilots should also happen on quiet days of the week eg weekends to minimize disruption and traffic. Choice of streets should not affect access to major public transport bus stops to avoid disruption to the public transport sector.
    Portable toilets and litter bins should be provided to serve the street vendors, shoppers and other road users.

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