Did you know that today (22 September) is In Town Without My Car Day? Or Car-Free Day? No? Well surely you were aware that this is European Mobility Week? If you weren’t, don’t beat yourself up.
A quick Google reveals articles on the subject in the Malta Times, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini and the Kracow Post. OK, there’s one on Nottingham City Council’s website too, but it’s hardly what you’d call blanket coverage.
That’s a bit of a shame, because the European Commission-backed initiative aims to promote public transport, cycling and walking in cities throughout Europe and to raise awareness about the need to address the problem of traffic-generated pollution.
The EC says it takes the initiative seriously. In its 2009 Action Plan on Urban Mobility, the Commission said European Mobility Week “plays an important role in the creation of a new culture for urban mobility” and pledged its support to develop the campaign further.
Over 2,000 towns and cities around the world (not just in Europe, oddly) are taking part in European Mobility Week and In Town Without my Car Day – also known as Car Free Day. There’s an impressive 43 British towns and cities on the list.
According to the European Mobility Week site, “…most participating towns and cities devise a week-long public programme of innovative activities and events promoting sustainable urban mobility. They also commit to launching at least one permanent measure which will continue to exist after the week is over, ranging from small-scale improvements such as the development of school travel plans or establishment of an online car-pooling system, to larger infrastructural works such as the creation of new cycle routes or the re-allocation of road space in favour of pedestrians.”
But a closer look at the UK list reveals just a handful of organised car-free days among a much larger collection of rather low-key events, like a cycle to work survey being carried out in Horsham, a bus users’ surgery in Milton Keynes, and the Sky Ride in Leicester (which actually happened three weeks ago).
European Mobility Week is coordinated in the UK by ACT TravelWise, an umbrella organisation for groups working to promote sustainable transport. Marketing & business manager Rhian Davies admits there’s not much going on. She said, “It is quite low-key this year but I think that’s because of the financial uncertainty hanging over local authorities – councils have to be very careful about how they spend their money.
"But it’s a good initiative and we’re happy to support it. We’ll review all the activities after this week and decide what to focus on for next year.”
For more information about the activities happening across the UK today, there’s a comprehensive list on the European Mobility Week website.