‘Car-Free Days’ Catching on in the US

From National Geographic, an article on US cities trying out “Car-Free Days,” an idea that apparently has been “a huge success” in Europe since the ’90s:

The constant cacophony of honking horns, roaring engines, and booming car stereos has helped fuel a sixfold increase in noise pollution over the past 15 years that is driving people from cities, according to advocates for peace and quiet.

Wouldn’t it be nice, they ask, if cars were on the fringe of our daily lives?

To help find an answer, “car-free day” events held in a handful of cities across the U.S. are giving urban dwellers a taste for life with fewer, and in some cases no, cars.

“One thing it does is give an example to people of what it looks like, smells like, sounds like, and all those different things that happen when you don’t have cars there,” said Sara Stout, who helps organize the annual event in Portland, Oregon.

Stout is also the North America spokesperson for the World Carfree Network, which helps organize car-free days around the world.

As a city-dweller, the idea of noise reduction sounds really appealing — I still don’t understand why so many people, for instance, must honk their horns to let someone know they’ve arrived rather than, you know, get out and go knock on the door. While the NG article doesn’t really address other environmental benefits beyond noise reduction, the WCN has a ton of resources, many of which do address the multiple environmental benefits of going car-free. Of course, this concept may have a tougher time catching on in cities beyond Portland, Madison and Berkeley simply because our urban and suburban areas are designed with automobile use in mind… Still, I’m glad to see Americans trying this.

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