A collapse in the number of British towns supporting World Car Free Day on 22 September – the annual event that encourages motorists in over 1,000 towns around the globe to leave their cars at home in favour of bicycles, trains and buses – can be blamed on slashed budgets for local government and dwindling interest in the environment, according to the Environmental Transport Association (ETA); the organisation that first coordinated the event in Britain.
Over the last decade, an average of over 50 British towns each year have staged events to highlight alternatives to car travel, but this year the number has plummeted to fewer than ten.
The ETA earlier this year wrote to over 400 local authorities aroundBritainto ask if they were planning to support World Car Free Day 2012; only 2 councils replied.
World Car Free Day continues to draw support from elsewhere; with over 550 events organised, Spain tops a league table of countries taking part, while Britain languishes near the bottom behind Croatia and Slovenia.
Director of the ETA, Andrew Davis, says: “The economic downturn has distracted attention and diverted budgets away from green initiatives such as Car Free Day, but questioning our over-dependence on cars is as much about saving money at the pumps as it is improving the local environment in which we live and work.”
He adds: “The idea is not to put cars on trial or to condemn drivers’ desire for mobility, but those of us who live or work in urban areas become oblivious to the ever-increasing noise, air pollution and stress from traffic without realising the detrimental effect it has on our health and quality of life.”