Birmingham City Council have once again singularly failed to allow the city to participate in In Town Without My Car, previously known as Car Free Day, 22nd September [1], in spite of all other major cities in the UK taking part this year.

Brett Rehling from Birmingham Friends of the Earth said:

"ITWMC day provides an opportunity to learn about alternative transport the easy way [2], and Birmingham has thrown this opportunity away once again for another year. ITWMC means that for one day, people can try the alternative ways of travelling. Then they can find out how much they enjoy cycling, walking or being able to read a book on the train, or what problems there are. The problems people have can help us find out how to improve our transport systems for everyone."

As the deadline for registration passed on Friday, 37 towns and cities had signed up for the event – a 94% increase on last year. All other major cities, including Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff, are taking part, many for the first time due to new national commitment, but the Second City fails to measure up.[3]

Birmingham Council's excuse is that too many voters work in the car industry. But one token day does not damage the car economy – the sea change in public opinion and habits will happen gradually and all industries have always had to evolve to cope with that. Meanwhile over 80 per cent of motorists are concerned about pollution and traffic congestion and 92 per cent agree that cars are harmful to the environment. The Environmental Transport Association offers breakdown services for environment-conscious motorists. [4]

Also the event is now called "in Town Without My Car" rather than Car Free Day – the implicit assumption being that we have a car, but choose not to use it!

Traffic is the leading cause of death for children aged one to 14 [5]. Traffic delays cost the country £20bn a year [6] Fossil fuels are changing our climate and costing money and lives [7]. Sensible car use would cut down congestion costs, make the streets safer for everyone and the air cleaner, and cut dangerous climate change.

Last week Council signed up to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change, [8] acknowledging the reality of climate change and its impacts and commiting the Council to working with local people and the Government to tackle its causes. This is hardly a fitting way for the Council to demonstrate their commitment to its objectives.

Because ITWMC is on a Sunday this year it would have been even easier for people to find leisure activities they can do to avoid using their car, and in other cities the leisure industry has been actively involved in the event.

Editor's Notes

[1] Official ITWMC UK website: and European ITWMC website:

[2] Political crises in the Middle East could threaten our oil supplies. Resulting fuel shortages could seriously affect our freedom to drive everywhere. This would be learning the hard way.

[3] A total of 37 towns and cities in the UK are taking part this year, from London to Lampeter. Last year there were 19, but national Government chose last year's Car Free Day to sign up to the event for the future, encouraging a 94% increase in participation.

The pledge, signed by Alan Whitehead MP, states that "with regard to the citizens' growing concern of the negative effects of traffic on the quality of life in their towns and cities, we the undersigned:

    1. welcome the European "In town, without my car!" Day initiative;
    2. commit ourselves to promote and facilitate the organisation by local authorities of the annual campaign, each 22 September at least, on the basis of the Charter;
    3. invite other countries and regions inside and outside Europe to join the initiative in order to enable as many citizens as possible to discover more sustainable means of transport and to enjoy a healthier and more friendly city".

Car Free Day focuses on three types of action:

  1. encouraging the use of alternative modes of transport to the single occupancy
    private car;
  2. making citizens aware of different approaches to mobility in urban areas and the environmental impacts of their modal choice;
  3. presenting the town in a different light for a day by restricting motorised traffic in certain areas

[4] Positive motorists:

  • Over 80 per cent of motorists are concerned about pollution and traffic congestion and 92 per cent agree that cars are harmful to the environment. Source: Lex
    ETA – the Environmental Transport Association
  • Campaigning for a sound and sustainable transport system
  • Environmental alternative to the other motoring organisations
  • Wide range of services including breakdown and travel insurance

"We will never be without cars but we can use them more sensibly as part of a sustainable transport system for Britain, something we can all be a part of. This is the vision of the Environmental Transport Association (ETA)."

[5] Source: Friends of the Earth press release, 23 Jan 1998, on research by Dr Ian Roberts, Director of the Child Health Monitoring Unit at the Institute for Child Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital.

[6] Source: CBI (from

[7] Road transport causes almost one fifth of the UK’s emissions of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas. Source: Friends of the Earth

[8] Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change: