The West Midlands is gearing up for European Car-Free Day tomorrow, Thursday 22nd September.

Since 1995, European Car-Free Day (also known as 'In Town Without My Car' Day) has served to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of excessive car use and to promote alternatives. The basic concept of Car-Free Day is to close part of a city centre to traffic for 24 hours and have a party in the 'car-free zone'.

Although Birmingham City Council has refused to formally participate in Car-Free Day by closing a street, they are actively promoting Travelwise Week and holding an Active Travel Day on 25th September.

Events taking place in the West Midlands on Car-Free Day this year include:

  • The Environment Agency is encouraging its staff across the region to leave their cars at home and walk, cycle or take public transport to work, with an offer of free treats from a 'breakfast hamper' to reward successful participants. The total mileage saved by Agency staff members will be calculated and the figures published at a later date.
  • Centro, the region's public transport promoter, has extended its offer of a free Centrocard multi-modal day ticket to commuters who pledge to leave their car behind and travel by bus, train or tram instead. A total of 1,350 motorists have pledged to take part.[1]
  • Wolverhampton City Council is organising a cycle ride, using off-road routes along the Smestow Valley Railway Path, returning along canal towpaths.
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council is holding a free Sustainable Travel Breakfast for staff and launching a new-look 'Bus Map and Guide' for the public.
  • Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, Solihull, Redditch and Coventry are also taking part.[2]

Nick King, Regional Strategy Manager at the Environment Agency's Midlands Regional Office, said:

"At the Environment Agency, we are keen to take part in Car-Free Day. We want to show how committed we are to improving our environment. Burning fossil fuels such as petrol in car engines uses up the Earth's natural resources, pollutes the air and contributes to climate change. We all want to make the Midlands a better place for our children and grandchildren and we need to change our way of life now by car-sharing, using public transport, walking or cycling whenever we can. Car-Free Day is a step in the right direction."

Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigner James Botham said:

"The downsides of our culture of chronic car dependency, whether in the form of worsening traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, global warming, or social dislocation, are all too apparent in a big city like Birmingham. We all know we should be doing something about it, but for many of us it can be immensely difficult to break the car habit and find alternative means of making every-day journeys. But the longest journey begins with the first step, and that's what Car-Free Day is all about. It's an opportunity for pedestrians, cyclists and commuters to experience a calmer, safer, quieter urban environment without heavy traffic for one day, and, just as importantly, to provide people with the information they need to make better choices all year round."

On Saturday, Birmingham Friends of the Earth debunked the myth that buses are the source of Birmingham's traffic congestion problem [3] when thirty volunteers, seated behind cardboard steering wheels, created a group photograph, spacing themselves out in the road to represent, first, thirty single-occupancy private cars, then a single-decker bus carrying thirty passengers.

Martin Stride, Birmingham Friends of the Earth Transport Campaigner, said:

"There are 27 million cars on the UK's road network compared with fewer than 200,000 buses, most of which are indispensable to the 35 per cent of households in metropolitan city areas who do not have access to a car[4]. A double-decker bus takes up one seventh of the road space of the equivalent number of cars[5], and yet it's buses that get the blame for clogging up our roads."

Editor's Notes

[1] 'Over a thousand West Mids motorists pledge to give up their car for a day', Centro Press Release, 18th September 2005. See Centro News Online at

[2] Sixty-four UK cities in all are taking part this year. Details of events can be found on-line at

[3] The City Council has just decided to continue the suspension of the number 67 bus lanes on Tyburn Road (A38) for another six months, starting in July 2005. The bus lanes were originally opened up to traffic in the summer of 2004 to accommodate the expected increase in traffic arising from nearby motorway road-works, as well as to test the theory that allowing traffic into the bus lane would relieve congestion. Birmingham FoE wants to see the suspension of the Tyburn Road bus lanes lifted and more properly enforced bus lanes introduced within existing road space, along with bus priority measures at junctions.

[4] Department for Transport/National Statistics 2005.

[5] Environmental Transport Association.