Celebrate Car-Free Day

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 14, 2004

Dear Editor,
    It's sad that we in the United States get so little news of the rest of the world. Knowing how other people do things can be very helpful. It gives you perspective, and lets you see your situation from new angles.
    In the realm of transportation of course, other countries, even poor ones, have many things we don't have: electric trams that come every five minutes, bicycle paths that connect cities, pedestrian zones in the middle of town, frequent train service between cities. They also have car-free days.
    Sept. 22 is an annual car-free day in hundreds of cities around the world. (The European Union has a Web site about this at www.22september.org). Of course, we in the USA don't usually hear about it. The U.S. doesn't participate, and U.S. newspapers don't cover the event.
    On Sept. 22, in Austin, cars will dominate all streets, as usual. But let's at least make it known that in the rest of the world, cities are restricting cars so that people can walk and bicycle and breathe and think and look at their public space.
    A peaceful bicycle ride to commemorate World Carfree Day will leave from Eastwoods Park at 5:45pm, Sept. 22. An adventure walk will leave from outside Wheatsville Co-op at noon. But you can celebrate World Carfree Day just by walking or cycling wherever you happen to be in the city, and by actually looking at your surroundings. Breathe the air. Listen to the sounds. Imagine that, for just one day, the cars are gone.
    Perhaps next year Austin will celebrate World Carfree Day properly, by actually closing some streets to private cars. As a first step, let's at least notice that, every year, Sept. 22 is an international car-free day. Maybe it will give us ideas.
Yours truly,
Amy Babich
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