9/22 - Car-Free Day

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    The third Thursday in September, 2005, is September 22. This is an international car-free day, celebrated by cities in the European Union, some South American cities, and a few in Canada. The annual car-free day will no doubt be ignored, as usual, by the U.S. press, but Austin has a great opportunity to celebrate it this year.
    Since September's third Thursday falls on World Car-Free Day this year, how about closing Guadalupe to motor traffic for Third Thursday on Guadalupe? Part of the celebration would be to leave the traffic jams out of it. As a festive city with aspirations to environmental consciousness, Austin needs to learn the art of staging an outdoor festival without filling the surrounding streets, and the festival scene itself, with idling cars exuding heat and poison gases. If people want to drive to Third Thursday in cars, let them know that they need to park the car at least a mile from the party, and walk or bus the last stretch. The way things are now, organizers never even suggest leaving the car at home. If you don't even suggest it, you may depend on most car owners not to think of it.
    Every year, the gorgeous Christmas light display on 37th Street is completely ruined by a steady stream of cars chugging slowly through the middle of it, menacing pedestrians and filling the air with carbon monoxide. The same thing happens at First and Third Thursdays. Will Wynn says Austin's going to be the Clean Energy Capital of the World. To deserve any title remotely resembling that one, we need to learn to throw a party without producing traffic jams. A good start could be made on September 22, Third Thursday, and World Car-Free Day, 2005. How about it?
Yours truly,
Amy Babich
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