So, You Are Thinking about Organizing a CarFree Day?

Now Here's the Plan
CFD Origins: Timeline
Getting it Right! Getting it Wrong!
The Easiest Way to Start
Or Perhaps...a ThursdayProject
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But.. Before We Rush Ahead

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    Great idea! But be warned: it is not nearly as easy as it may appear at first glance. It is not that it is all that extraordinarly difficult to organize and do something along these lines. Indeed many have done so, all too often without a great deal of effort. But what a wasted opportunity!

    Working through this Web site and its many extensions, we would like to put before you some of the reasons why we feel it is worthwhile taking the time and effort to take full advantage of any such opportunity. Getting it right is indeed a challenging task. It requires energy, preparation and many skills, not least of which a willingness to listen to and negotiate with many divergent and sometimes rather difficult groups and interests. But take courage! Others have managed to do a good job of this in the past, and surely you can too. With their and others' help, and your own incandescent energy and dedication to your community, your neighbors and all those who will follow you, this is going to work out quite nicely indeed.

    Before we settle in with the details, a quick word on this Website and how we see it developing. Like virtually everything else you will run into on the Web, and by the very nature of the medium, it is "work in progress". By this we mean to imply not that what you see here lacks the preparatory work that is needed to justify its claims as a useful planning and implementation tool, which indeed it is; but rather that we see it as something which we and others will continue to build on, improve and extend in the months and years ahead, at the same time we work with it in a variety of concrete real world situations. (Take a look at the section here on the CFD Timeline to get a feel for some fo the ways in which this shomewhat chatoic process of doing, exchange and learnign works.) The site as it sstands now functions pretty well as a collective depository of experience and knowledge, and as an open tool for all to use and improve on. A useful neighborly way to get some important things done and share with others. Right?

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    Now, Here's the Plan (Summary)

    Whether you are mayor, governor, environment or public interest group, or simple citizen, the basics are the same. In a nutshell...

    1. Get together with your neighbors and fellow townsfolk and figure out how to get all the cars off the streets (or some part of them, if only your own) of your community for a single, otherwise normal day of the week.

    2. Plan and carry out your Day in close partnership with all echelons of local government and the many concerned administrations and agencies -- but try to ensure that the main lead comes from non-political citizen groups bringing together and representing the full range of social and economic classes. .

    3. Be sure that you fully take into account the technical demands of the job, and make sure that you have the traffic planning, community relations, enforcement skills and people on your side and ready to work hard from start to finish.

    4. Make sure too that this is organized and run from beginning to end as a festive occasion.

    5. And a focused, energetic group learning experience.

    6. Be sure too to make it an inclusive, cooperative, out-reach activity that consults, persuades and engages all parts of your community (including those who may at first be pretty resistant to your idea). To this end, creative and persistent use of and collaboration with the media -- print and electronic -- is going to be vital to your success. In one way it should be easy: all this, done right, is great news.

    7. Don't be afraid to be patient, which may mean not necessarily achieving all of your hoped for objectives the first time around. Better a small success with strong support across the community, than a radical statement which alienates and could threaten future such days and creative follow-up!

    8. During that one festive day, encourage people of all ages and conditions to look at what is going on under these rather different circumstances and to serve as witnesses of the occasion. Among these school children and those who care about them can be among your most powerful allies and partners. Urge them to talk to others and write down and share what they observe, take photographs of how things look with fewer cars around, and listen carefully to criticism as well as eventual enthusiastic remarks.

    9. And then, once the great Day is over and the cars come roaring back on the streets, get together and see what can be done to put this rich repository of observation and conclusions to work for the community as a whole.

    10. You may be surprised at how good, neighborly and smart you all are. And keep your eye on your city. If you did your homework and got your Day right, you will see the change.

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    A CarFree Day in 2014, because...

    1. ... if we can only get it right, it can be a thoroughly agreeable, festive occasion for all who live, study, play and work in our community.

    2. ... it will give us an opportunity to meet and know our neighbors and our community in a far more personal way than is possible with a heavily car-oriented life style.

    3. ... a well organized Day can help all within the community spot a number of important things about our place in a new light, and thus provide we with valuable clues to the sorts of "pattern breaks" that are needed to break out of the anomalies and aberrations that are holding back well-being within our community.

    4. ... the challenges of the transportation system of just about every place are, in fact, far simpler to resolve in objective terms than the real tough nuts of technology, economy and society, such as health care, education, youth alienation, growing violence, prison reform, the problems of a fast graying society, et al.

    5. ... the very act of orchestrating and negotiating such a project can function as a "learning system" for the community as a whole -- which will leave us all better ready to tackle far more difficult problems than those posed by the transportation system and its extensions.

    6. ... it will make our children proud of we and aware that their parents, their neighbors and they themselves can get together and do good things for the community as a whole, without waiting for Big Brother to do everything in some sort of anonymous, authoritarian, plastic way.

    7. And finally because the whole process of broad based, citizen-led, activist planning, consultation and joint implementation at all stages (including evaluation and follow-up) is going to provide us with a new model of responsible, participatory democracy which, in fact, holds out the ansour to the despair which many feel about how things are going today.

    And if this last strikes you as terribly ambitious for something that on the surface may seem as minor and banal as a 24 hour or shorter period with a few less cars roaring around the streets, we can only suggest that one should never underestimate the power of success, especially when it is the result of our own hard efforts.

    When we first sat down in 1993 prepare the Granada Declaration that eventually provided one of the main cornerstones of the Spanish national Ciudades Accesibles (Accessible Cities) program, we wrote that if we were the mayor of a community and were able to confront these problems in the right way, it was almost a sure thing that we could keep our job forever. Everyone can see what a well working transportation system is -- especially if it is one that serves the entire community and not just some privileged part of it.

    So if you are a mayor or elected official, try to make it happen. And if you are a citizen who cares, may we suggest that you make them make it happen, bearing in mind of course that in the final analysis the real brunt of participation and execution is not some amorphous thing called "government" or "administration", but all of us making the right creative choices, as close as we can to all of the time. Back to top

    Organizing a Car Free Day? Be a Bit Suspicious of Facility

    Getting a Car Free Day right is hard work (see "Thursday: A Breakthrough Strategy" here, as well as the Car Free Day Timeline). There is a lot more to it than just issuing a bunch of press releases, hunkering down, and then declaring victory. It requires considerable technical skill and a great deal of deep engagement, preparation and negotiation. There have been in the last few years a certain number of days which have been organized without sufficient preparation or attempts to reach the broad supporting consensus which we believe to be indispensable for a truly successful event. The results have shown it.

    So, when it is time to find out exactly what has gone on in any given place, be sure to seek out sources other than those responsible for organizing the day in the first place. Formal communiqués from the organizers can usually be pretty much discounted. Instead, try to find out what the independent media has reported, especially when they set out to find out what really happened on that day and what the person on the street really thought. In fact, it is our view that one of the main objectives of such a program is precisely to gather up all this criticism and comment, being it out into the open for public discussions, and then factor what has been learned into the program for the next year.

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    Origins of the World Car Free Days Consortium

    This section is certainly not priority reading, but for those who are interested in having some of the deeper background and history behind this cooperative international initiative it may have its uses.

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