Sunday, January 23, 2011

Car free city - is it possible? Organized properly or ad-hoc?

I claim it is, despite of the pitiful efforts that the Helsinki city authorities have made towards the car free day in Europe. Actually I think it is a Global initiative at some level.

Why the heck we Finns - or in this case my dear fellow countrymen responsible for the event - try to follow the rules or guidelines so strictly that the end result is lost in circumstances. or what do you think about the Helsinki way to organize a "Car Free Day in Helsinki";
  • The official EU day is on Tuesday
  • Helsinki decides to have their own car free day at the same day, a normal busy office/work day
  • The public transport is slightly discounted
  • Less than 10 blocks area in the city centre is decleared as "car free"
  • Despite of the "car free" area, you can drive to the offices, shops, garages etc inside the area
No wonder the day has not had any meaning. But how about Brussels car free day then;
  • The day is always on Sunday in September when the weather is still good (for Helsinki I'd recommend late August)
  • Driving a car is forbidden in the whole city, including about 5 km outside to the ring road
  • If you must drive due to work or other reason, you must in advance apply for a permit from the police - like we had to do once
  • Public transportation is free
  • The streets are taken over by people, festivals, bicycles, runners, horses and so on. It becomes a true car free day!
You don't need to invent the wheel again, just investigate during one of the what-ever-you-go-to-Brussels-for-trips what the Brussels people have done. Then localize it to Finland. Sounds simple, and that's what it is - if we have the will!

At the moment we live about 10 kilometers from the city centre, but I can tell you if a proper car-free day would happen in Helsinki we would definitely drive down to the city and enjoy the streets!!!

Coming back to the question in the title;
Yes, a car free city is possible at least for one day in a year! But it does not come for free, all of us need to chip in...
Hmmmm, today the Belge people decided to organize something close to such day - with a bit different objective but we could call this an ad-hoc car free day. Or do you think these guys would welcome a car on this street?
Belgium has been without a government for 224 days, that being a record in Europe. People organized a demonstration against the situation, let's see if it makes any difference. I don't see a real long term solution to be realistic as certain basics are not in place. Flemish and Valloons - the Dutch (or "Flemish speaking" as they claim) speaking and French speaking Belge - seem to have so different view of the current problems and solutions.

The status and importance of Brussels doesn't make it easier, as Brussels is a French speaking city in the middle of Dutch speaking area. And believe me, the language barrior and with it mentality difference between these two parties is BIG.  
Uutinen Belgian hallituksen puutetta vastaan järjestetystä mielenosoituksesta löytyy täältä Helsingin Sanomien sivulta.
To read's report, click here.


Eric Britton said...

In case you are not already on to it, yu may find some help at You can also find possibly useful coverage at Regards/Eric britton

MIKA said...

Dear Eric,
These are very good links, thank you!
Good material in both and the "Ready. Aim. Fire!" seemed to be a compact brief simplifying what a CFD can/should be (I learnt a new briefing...). I had no idea that someone already in 50's was thinking this way - and you seem to effectively strive the sustainable objective.
Keep going strong!

MIKA said...

PS I guess I need to start lobbying my friends in the political arena and city transportation units...