Thursday, September 23, 2004

Our cars, ourselves

Yesterday was "car-free day" in Chapel Hill and some 1,400 other cities, part of an international movement. As Elisabeth Benfey, a transplanted European, pointed out to me, European cities have had an "In town without my car!" initiative for a number of years. This whole week is "European Mobility Week," focusing on issues of the environment and sustainable ways of getting around.

I forgot to pledge--and would not have been able to do better than "car lite." I did carpool to Raleigh for an argument in the Court of Appeals. There was nothing "car-free" about I-40 at 8 a.m. These days, every time I have to go to Raleigh I'm reminded how nice it is that I no longer have that commute. Even as the construction goes on, we surely know that building more and wider roads is not the answer.

"A lot of public health issues have resulted from not using your legs," said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird at Carrboro's celebration for car-free troopers, where a Segway was demonstrated.

In Paris, where the first "car-free" day was held six years ago, a major international auto show is about to begin. Under President Chirac, "the car-free day . . . is in decline. In 2002, 98 French cities and towns participated. Last year, it was 72. This year, there [were only] 50." According to the Paris report, only Montreal in Canada was to participate, and "only a handful of Japanese cities." Rome and Berlin were not participants.

UPDATE: Three reports (scroll down).

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