Europe Celebrates Green Ways of Getting Around
Young cyclists take to the streets in Requena, Spain, as part of a previous European Mobility Week event. Photo by European Mobility Week via Flickr.
From Almada, Portugal, where residents will be able to swap recyclable materials for free rides on public transportation, to Budapest, Hungary, where a major boulevard will be closed to all motorized traffic -- except for public transit vehicles and hybrid cars -- and turned into a "living street" with green grass that hosts sports and theater events for three days, cities and towns all over Europe are celebrating European Mobility Week.This year's event is being organized for the eighth time from Sept. 16 to 22 around the theme "Improving City Climates" to underscore the importance of walking, biking, and using public transportation in fighting global warming. Transportation accounts for 40 percent of total CO2 emissions in Europe.
Going Car-Free For a DayThe idea behind the week was sparked in 1998, with the French "In Town Without My Car!" initiative, which encourages towns and cities to close one or more streets to motorized vehicles for the entire day of Sept. 22. Building up to this Car-Free Day, local governments and organizations across the continent now host awareness-raising activities and promote policies and initiatives to help residents get around in more sustainable ways, such as by establishing online carpooling systems, creating new bicycling routes, instituting traffic-calming measures, and improving transportation accessibility.
Last year, 2,101 cities and towns hosted activities under the theme "Clean Air for All," with the event attracting non-European participants from as far away as Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, and Montréal. Each year, an award is given to the place that organizes the best activities linked to the annual theme and implements the most effective permanent measures to help improve urban transport and quality of life even after the event concludes for the year. The European Mobility Week Award 2008 went to Budapest, where 25,000 people participated in a Critical Mass bicycle demonstration in the city's historic center.
Local SuccessesAlso in 2008, Alamada linked its transport initiatives with programs to promote shopping locally and commuting by bicycle. Bologna, Italy, unveiled an improved bike-sharing system with 19 stations across the city and 108 kilometers of cycle paths. Sheffield, UK, launched a "Walkit Sheffield" program in collaboration with the online tool Walkit, which allows people to map their journeys and calculate the calories burnt and CO2 emissions saved by walking. And in Croatia, the city of Zagreb introduced free travel on public transport for disabled people, senior citizens, unemployed people, and schoolchildren.
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